Cloud Cement for Castles: How We Learned to Sell SaaS

    In this article, I will share my experience in selling SaaS solutions in the B2C segment and tell you which of the tried and tested approaches have worked, and for which, perhaps, SaaS beginners should not spend a lot of effort.
    If you are involved in sales of cloud services and e-commerce, welcome to the cat, where they are waiting not for theoretical calculations, but for the presentation of real experience in building a working sales system for a SaaS solution.

    First, I will answer the question: “If you are so smart, why do you share know-how? Sit on the sidelines, be silent in a rag - row money with a shovel! ”
    Let me explain: until a huge number of people imagine that there is something other than ICQ and “VKontakte” on the Internet, I won’t be able to earn a lot of money for any other SaaS ... Therefore, I share experience that to a greater or lesser extent will be useful for new commercial SaaS projects. Working each on their own cloud product, we collectively form and expand the SaaaS market, and its increase increases the income of each company in the meadow.

    In a nutshell, I’ll mention the specifics of our decision, so that the selected sales techniques are evaluated in the right context.
    Product Idea: a system for automating sales and management accounting for stores and chains selling clothes and shoes. ( )
    The essence of the product: the system monitors sales of stores, balances in warehouses and planned deliveries to stores + supports all analytics, i.e. even if the client has several stores / warehouses, he knows exactly where how much and how much they sold, and tells when it will be necessary to order again + the client can analyze the sales in order to understand what is sold better, what’s worse, etc. Ordinary sellers and administrators also have access to the system through which they conduct sales, returns, discounts, etc. Of course, the solution supports dimensional grids, printing receipts and other retail gadgets (everything works from start to finish on the SaaS model).
    In short, the system is beautiful, and when we started to sell, we were sure that soon everyone would build himself a small country estate ...

    But this turned out to be not quite so: trying to sell a solution, we repeatedly encountered the same problems, for the solution of which we had to create a whole mechanism (later, communicating with colleagues, we realized that many problems are universal difficulties for Russia) . However, “when the trees were big” we did not know about it yet ...

    1) There is no practice of consuming cloud services:
    Yes, in Russia, bookkeeping, management accounting or personal finance online is almost nonsense. The point here is not even that people are afraid to do this, most of them do not even imagine that this is possible. The brain in that direction does not work for them. What sales SaaS here. After all, its essence must first be explained half a day ...
    2) Low level of Internet penetration:
    Rather, it is not that low is an uneven, more correct word. In other words, the capacity of the SaaS market is limited by geographical locations, where this notorious access to the normal quality of the Internet is. All other, albeit the most attractive in other respects, areas can be safely thrown out of your head
    3) The most marginal group:
    The most marginal goal - individuals, freelancers, small and medium-sized companies - those who are not afraid of experimentation, are not interested in a pullback, and on which large vendors have not yet sat down. And that means - in order to get a normal exhaust from the sale of a product, you need to spud many contacts at once, or learn how to sell quickly. And better, both that, and another at the same time. It’s probably also possible to lick a large corporation for a long time and then sell 1,000,000,000 licenses there, but here SAAS has less chance - the flexibility of the SAAS product is a priori less than the custom corporate solution, introduced by vendors / consultants for half a year
    4) No trust:
    Simply put, customers are scared. Like this! My data is on the Internet!?! There are hackers, phishers, FSB-GB-CIA! Take for the most for Faberge!
    5) No debugged sales system:
    SaaS is usually sold by IT guys or those who recently sold boxed solutions. And they use their past experience for this ... which does not work here. Well, ideologically, the product is different, but nails and microscopes are not always compatible ...

    Okay, okay, Tell me someting I don't know? Okay, I’m moving on to the main part - the tricks by which we pushed the barriers.

    1. Create a sales system
    We have been looking for customers for a long time, giving managers the base on which they tried to engage in telephone sales. The results were so-so: customers were rare, and the process itself was clearly too expensive and long. Therefore, we decided to upgrade sales to Sales 2.0: to make customers find us, and not we to look for customers.
    After about 2 months, it dawned on us that SaaS works via the Internet, which means that people who are potentially ready to buy SaaS are also online. Therefore, you need to catch them in their natural habitat, you do not go fishing in the Sahara, right?
    We reasoned that the secret to success is to direct the maximum flow of interested people to Internet resources that would be designed in such a way as to transform the maximum percentage of interested people into happy customers.

    As a result, we built an online sales platform that now looks like this:


    Everything works simply:
    1 + 2) We create a flow of customers to our selling website: SEO, context, anything, if only someone who is interested in solving it out of the blue, hit the site.

    3) And here the potential client should, in the required doses and in a convenient way, stick to the selling content that your product is wrapped in: Screencasts, texts with the description “we are very cool”, blogs where articles with specialized information are written - all this is aimed at that the client:
    a) believed you
    b) stopped being afraid of the product
    c) wanted to buy it
    . For example, we specially launched the torg-12 satellite project Torg-12 ( ), specifically for who made a platform for online and offline communication of retailers.
    Naturally, the simpler the product, the basically less support materials need to be generated; look, for example, at the content that accompanies Dropbox or Mozy Backup.

    Particular attention should be paid to the organization of supporting materials on the site: the structure should be extremely simple and enjoyable for navigation. Have we already agreed on the shortest possible sales cycle? So let most of it happen on your site online.

    4) It’s advisable to feed and gather the right hangout of clients and experts nearby - this is aerobatics: hemorrhoids and hard, but worth your efforts - a recommendation from a party person who is not associated with your product, a priori seems more reliable for a potential client ... Well, at the same time, you You will monitor what worries customers and promote all sorts of smart things, acting as an expert and thought leader.
    In short, the task is simple: to make sure that customers believe that you are really smart and understand their business.

    5) In our case, only after the creation of the entire system described above, we began to observe how the flow of "uniki" goes into the trickle of customers. Now, in order to increase conversion, we are finalizing communications, the product and other aspects of the system - there will be no further universal recipes, all solutions are unique ...

    Well, a couple more tips.

    2. Sell benefits
    If someone is not in the know, all people, in general, are different. Therefore, everyone buys something of his own, especially appealing to him. So you need to exert yourself and describe the different types of benefits that the solution brings. Moreover, this must be done from different angles: someone needs to show more numbers, product innovation will be important for some of your customers, and someone will simply be happy to pay less than for a boxed solution ...
    In short, it is advisable to "process" a potential buyer from all sides. As a rule, the following benefit groups will be valid for all SAAS solutions:
    • Financial:
    o Minimum initial investment, and maximally extended investment period (the cost of money decreases over time)
    o No implementation, updating and support costs

    • Custom
    o Always fresh and current data
    o Access to the system is possible from anywhere in the world
    o It is easy to provide access to anyone

    • IT'shny
    o Compatibility with any OS
    o Do not need to install anything
    o You will always work with the latest version of the program
    o SLA

    • About are
    o The promise of system development
    o More system security than working on a local server / flash drive / working computer

    Finally, the last. Answer your customers' questions truthfully, speak on topics that concern them.

    3. Work with fears
    You may not be trusted for a million reasons, both related to your product and those arising from the practice of doing business in Russia. Therefore, you will have to be patient and prepare for a long, long time to prove that you are not a camel.

    Most likely, we need to come up with thoughtful and clear answers to the following questions of clients:
    1) What will happen to my information on the network?
    2) What to do if the Internet is gone?
    3) Why have I never seen such a system?
    4) Why there is no possibility of additional settings and improvements?

    Correctly approach communication on these sensitive issues - and you will already earn 30% of the client ...

    As a result: keep these three areas in mind - develop a sales system, work with fears, sell benefits + think with your head and everything will be fine.

    I really hope that someone will find these tips useful. Good luck

    And ... well, I completely forgot to say: everything that I wrote here does not work at all if you have a bad product or nobody needs it ... so do not forget about this aspect either!

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