The complexity surrounding SaaS sales and software buying decisions is increasing. The reason: traditional software models based on one-time, upfront licensing fees have evolved to SaaS cloud solutions. Now, pricing is pay-as-you-go. Therefore, buyers expect value that extends beyond the closing of the sale. This change in the software market means that professionals selling the cloud need to redesign their approach to buyers. However, the buyers are also changing.
Simply put: IT buyers are only a segment of the group. With more business functions depending on SaaS capabilities, multiple stakeholders are entering the buying process. Cloud computing service providers need to engage various needs while articulating how the solution brings value to the business.
While these challenges are significant, so are the rewards. According to Gartner, “As of 2016, approximately 17 percent of the total market revenue for infrastructure, middleware, applications, and business process services had shifted to the cloud.” Moreover, “through 2021, this will increase to approximately 28 percent.” The future isn’t up in the air — it’s in the clouds.
Here, we look at five best practices for selling the cloud.
Selling SaaS Solutions to New Buyers
Today, IT stakeholders have moved to an influencer role, while business-unit stakeholders and C-level executives occupy the primary buying position. As a result, the sales cycle is increasing amid divergent objectives within the same organization. Each stakeholder has a personal definition of value. The selling professional must address each one. Without the appropriate preparation, too many sales professionals are falling short of this need.
According to Forrester research, eight out of 10 executive buyers believe sales meetings are a waste of time, citing that “salespeople grade themselves an A minus on understanding customers’ issues and where they can help, whereas buyers give salespeople a failing grade.” Sellers must be aware of the players on the field and their positions. Only then can they truly prepare and deliver value.
Focusing on Different Stakeholder Needs
In a rush to meet the needs of companies shifting to SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS, too many sales professionals fall into the trap of simply reciting product features. Doing so lacks answers to the essential question “So what?” The appropriate answer to this question is different depending on who the sales professional is engaging. CIO and CISOs are increasingly focused on managing risk. Therefore, they need to understand how the solution will address those concerns.
Meanwhile, the CTO needs to know how the software delivers value to the technology team. These are the kinds of meaningful conversations that fulfill the ROI expectations that continue to escalate on the buying side of the transaction.
Driving Buyer Consensus
The buyers will not achieve consensus on their own. This job falls to the sales professional. The status quo is the boulder they must move in order to reach the sale. Customer stakeholders must come together, vocalize their viewpoints, and allow sometimes difficult conversations to unfold. This aspect of selling is critical to maintaining momentum. Here, it’s particularly effective for the seller to not only join disparate groups but also to underscore the risks of not moving forward.
The benefits of making buyer consensus a priority will be substantial in the future. Bain predicts that revenue from the Global Cloud IT market will increase from $180 billion in 2015 to $390 billion in 2020. Earning a share of this growth requires sellers to take the initiative and bring people together.
Aligning on a Buyer-Centric Sales Process
The path to the sale is paved with experience. To consistently improve their process, sales professionals must watch how previous customers capitalize on the solution. This routine is not limited to just those in a sales position. Marketing and customer service professionals must also regularly renew efforts to keep pace with customers. The result is synchronicity in which the sales process develops into a repeatable flow. This approach creates a compounding effect that keeps the customer’s experience at the center.
Remember, this is part of the organizational learning curve. Therefore, achieving results takes time and consistency. If the selling organization cannot unite themselves, they will have difficulty uniting those in the customer’s business.
Communicating Value Without Overpromising
SaaS sales are no longer characterized by upfront capital investment. In some ways, the sales professional’s relationship with the customer is only as good as their last subscription renewal. The customer can part ways with the sales professional at any time. Therefore, promises must be right-sized and unwavering. It’s easy to cut the cord when there never was one in the first place.
Conversations must be open, honest, and transparent. The sales professional will assist their rise to the role of a trusted advisor by demonstrating a forthright demeanor. In the end, the buyer understands that they’re talking with someone who stands behind their word.
As IBM reported, “80 percent of US companies are planning to increase their use of cloud-managed services.” Sellers willing to do preparation and combat the status quo will capture much of this growth.
The time to revitalize efforts is now.