The rise of the cloud has permanently changed the traditional model of software sales in the enterprise. Once upon a time sales teams only had to rely on large, individual transactions to meet their quotas. Now an entirely new approach and skillset has become necessary to turn one-time customers into repeat clientele in the SaaS universe, according to experts.
“The marketplace or portal may be where the physical transaction takes place,” says Daniel Saks, co-CEO, AppDirect, a platform for selling cloud services. “But it’s only a relationship-focused sales team that will be able to understand how the technology will benefit the customer’s bottom line and sell or upsell SaaS on an ongoing basis.”
Today, the human element in selling SaaS remains important to how sales teams build sustainable, successful customer relationships, according to Saks. It enables evergreen opportunities to provide new products that address evolving customer needs, from Saks’ perspective. Overall, to make this longitudinal business development strategy work sales teams have to:
- Identify customer pain points
- Craft solutions-focused presentations
- Know how to run product demos
- Cultivate long-term consultative customer relationships
Identify Customer Pain Points
The key to identifying pain points is to ask the right questions. Because when you know the cause of pain points in the prospect’s workflow, you can offer a specific solution to these problems, according to cloud sales pros.
“We sell to a range of industries—from retail to hospitality to leisure—so for us knowing the pain points is especially pertinent given how varied these can be,” says James Lintern, head of sales and marketing, co-founder, RotaCloud, an online employee scheduling platform for SMEs. “The first question I always ask is ‘Why did you look into RotaCloud?’ or ‘What made you sign up for a free trial?’ After this, it’s just a case of shutting up and letting the prospect talk for as long as possible.”
Through the process of pain point identification, ultimately RotaCloud can close deals and knows that it will likely be able to stick around for the long haul, according to Lintern. And asking about customer pain points does not have to remain a lengthy process. For example, some cloud service providers find that it can take less than a half-hour. During a short back-and-forth about specific business scenarios they can figure out how their solution can best meet the customer’s requirements.
“Even though it is just a 20-minute conversation, you can quickly learn what their main needs are and then think about how your software can accommodate them,” says Eirini Kafourou, spokesperson, Megaventory, provider of online inventory management systems. “At the same time, by asking about their business and how many locations they have or how many users, we can provide exact pricing.”
To better face this challenge, the salesperson must have perfect knowledge of the software in order to think of workaround solutions, according to Kafourou. Moreover, being experienced and having done this process many times helps salespeople become more adept at it, in her view.
Crafting a Solutions-focused Presentation
In order to have a solutions-focused presentation, salespeople must identify legitimate problems that their company can solve. For many customers, change is hard and sales cannot force the product upon the prospect, according to experts.
“Instead, they need to consult with the prospect through the process with a customized presentation articulating how the product will solve their greatest problem,” says Michael Goldenberg, senior sales director, MineralTree, provider of mobile and online accounts payable automation software. “By leveraging the information they have gathered, our salespeople are able to help a prospect overcome fears and hesitations associated with changing an age-old process.”
With homework in hand it is time to put your knowledge to work so you can learn more. Experts advise that you picture yourself in the lunch room of the customer company talking with the prospect as their coworker.
“Prepare your discussion points that run to the truth of what is happening with this prospect,” says Nikolett Bacso-Albaum, sales leader at Virtuozzo, a provider of virtualization platforms. “Build rapport with the prospect and their role within the organization.”
For example, ask about the priority that the company places on solving the problem, what other priorities the company has and how it personally affects the prospect, according to Bacso-Albaum.
“Then listen like your livelihood depends on it, because it simply does,” Bacso-Albaum says. “Pending the role and decision-making capabilities your prospect has, you are going to drive how you MAP the account.”
Specifically, are they involved in approving the money (M) and have the authority (A) to pull (P) the trigger on making the buying decision, asks Bacso-Albaum. “If not, who does? What are their challenges? What keep them up at night?” she asks. “Remember, all you are doing is gathering information to help.”
Know How to Demo a Product
Knowing the customer pain points will set the stage for showing the prospect what’s most important to her situation. So after identifying customer pain points, the cloud salesperson must have the ability to demonstrate how her solution can alleviate it.
“A conversation about the customer’s business and how they hope to use our solution is the key to a successful demo,” says Alex Haimann, head of business development, Less Annoying CRM, provider of simple customer relationship management software for small businesses, “because it helps us get a feel for their business process and what features they will use most. We then begin talking about the software, usually starting with creating a contact page, which is the central part of our CRM.”
But what makes a demo different is incorporating aspects of the customer’s business process and providing specific examples and scenarios showing them how to use the solution’s features, according to Haimann.
Another aspect of knowing how to run product demos successfully remains tailoring it for the particular persona of the buyer. Broadly speaking, there exist two types of buyers involved with product demos, according to experts: technical buyers and decision makers. When addressing technical buyers in a demo, salespeople should emphasize solving the problem, according to Bacso-Albaum.
“Show the success you are having with similar customers and why they moved from the competition to your solution,” Bacso-Albaum says. “Our goal is to make sure we hit all the critical points that the decision maker needs to make a decision.”
During the course of the demo, check in with the technical buyer that everything’s on track, you’re hitting all the pain points and if anything is missing, according to Bacso-Albaum. This opens up the next series of questions to the decision maker about what’s missing, what is most important and if it aligns with the company’s goals.
“If you are not aligned, they will not sign,” Bacso-Albaum says. “You are framing the pain, costs and time of how important the problem is and how effective your solution will be. When you get confirmation you are solving problems, it is time to ask for the business.”
Cultivate Long-term Consultative Customer Relationships
At its core, the sales discipline has not changed—in fact, it has never changed, according to some business experts. Since the dawn of the capitalist model, the purpose of sales professionals has remained educating potential buyers so that they can make the best purchase decisions, from their perspective.
“This understanding that both parties are working toward a common goal is the foundation for building the customer relationship,” says Danny Lindsey, business development representative, ilos Videos, a platform to create, share and manage videos in the cloud. “Look at sales professionals who have been working with clients for decades. There’s a reason those clients don’t blink at competitors, and it isn’t because they are being walked all over.”
In the age of the customer, buyers can find any information they want online with a few clicks, according to Lindsey. However, long-term purchasers seek out trusted sales partners for their knowledge, in his opinion.
“This pushes sales teams to another level of responsiveness,” Lindsey says. “Your customers are interested in your expertise—that’s where the real value lies and that is how you build long-term relationships.”