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Blog Aug 21, 2018

Top 5 Things I Learned from Buying and Selling Enterprise SaaS

Having spent the last 9 years building enterprise SaaS and technology-enabled service businesses, I have learned a few lessons along the way.

1. Purchasing enterprise SaaS products is NOT EASY.
Or as easy as it should be.

It seems easy enough to understand the value that a technology company provides, just by viewing their ‘how to’ videos and analyzing their seemingly simple tiered-pricing models. But as you dig deeper into your company’s business and IT requirements, the cracks seem to appear.

It is important to note that no vendor has the perfect solution, so you have to pick your battles wisely.

You may have to issue an RFI/ RFP, and the process becomes long and drawn out with many of your stakeholders even losing interest, mid-way. One of the reasons why buying enterprise technology is still a complicated process is because most organizations haven’t fully adapted their IT needs to the new age SaaS environment. Startups sure have, but larger organizations are fearful (and perhaps rightfully so) of data privacy, IT security, and support requirements, all of which sometimes get hampered by a misunderstanding of cloud-based SaaS products.

Larger organizations need to balance competing objectives, on one hand defending existing IT security practices and at the same time working to identify what elements of their existing technology is actually hampering progress or need to be retained by the organization. The best practices adopted years ago may now just be a legacy of the pre-cloud era.

2. Selling enterprise SaaS products is NOT EASY. Or as easy as it should be. 

“It’s Software-as-a-Service!” You might be saying to yourself. “Shouldn’t those looking to buy just have to go to a website, watch a 2-minute video that explains everything, and swipe a credit card?”

Maybe that’s the case for a consumer application like Spotify, but it’s not really the case for enterprise SaaS. Even the purchase of relatively off-the-shelf items like Slack or Office365, for larger enterprises at least, still requires some form of e-mail or phone communication or sometimes even (I dare say it) an in-person meeting. The human touch is still essential to the enterprise sales process, and so is the need to properly display ROI, as well as provide a consultative sale that takes into account how the product and accompanying services fit into an overall technology ecosystem of the company.

Arguably, as a company scales, SMBs should be able to take advantage of off-the-shelf purchasing, while larger organizations will continue to need the care and attention of dedicated sales executives.

3. Communication and Integrations matter.

You can no longer be a SaaS product that exists in a silo. If you haven’t developed APIs yet, you need to seriously start thinking about it. APIs are and will continue to be the digital USB cables of enterprise-grade software. If you haven’t developed Single Sign-On (SSO) capabilities or multi-factor authentication, then you need to because these are essential in securing the enterprise. Your product must be able to communicate with all the other products in your ecosystem, and bear in mind many of the other products that you need to communicate with may not have all of the integration technologies that you have, so you need to have some alternatives planned. Even if it means some backward flat file uploads of data or an RPA solution, your product should never be a dead end.

4. The product doesn’t matter as much as the solution.

Yes, your product should work and it shouldn’t be buggy and your cloud infrastructure should be able to dynamically scale – I give you that. But moreover, you should ask yourself and your team, is the overall comprehensive solution you are delivering both working and helping your growth? Trying to just pitch the product may get you through the door, but pitching the solution will seal the deal and deliver better, repeat business with your customers who will see you not only as product sales guys, but as trusted advisors. And this is how you land and expand.

Also, services are still integral to businesses – whether you are doing them in-house or a 3rd party is working on your behalf – bringing in the right team for discovery, design, implementations, integrations, optimizations or other aspects is integral to making sure your SaaS product is well received by the clients. Do not downplay the need for good service support, even if you think you’re a high-flying SaaS business with an easy-to-use product. The client still needs these!

5. If you’re not having fun with your clients, you’re doing something wrong.

Enterprise SaaS may seem mundane and boring, but your clients are real people – they like jokes, they like food, they laugh, they cry. We might be working on what seems like the most boring data aggregation and analytics solution that will have some value eventually in a few years for the business, but it’s okay to joke about that. The more your customers see that you are passionate and have a good humor about you while working with them to implement your solution, the easier and stronger the overall client relationship will be.

Lastly, do not fear to challenge your clients – they will appreciate you pushing them to the edge to rethink their process. And buyers, the same goes for you. Push your solution providers to deliver what you need. We are listening.

Happy hunting and buying everyone!

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