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Home > Strategy > EA on SaaS- How to sell? or Whom to sell?

EA on SaaS- How to sell? or Whom to sell?


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The recent years have seen a lot of interest in Enterprise Applications moving to the cloud. Salesforce.com, one of the first movers in the industry has had its fair share of success. Of late, we have seen the emergence of Workday as a major force to reckon with, especially in the HR Applications space. Besides these ‘giants’ there are a lot of small companies vying for their share of the pie. There is a lot of interest from the customers in these SaaS Applications, but, selling a in this space is no easy task.

My experience shows that ‘How to sell?’ a SaaS application finally boils down to ‘Whom to sell?’.

Take the case of a normal office employee. Now a days, the most often used application in any office is the email. There are millions of mails organizations send and receive in a day. As an employee I do not care whether the email is hosted by my own organization on its own server maintained by its own IT team or it is hosted and managed by some third party- as long as there is no difference in the end user experience.

While selling on-premise Enterprise Applications, we used to mostly interact with the IT function of the customers. The IT function of the customer was an important stakeholder in the decision making. This because they were the ones who would finally manage the system on a day to day basis. The second most important stakeholder was the Fiance Team. This because they would really be concerned on the one time investment and the maintenance, enhancements, upgrades and re-implementation costs of the Application. The end user was kept on the margins as a decision maker.

Things are different while selling a SaaS application. First, the IT team will be very skeptic in buying the solution given the threat to the in-house IT jobs. Second, they will have a lot of queries and concerns on the data security and up time of the system. Given these concerns and many more, the salesperson will find it pretty hard to go past the IT team!

How to approach a SaaS sales deal?

Target the Business Users: As mentioned earlier in this post, a business user is really not concerned whether it’s a SaaS or an On-Premise Application as long as his requirements are met. Try to reach out to the Business User Team, convince them that all their requirements are being catered to. Once you have the business users consent, half the battle is won.

Next, convince the Finance function of the customer on the costs. By far, the SaaS TOC on an average is much lesser than on-premise applications. The difference is more pronounced in the case of SMEs. I don’t want to generalize the cost benefit analysis to all the customers as it might differ from case to case. But, once the positives of the CBA have been established, move to the last hurdle- the IT Team.

Winning over the last hurdle is a little tricky. Believe me, winning the last battle boils down to the ‘Brand Image’ of your application. Every SaaS claims to be the best of the breed, but no one will believe you until you have facts and figures to support. It might be a little easy for a well known brand, but proves a little tough for the smaller companies and start ups. The best ammunition to have here is data from your existing customers and customer testimonials/ references. Make the bets use of your past and current customers to build in the ‘Trust Factor’.

Hope this post helps. Happy selling!

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