Software companies and software as a service companies think they're selling technology. Selling technology is easy… it has dimensions, takes up space, has definable features, limits, capabilities… and costs. The problem is that most people aren't buying technology.
Give a great sales organization enough time and they can manipulate any request for proposal into a winning and profitable strategy for a company. I work for a company who's primary competition (in our prospects' opinion – not mine) is open source software. If we sold expensive software that competed directly with free software, we wouldn't have 300+ clients. The reason why we are growing is that we're not actually selling software – we're selling results.
Our prospects believe that the value in moving to our blogging platform is that it will result in no headaches down the road. No headaches in downtime, no headaches in maintenance, no headaches on security issues, no headaches in scalability, no headaches in performance, no headaches in educating users, no headaches because it's difficult to use… and most of all no headaches from failure.
Maybe our real competition is Tylenol!
Some prospects relish the opportunity for headaches… that's okay… we're not here for them. We'd rather work with clients who concentrate on results. Results as defined by them, not us.
Whenever your company is investing in technology, it's not the hardware and software (sorry Engineers!) that they are buying – no matter how cool. What your company is really investing in is the people in front of and behind the product. Your company is investing in the salesman that they trust. Your company is investing in the entrepreneur who started the company that you know as a leader. Your company is investing in people – people who have solved the problem that keeps giving you headaches.
One client who works for the government sector recently told me:
Doug – I don't care about ROI. I don't care about how much money your application can make us. I don't care about upsells. I don't care about technology. The reason why I pay your company is because you're there to answer the phone or an email when I have a question… and you know the answers. Keep answering the phone and helping me and we'll stick around. Stop answering the phone and I'll find someone who can.
This is why customer service is such a critical component of a great technology startup. I don't care how cool your application is… when you start telling your customers what you can't help them with, don't expect them to sign a renewal (nevermind an upsell!). Your clients want success and they are trusting you to give it to them. You better be listening and responding. Even better – you should be proactively moving to build your clients' success.
Even within the Software as a Service industry, companies have found that they can't hide behind a customer support page or knowledge base… or worse, a customer forum. SaaS customers need to understand how to fully leverage the solution they've invested in to be successful. That requires competent, experienced employees who understand what it takes.
These leaders understand the path of least resistance, they understand how to read clients and see whether they're great prospects for growth or customer testimonials… most of all they understand how to impact clients personally. It doesn't require ridiculous short-sighted goals, hampering processes that ignore the clients' success, or worse… micromanagement when resources are already lacking. It requires hiring people you trust, allowing them to make great decisions on behalf of the company, and removing all obstacles to serve clients effectively (and profitably).
Are you providing your clients with success? Or is your staff just giving them more headaches?