At some point in every enterprise sale you run into the person who loses their job when the company implements your SaaS. Customers buy the benefits of your SaaS. Benefits are realised through change. Change destroys jobs. If you're lucky it creates better jobs in exchange.
Customers buy the benefits of your SaaS. Xero and Quickbooks simplify the accounting process. This reduces the need for purchasing managers and debt collection specialists and wages clerks. Cost efficiency is often measured in headcount reductions.
Hold on I can hear you say. My SaaS is about enabling growth not a nasty old cost cutting tool. You are not alone. Sales and marketing tools are one of the busiest sectors in the whole SaaS landscape. But growth is only different because it kills your customer’s next job, rather than the one he or she has today.
Surely growth is different?
Think about a typical about a typical SaaS value proposition. A beautiful, easy to use tool that generates twice as many qualified sales leads for every dollar of marketing spend. (I made this up but it sounds real huh?)
For a sales rep this means more time talking to people who are likely to buy. That’s great. Except, any smart sales manager is going to turn that into more demanding targets. Better leads will lead to you needing a higher conversion rate to earn your commission.
The sales manager doesn’t have it easy either. His target will be stretching upward as well. His boss might think that at these conversion rates he can manage a bigger team. And who do you think needs to listen to the complaints of all those Willie Loman sales types struggling to handle the new reality.
At the top of the hierarchy, sits the sales director. This is a different animal. A typical C suite leader. Rational and ambitious. A lion in the sales jungle. All that extra growth and efficiency sounds fantastic.
This person may not even recognise the nagging doubt. Achieving this dream means either a smaller team or a bigger target. Or both. And the credit for soaring sales might go to an upstart SaaS tool rather than a brilliant sales leader. Not every forward thinking sales director sees this analysis as the ideal career stepping stone.
Hope and change loom larger than facts and figures
It all comes back to hope and change (remember those days?) A base case for new software might be as simple as eliminating existing roles. Often things are not so simple. The benefits of SaaS come through better growth, higher margins, great agility. These gains sound abstract but rational analysis shows they are real.
And there is a human reality too. Your SaaS will change jobs today or make the jobs of at least some people different tomorrow. This kind of change is necessary to deliver benefits. But everyone is a little scared of change.
Change the shape of a job in future holds a particular fear. These are the jobs the people you talk to today are hoping to get. The sales rep wants to be the manager. The manager aspires to be sales director. Once in the C suite the director fancies the CEO role.
These hopes matter more to your customers than the day job. Most people in big corporations enjoy what they do. They all hope their next role will be better than their current one. Taking away a known opportunity is a bigger threat than losing what you have.
Making the rational case for the new world is easy. Your new job will be better than you hoped. Easier, less admin, better results. Its still different. Getting there fast just multiplies the effect. Remember there’s a reason why breakneck speed is described that way.
The Chairman's View
When you sell to the enterprise you are not making an individual sale. You are making multiple sales to a variety of different people who all happen to have the same logo on their business card. Some of them are going to feel threatened by your SaaS.
So build the business case. Understand how the customer needs to change. And then help the people you meet deal with the emotional side. Understand the impact you have on their work today and their hopes for the future. That is what I call walking a mile in your customer’s shoes.
Kenny Fraser is the Director of Sunstone Communication and a personal investor in startups.