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For SaaS companies, it’s no longer the CIO you need to impress

(Image credit: Image Credit: Rawpixel / Pixabay)

The cloud has transformed the way businesses operate — data and systems that were once only accessible from your office computer or maybe a laptop are now readily available anywhere at anytime from any connected device. This has impacted many industries, but one that has seen perhaps the most significant evolution is software.

In what now seems like eons ago, businesses purchased software and the infrastructure to run it on a company-wide basis, oftentimes committing to specific applications or systems for multiple years at a time. In this environment, sellers at these software companies needed to appeal to company CIOs — the ones with the deep pockets, authority and responsibility to make sure the business implemented software and systems that were most beneficial in terms of both productivity and profitability.

It was incumbent upon software companies to convince CIOs why their product was the best option for their business. Purchasing companies might vet 10 or 15 vendors or suppliers before making a decision that could impact operations for years to come. These CIOs would put together proof-of-concept projects for other executives and decision makers, and once the software or system was implemented, employee on-boarding began.

Today, with the rise of software-as-a-service [SaaS], businesses make these sweeping decisions less often. The cloud has given businesses a new level of agility, allowing them to pick and choose software and services tailored to their given industry and individual requirements.

All of this has changed the landscape for software companies. They’re no longer selling to only CIOs, as there are other business unit leaders and decision makers, be it resource or project managers, financial department heads or IT leads making these decisions as well. As a result, the sales techniques of SaaS companies need to evolve.

With a new paradigm comes new tactics

Enter the ‘freemium’ model, something anyone who has bought an addictive game on their phone is quite familiar with. In SaaS, the freemium model allows businesses to get their hands on a version of a given solution, albeit often with key features “locked.” Department heads and their team members can give it a test drive, and if they like it, opt to purchase a fully featured and supported version.

This new environment provides users with a number of benefits, including:

  • An added dimension of flexibility. Rather than committing to a given system or suite of software for a lengthy period, businesses can use SaaS services on a yearly or month-to-month basis, adding or subtracting additional features or pausing a complete subscription whenever necessary.
  • Lower financial commitment. Long-term contracts typically require spending big money up front, but SaaS solutions are essentially subscriptions that can be purchased on a month-to-month basis. However, if an organisation likes a particular service and knows they’ll use it for a longer period of time, many providers offer longer subscription options that are discounted versus the normal monthly rate.
  • The ability to mix and match. The idea behind purchasing a suite of business software is to implement a consistent system across the organisation with an all-in-one solution that meets every department’s needs. But the problem with that model is rarely does one provider do everything well — some may excel at customer relationship management solutions, while another has a more efficient offering for bookkeeping. With SaaS solutions, departmental heads can choose the solutions that best meet their team’s needs, and in an ideal world all of these solutions can be connected and integrated together with an operational system of record.

An optimised user experience drives increased revenue

Regardless of the type of SaaS solution, one thing that can make a piece of software standout is a first-class user and customer experience. For one, companies should consider localising their pricing strategies in regions around the world from the beginning, allowing them to attract customers globally. This also means the product needs to be easily deployed since, by definition, SaaS customer service and support is handled remotely.

SaaS companies need to make it easy for customers to use their product and avoid potential friction whenever possible. This can begin as early as the sign-up form. Rather than putting potential users through a long, tedious process, give them the ability to sign up quickly so they can hit the ground running while their interest in the product is still high.

SaaS services should also teach customers how to use the product through actual usage, as opposed to text or forced and complicated onboarding processes. They should also gather user information gradually, rather than bombarding users with multiple annoying prompts.

One key tool SaaS companies can use to help improve the customer experience and boost stales is data analytics. The ability to see data related to usage of their service can help sales teams recommend products or features they know would benefit a business. Countless other analytics such as a detailed look at monthly recurring revenue can inform the marketing decisions SaaS companies make, boosting promotion and outreach for an underperforming service or feature, for example.

As is the case in just about any other business, one of the main drivers of survival for SaaS companies is customer satisfaction. The quality of the product undoubtedly plays a major role in this, but it’s not the only thing that keeps the customer happy. In this on-demand world, decision makers at businesses large to small want to consume software on their terms, when they want and how they want. SaaS providers who win over department heads with innovative products that offer a breadth of flexible options are the ones that have a leg up in an increasingly saturated and competitive market.

Ankur Nandu, director of e-commerce, Chargebee (opens in new tab)
Image Credit: Rawpixel / Pixabay

Ankur Nandu is the director of e-commerce at Chargebee. He brings years of experience and expertise in building and delivering scalable products - both for startups and enterprises.