By Jim Naro, CustomerCentric Selling® Certified Business Partner & Paul Ressler, Cirrostratus Group

sales tips for SaaS customer lifecycle4. The Hard Implementation Tasks Still Exist

An easy and straightforward implementation process is a big plus in bringing value to the customer quickly and is important to the SaaS business model. An easy implementation does not mean, however, that a customer can overlook the time it takes to make the necessary underlying business process changes that are typical in most system implementation projects.

For example, the implementation of a SaaS based sales compensation system is pretty straightforward and easy to implement. However, there still is a need for consolidating different sales compensation plans and reviewing the total overall structure of the compensation system. If these expectations were not set up initially and the proper time planned for these steps, there is a good chance that the system implementation may be viewed a failure through no fault of the service provider.

This risk is nothing new. Implementation risks have always been very dependent on the ability of an organization to make changes and improve their processes as part of a system implementation. Adequate effort, timeframes, and correct implementation expectations need to be planned into your overall implementation methodology and in the final proposals and pricing. Failure to do this can result in higher customer churn since the value of the service is never fully realized.

5. Don’t Let Out of Sight be Out of Mind

With a SaaS service you have an opportunity to delight yours customers every day, but the question is whether you take maximum advantage of these opportunities. The sales and account management team play an important leadership role in this but almost everyone in the company is involved one way or another.

A plan for regular conversations with the customer at multiple levels is critically important. These should be in depth and focus on understanding whether the customer has achieved their original business goals and to explore any new goals and business changes the customer envisions. Your account management team will be able to take any necessary corrective actions and will likely unearth opportunities for up-selling and cross-selling now or in the future.

These conversations should continue over a long period of time so it is important that you have a way to have continuity in the conversations even though a salesperson, account manager, or customer support person may have moved on to other responsibilities. Likewise it’s important that all touch points within the organization have full knowledge of what conversations occur and their results.

A good combination of account management processes, automation, listening skills, and internal communication can provide the structure for a strong customer relationship. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that “no news is good news” or concentrating all your resources on acquiring new customers, you have to invest substantial time in the ongoing relationship to maximize the mutual value.

6. Make Sure Up-Selling and Cross-Selling is Easy

A successful SaaS business model has a strong strategy for up selling and cross selling the SaaS service over the customer lifecycle. This may be additional use of existing functionality, using extended functionality or additional users.

Some SaaS solutions have integrated subscription management within the application, with automated connections to the billing and payment system, and automated provisioning of upgrades. When this is the case, the administrative effort is minimal. In other cases the administrative, provisioning, and billing/payment effort is not automated and it may take a substantial effort on the part of your sales people to add or upgrade a user, or implement other value-added services.

It makes sense to take a look at exactly how your account management time is being spent and looking for opportunities to simplify, streamline, and automate the process. Remember that all of these costs are ongoing and are a potential hindrance to customer satisfaction. Account management resources should focus on identifying and nurturing opportunities not performing administrative tasks.

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