Let’s take ourselves back 10 years to 2012. Do you remember what you were doing and where? I do. I worked at a large software company and travelled around the world meeting prospective customers, presenting our software. It was a good life of course, lots of meals on expenses and trouble-free sales because of team-targets and a sell it today, worry about delivery tomorrow mentality. It’s just the way we’d been taught.
But this isn’t a tale of easy success, it’s a tale of failure and lessons learned the hard way. Systemic and wide-spread failure across the entire software sales industry on how people sold software. You see, back in those days, sales was about selling software; how to sell, who to sell to, what to sell, sales targets and sales methodologies (and we got a new methodology whenever the rotating door of sales leaders span round – which was all too frequent). The sales people who had sold the most software, swanned around in fancy cars and headed to the yearly ‘Platinum Club’ trips to distant exotic locations with sun-kissed beaches and limitless bar-tabs.
No wonder those young aspiring individuals across the business saw selling as a way to greatness – and the bell that hung on the sales floor for winners to ring, would ring and ring and ring. Delivery was someone else’s problem, and promises were made that people only hoped would come true.
It was an uncomfortable time for a presales person who cared about outcomes, but as sales support the presales voice was distant and often went unnoticed.
So the sales world span along nicely until SaaS came along.
Unlike previously, SaaS software isn’t boxed and stacked high on shelves ready to be bought like you would a breakfast cereal. Software as a Service shifted the dynamic from ‘one-time selling’ to the looming prospect of companies having to deliver on-going maintenance to a platform and actually deliver on those long-term promises all too easily made when you didn’t need to keep that relationship going.
The software world actually needed customers to be successful – shocker!
Customers? Hang on – we’ve not yet thought about them yet. Aren’t they just things that we sell to? No, certainly not.
In order to make a SaaS business work, there’s an entirely different way of looking at success, and it flipped those jet-setting, beach-dwelling sales folk completely upside-down.
Now, I’m not saying there weren’t those that cared about customers till now, but for sure it’s only at this point the outcome-focused mentality started to get properly rewarded. Metrics like ARR (annual recurring revenue) and reduction in customer churn started being buzz-words in sales meetings, and targets changed as did compensation models. Presales started to have more of a voice; deeper discovery and proper qualification were now key to winning, so presales began to cause a larger part of success.
This change to building a long-term customer relationship became vital for any thriving business hoping to take advantage of the SaaS energy and the shift to the cloud. SaaS cloud software enabled scale, safety and agility – all things that matter to customers. A lot.
Buyer enablement however wasn’t even a concept yet, we had to wait a little longer for that ultimate realization, but the transformation had started.