If SaaS Products Sell Themselves, Why Do We Need Sales?

chikaU:

Excellent post on how sales teams should create new value for customers.

Originally posted on Andreessen Horowitz:

BY MARK CRANNEY

One of the myths of SaaS is that the products are so good, so easy to use, so quick to deploy … that the product sells itself. Given the popularity of try-before-you-buy and freemium-to-premium models for software as a service, it’s easy to see where that myth comes from.

But as many startups discover to their horror — after they “land” users and try to “expand” to more departments in a large company or government agency — this is far from the truth. Even with early viral growth, SaaS products don’t sell themselves. Strong enterprise sales is critical to capturing market share.

a16z

image: Andreessen Horowitz

Because selling an enterprise-wide deal is a lot like getting a bill passed in Congress.

Decision-making in large organizations is a long, tortuous process due to legacy technology deployments, internal politics, entrenched homegrown solutions, sunk cost of integrations, account control by incumbent…

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Companies are from Mars and consumers are from Venus

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I’m in the process of pushing out version 2.0 for TrendPo Insights,  a new product to the TrendPo family. While developing the potential list of features for V.2, the Henry Ford quote (above) kept popping up in my head….. I’m not sure whether he really said those exact words but, I digress. We often hear from many product managers, sales teams and executives that customers don’t really know what they want and its a company’s job to figure it out and let the market decide (validation).

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Validation brings us to Steve’s quote here. Let figure out what we think the consumer wants and build it. Once they see it, they’ll know that exactly what they’ve wanted. Sounds like a good strategy if you’ve got Apple’s resources at your disposal. (Depending on what you’re building, there are cheap ways to validate like paper prototyping.)

It comes down to a company’s ability to speak the same language as the customer. This can be done multiple ways….I’m just highlighting two:

  1. Education- Give the customer the functional language to describe pain points (content marketing and thought leadership do a great job when done well.)
  2. Moccasins your customers- Walk a mile in your customers’ moccasins. It provides the experience and the understanding to empathize and comprehend customer needs.

A majority of the battle is understanding your customers. Once you’re speaking the same language as your customers, it opens the door to great better solutions for your market.

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5 product design mistakes you need to avoid

“While the audience asked a ton of great questions, I was surprised by how many of both audience types approached me afterward to thank me for sharing (what I thought were) fairly basic mistakes that stand in the way of great product design.” Adhering to the basics and delivering a powerful solution is what differentiates an okay product from a great product.

Growning up

Less is more

The older I get, the more I realize that life is extremely complicated. We decide  how complicated we want our lives to be. For me, I’ve decided to simplify over the years.

Following the very similar design philosophy I use to build products, I’ve decided to simplify all parts of my life.  Everything is going down to the “minimal viable product” necessary to work.

The best example I can use here is my phone. We’ve all been duped into thinking we need an app for everything. Based on a Nielsen study from 2012, the average US phone has 41 apps downloaded . That’s a lot of apps! I had over 60 apps downloaded on my phone. I’ve got it down to 15 and looking for more to cut.

When you simplify, you focus on what’s truly important. I hope to replicate my app deletion frenzy in other areas of my life….like my shoes. (Yes, I have a shoe problem)

 

The Danger of Recommendations

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From Google tweaking its search algorithm or Netflix delivering to you the most relevant movies for your viewing pleasure, recommendations have become a core feature of technology companies today. Most welcome the opportunity to be pushed content they might be interested in based on their previous actions. News sites have recommended readings based on the article that’s currently being read. It provides convenience to the user and saves them time that would be spent looking for the same content manually.

Yes, there are benefits to a recommendation engine but when does recommendation become a problem? For example, Netflix has all my viewing habits for my life time as a subscriber. What if I want to develop new habits so I can gain access to new movies? Well yes, there’s the search function but outside of that, how do get access to those movies at the same ease that a traditional recommendation engine would present? Another example…..all my peers are talking about a topic on twitter and it becomes trending. How do I find the next idea or piece of content that might be trending?

Ultimately, the most undeserved experience for users today is the concept of discovery. Relevance breeds conformity and similar results. Discovery ties into a human experience that connects on a very deep level. Imagine how you felt when discovered a song you’ve never heard and loved it. What about finding a restaurant that has great food? Giving users the opportunity to explore and discover just like they do in the physical world is central to a balanced user experience.

The Fourth Pillar

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Tony Elumelu published an article on Reuters on January 3, 2014 click here to read.

Mr. Elumelu discussed three critical components for a “Marshal Plan” for Africa.

  1. policy reform and a commitment to the rule of law
  2. investment in infrastructure
  3. commitment to developing Africa’s manufacturing and processing industries

While I definitely agree with his three pillars, I believe that there’s opportunity to integrate other facets of society in developing a holistic plan for Africa’s development. To get a better perspective, lets take a dive into the technical assistance portion of the actual Marshall Plan.

As part of the Marshall Plan, the United States appropriated funds for technical assistance to Europe. The United States sent hundreds of technical advisers to Europe and funded over 24,000 European engineers, politicians and business officials to visit the United States and learn best practices to implement in their respective countries. The institutional exchange of knowledge ensured that Europe could sustain accelerated growth.

In order to truly sustain and capitalize on an African “Marshall plan”, a fourth pillar focused on human capital should be added. We need to train and develop the continents young adults for 21st century jobs. While manufacturing and processing industries will continue to grow to sustain Africa’s consumer needs, its important to look past industries that will become heavily automated in the next 10-20 years. 

So what form does human capital development take in the grand scheme? Well,  a couple of ideas

  • Education overhaul: Focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)
  • Develop research centers (public-private partnership)
  • Accelerating reverse brain drain
  • Offering tax incentives for continuous workforce development

These are just a few examples that will help support the other three that Mr. Elumelu discussed. By adding human capacity building to the mix, you build on Africa’s most beneficial asset; its people.