In this post, Claudio Erba, CEO at Docebo, writes about how SaaS/Cloud adoption can change the ‘pilot project’ approach in corporations. From the (outdated) legacy vendor approach which is time expensive, with locked multi-year contracts – to the modern SaaS/Cloud way of doing business where pilot projects start with a fully-featured trial, modular and scalable plans over time, and free help desk to make the experience run smoothly!
Do you remember the ‘old days’ when software salespeople came to YOUR office, monopolized YOUR time in YOUR meeting rooms, and stole your coffee and donuts along with your time. They spent A LOT of time talking with your employees, and after several meetings and some content-poor slides you were still only left with a vague idea of what the software was all about.
- The bad news is that, unbelievably, the market is still full of software vendors like that, and you can still think of a ‘pilot project’ with this kind of software as very expensive in terms of time and money (they have to justify ‘old style’ software inefficiency, which comes along with high prices and a very long time to deploy a legacy system).
- The good news is that SaaS (Software as a Service) changed the concept of software adoption in and of itself by giving customers exactly that they want: cheaper software implemented in a shorter time-frame (and this not only saves you time, but on donuts and coffee too!).
The new way of software adoption via free trial from SaaS/Cloud vendors is a simple three-point strategy:
- Free Trial: the prospect must be allowed to activate a free trial (for a limited period of time) in order to test, evaluate, and actually use the application.
- Flexible Pricing: The purchase should be user self-provisioning (aka cloud self-service), with scalable plans designed to be upgraded and/or downgraded according to the software usage and customer’s actual needs.
- First class, product-oriented pre-sales approach which provides consulting and Help Desk service (even during trial period).
Given the free trial period and the pre-sales approach during the pilot project, the first two phases of software adoption are:
- Familiarization: Start exploring the software, fall in love with the user interface (which in the SaaS market is typically described as ‘easy to use’) and also understand the benefits that the application can bring to the organization.
- Utilization: given the ability to activate a free product trial in just a few seconds, the prospect is able to create his/her own prototype within minutes, and start using the application without involving any third parties in the project.
Modern buyers, conservative buyers, & SaaS/Cloud
SaaS/Cloud applications are targeted at modern buyers, as conservative Purchase Offices or IT managers (who prefer the IBM sales approach) would find it difficult to understand the SaaS/Cloud user self-provisioning process. Modern buyers don’t like RFPs, they prefer the ‘try and buy’ approach and they want to ‘get a feel’ for the application by actually using it in pilot projects based on real business processes.
The SaaS/Cloud pilot project adoption process is therefore a new method the modern vendor has to coach and support the prospect in. Here’s why:
- Help Desk, even during the trial: can you imagine a help desk team that promptly answers your questions BEFORE you buy the product? Usually a SaaS vendor provides complementary support during the free trial period. Have you ever heard of a legacy vendor that comes to your offices to install the free version of the software and start delivering help desk services without a 5 year commitment? Thought not…
- Technical pre-sales team acts as a consulting team: we all know a lot of consulting is needed before software adoption. Usually a SaaS/Cloud pre-sales team has high technical skills, a strong passion for technology and is ready to assist the customer during the product evaluation/pilot project. Another difference is that the pre-sales team starts talking about the product right from the word go, without long, vague discussions on irrelevent topics (in your meeting rooms!). And what’s more, the pre-sales team of a SaaS application is committed to delivering demos, customized demos (more often than not remotely) and vertical webinars without monopolizing your time, money and space!
- In the event of a big SaaS deployment, specialized roles such as Customer Success Managers and Implementation Specialists may be involved to better support and advise the prospect during the trial phase.
After the pilot phase, the purchase is usually a small plan, as the prospect has the opportunity to run a second pilot project and then scale-up quickly according to project requirement/s. This is basically one of the most interesting advantages of the SaaS approach: flexible pricing so you can start with a small plan, deploy the solution and upgrade to a higher plan when ready.
And what about enterprise customers? They usually prefer multi-year commitments because they think the adoption of a software/IT solution is a strategic commitment. In these cases, SaaS vendors understand this need and they provide enterprises with multi-year plans, baseline-priced but still with the opportunity to upgrade/downgrade in a flexible way, which is not typical at all for legacy vendors.
Since donuts and coffees don’t grow on trees (and are strategic assets for each and every company 😉 ) – the SaaS/Cloud vendor’s mission is about giving a clear answer to whoever asks for accessible, modular and flexible solutions. Solutions which are ready to go, easy to use, and also able to scale-up according to project requirement/s. In the end it comes down to this, you’ll be able to spend more time on the pilot project and less time (wasted) in the meeting room!Author: Claudio Erba, Docebo Founder and CEO