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The Secret to Selling SaaS – Value vs. Product

Often a conversation with a customer can begin with this question:

“So what is it that you sell, exactly?”

If you sell a technology product, or more specifically, SaaS (Software as a Service), cloud software or anything else that lives in the cloud, sometimes the answer to this question can be a little elusive. Nowadays, the most valuable technology companies don’t just sell products, they sell something more.

TAS Sales MethodologyIf you sell an innovative product, something that requires your customer to ‘Cross the Chasm’ of the early adopter, sometimes that customer can go 57% of the way through the buyer’s journey, but still not understand what you’re selling. This is especially true if marketing puts your product features front and center, instead of focusing on the value your products deliver. It’s even more common if your products have that ethereal, shape-shifting quality of a cloud service or app. This communication gap between you and your customer can actually be an advantage, if you talk about the value you’re offering, and you don’t go near explaining the product.

Access to information has completely changed the conversation successful salespeople have with their customers. Customers are savvier about what they want and where they can get it, and they’re usually 57% of the way through the buyer’s journey before you even get to call them a prospect. A lot of people will begin selling by talking about their product. They’ll describe the features and functionality, go through some screenshots, maybe even walk the prospect through a demo. ‘You need this product!’ they say, ignoring the customer who has the look of someone who has heard it all before.

Take Salesforce for example. What is it, exactly, that Salesforce sell?

  • A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system (
  • A platform for application development (
  • Services
  • An apps platform (Salesforce1)
  • A marketing platform
  • A community platform
  • An analytics platform and applications (e.g. Wave)

The list goes on. Depending on your needs, you can dip into that cloud and pull out everything you need to run your business. Looking through their ‘Products’, what defines a product and how it’s delivered is suitably nebulous (geddit?). By offering a multi-tenant, scalable and easily upgraded cloud solution, Salesforce have led the way in redefining how and what we sell to our customers. Salesforce encapsulate all that they offer in their ‘Customer Success Platform’, comprised of Sales, Service, Marketing, Community, Analytics and Apps. Salesforce have millions of happy customers. So what is it, exactly, that they sell?

Traditionally, a product is defined as something we provide a customer to meet their need, in exchange for money, goods or services. A quick scan of some big names in SaaS reveals something interesting. While all can claim to offer something tangible like a product (an application to help you with your marketing needs, for example) all of these companies place the emphasis on their relationship with their customer, and the value they deliver to that customer by whatever means available to them

All of these companies have something in common – the value they offer is scalable, easily upgraded, and you can mix and match their solutions to suit your particular problem. Components of the value they deliver are arranged so every customer is free to access and use what is valuable to them in order to solve their own particular problems. Every customer is different, and so is the problem they’re trying to solve.

“With cloud software, we’re now in an era where it is possible to provide individual solutions to address individual customer needs.”

The easier you can make it to solve the customer’s problem, the happier they are. Cloud solutions just happen to do that in a way that make it easier than ever before. It’s a great position to be in from both the seller and the buyer’s perspective, so why not talk about it? The conversation can be about more than the product; it’s about the value that’s delivered at the end.

Sell value, not products.

Technology companies often struggle with the task of shoving whatever it is they do for their customers into a box called ‘Product’. Trying to reduce what you do down to something tangible called a ‘Product’ is one way to find your USP (Unique Selling Proposition), but what about everything else you offer?

Better sales conversations require you to sell more than a product.

 A new way of selling.

At Altify, most of our conversations with our customers begin with finding out what challenges and obstacles they face, so we can determine if the value we offer matches their needs. Questions from our customers are common: Are we selling a piece of software, a smart application, training or a sales methodology? What do they add to the Salesforce CRM? What is Sales Transformation and how can it help me?

Altify is another example of a cloud-based SaaS company that sells more than products. The truth is Altify isn’t trying to sell you anything when they first meet you. Well, not up front. It’s part of the Target Account Selling (TAS) methodology, to put the solution last and to learn about the customer and their individual problems first. When the customer’s problems and challenges are understood and agreed upon, you can sell a solution, or more importantly, you can talk about the value you’re going to deliver for your customer.

The core of TAS sales methodology is to first align the customer’s problems to your solutions and then to talk about mutual value attainment. To do that, you’ve got to understand the customer and their needs, and what they value most, so you can deliver that value by whatever means available to you.

Locating your business on the cloud means that your solution will include not just a tangible product, but a range of other components like expertise, smart coaching, analytics, models and templates, all designed to deliver value. Taking advantage of cloud technology, or any modern distribution method for that matter, means selling more than products.

Delivering value to the customer is more important.

How do you sell value?

5 steps to selling value:

  • Know what value means to your customer
  • Get to know your customer’s business, talk about it with them
  • Collaborate with your customer to identify their needs based on obstacles they face
  • Align your customer’s problems with your solutions
  • Agree upon the value you can deliver

According to Jill Konrath: To win more sales, stop selling. When people feel like they’re being sold, they put up barriers.

“The way to win sales, and customers, is to stop selling products, and start selling value.”  

Here’s the value we sell at Altify, encapsulated in the Sales Velocity Equation:

Sales Velocity Equation

Drive your sales business with the sales velocity equation

Pulling each lever in this equation affects your sales success in different ways, and we use this model to sell value beyond our products.Find out more about the sales velocity equation in this article from Entrepreneur Magazine.

What about you? What value do you sell? I’d love to hear about how you approach selling value below.

About The Author

Donal Daly
Donal Daly
Donal Daly is Executive Chairman of Altify having founded the company in 2005. He is author of numerous books and ebooks including the latest Amazon #1 Bestseller Digital Sales Transformation in a Customer First World (Nov 3, 2017) and his previous Amazon #1 Best-sellers Account Planning in Salesforce and Tomorrow | Today: How AI Impacts How We Work, Live, and Think. Altify is Donal’s fifth global business enterprise.
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