Thursday, June 18, 2009

SaaS Ease of Use is an Intangible Wrapped Around a Tangible

I used to believe that a major reason why people chose one SaaS solution over another was based on intangibles like ease of use and UI. The more I thought about this, the more I realized that settling for a response like “We just want a SaaS solution that is easy to use” or “I chose your solution because it was easier to use” does me and my prospect no good. This may have been the reason they preferred you in the sales cycle or even why they ended up selecting you over the other vendors, but it isn’t what keeps them as a long term customer. Ease of use is an intangible wrapped around a tangible. Dig deeper into what your prospect/customer is saying and you will uncover the hidden tangible.

What keeps customers happy is the fact that you are constantly helping them achieve their business goals. Everything needs to tie back into a business goal. Uncover the business goals and you have got your baseline for success and improvement. I decided to share a phone conversation I had earlier this week, to demonstrate what I am talking about. In fact the deeper I dug into ease of use, the more I realized that the real reason my prospect was looking for a SaaS software solution was to increase their project margins by 20%. Here are some of the juicy details of the call…… about 5 minutes into it.

Kevin: What are your business goals?
Prospect: We are doing everything via Excel spreadsheets and this does not scale…we would like one central place to manage all our projects and to log time and expenses….it must be easy to use…. ease of use is the most important thing for us…this will determine who we go with.

Kevin: Why is ease of use the most important thing for you?
Prospect: Because my consultants need to use the solution for time and expense capture.

Kevin: Why is an easy to use time and expense solution important?
Prospect: Because my consultants won’t log all their time and expenses associated with projects if it isn’t easy to do. You know how consultants are.

Kevin: So what does that mean to the business if your consultants don't log all of their time and expenses associated with projects?
Prospect: Well, there have been cases we're we've lost money on projects because we aren't capturing every billable hour and that can directly affect the profitability of our projects.

Kevin: So you feel like your not making as much money as you should on your projects today?
Prospect: For sure

Kevin: Do you know what your margins are today on projects?
Prospect: They vary…but around 30%.

Kevin: Is 30% a good number for you…is this what you want?
Prospect: No I want to increase that number to 50%

Kevin: Perfect…so the real business goal is to increase project margins to 50% and you feel that an easy to use solution will help you achieve that?
Prospect: Yes exactly

Now that I know his real business goal (business goals always start with increase, decrease, or improve upon) I can focus the demo on how our solution can help. After they sign up as a customer my implementation team can circle back to those goals. This is a way to re-enforce what they told us was most important. After they have been live for a few months, the account management team can see how well we are tracking against those goals. If we are hitting their goals, then we have a very happy customer. If we are not, then we need to figure out why. Maybe they are not using the solution properly or to its fullest. Either way, we are still proving that we are constantly listening and making certain that we deliver on all of their goals.

PS. As a side note, if you can get the prospect to equate what the 20% increase in profitability means in real $$$, then the chances are the cost of your solution is minimal to the value of them reaching this business goal. Your solution then becomes an investment with great return.....rather than a cost!

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