The Disappearing Line Between Pre- And Post- Sales In SaaS
Back in the days of on-prem software, Account Executives had it easy: they’d sell a massive perpetual license, ship a CD, collect commission, and move on. It didn’t matter what happened next. Thankfully for consumers, those days are gone.
For vendors, this poses new challenges.
It’s easier than ever for customers to try, buy, measure, and switch. You may think you’ve “sold” the customer, but maybe in their mind they’re still deciding between you and your competitors.
Even when customers have signed multi-year contracts, selling is usually required before the next renewal or expansion.
Traditional “pre-sales” was about mapping customer value to your product. Now, it’s more important than ever to actually deliver this value.
What Problems Arise When You Assume Selling Is Finished?
Assuming customers are either pre- and post- sales is simply inaccurate, since a “sale” is not a once-and-done event.
For example, even an established customer with $20k ARR is still in a sales motion. They could be 1) planning to be a customer for life and roll out enterprise-wide, which requires you to get in there to ensure they have everything they need to expand, or 2) piloting your product on 2 of 10 departments while running a side-to-side bakeoff with your competition.
At every step of your customer relationships, assuming you’re post-sale can cause problems, like:
- Failure to Deliver Success - Your customers’ top priorities are to solve their own business challenges, which change over time. Your team must always have a firm grasp of what they’re trying to accomplish in order to help them be successful and identify problems early.
- Improperly Structured Teams - Incorrectly structured teams lead to misalignment and inefficiency, often resulting in friction and problems for customers. For example, one common problem is repeated vendor hand-offs through teams with different levels of strategic vs. tactical focus (ie, Sales -> Implementations -> Customer Success -> Sales for the renewal/expansion -> etc).
- Non-Standard Processes - With the wrong teams and misalignment with the customer journey, your team’s capabilities won’t match what’s needed. This creates inefficient, redundant, and less effective processes that are more prone to churn.
- Missed Expansion Opportunities - When teams assume they’re post-sale, they often lose sight or stop focusing on customer ROI, which makes it less likely to retain and grow the account.
- Improperly Incentivized Teams - Confusion around who owns the expansion causes chaos. If Sales owns the expansion but they’re not responsible for the customer’s success, you have a problem. Even worse, if nobody is compensated on the renewal/expansion you’ll have higher unexpected churn than necessary.
How To Focus All Of Your Customer-Facing Team On Sales
It’s better for all of your customer-facing teams to think about customers based on where they are in *their* process, what they’re trying to accomplish, and what they need to be successful. The answers to these questions dictate which resources you should bring to bear, and guide you on how best to ensure they continually realize the promised value.
Here are a few questions all of your customer-facing teams should consider at each interaction throughout the life of the customer, independent of whether or not they think a customer is “pre-sales” or “post-sales”:
- Where are they in their customer journey?
- What did they hope to accomplish when they bought? Did that happen?
- Which of your products have they purchased and used? What potential expansion opportunities exist in the future?
- What do they plan to accomplish next cycle? Will they be able to?
By incorrectly assuming pre- and post- sales, you’re going to let both yourself and your customers down. Instead, understand the specific customer journeys relevant to your product and customer base, and build teams, processes, incentives, and a product to meet those needs.