Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we are moving into Spring. The trees are starting to bloom, the weather is warmer and everywhere that isn’t the UK, the sun is shining more and more!
After 15 years in the Supply Chain industry, I’m now selling software, pitching and selling to people sitting where I used to sit. I was always frustrated with software sales as a customer. And with the ideas of Spring on my mind, I want to talk about the lessons I’ve taken as I’ve moved into sales, and how we in the software industry can grow a new sales model.
SO… WHAT IS THE PROBLEM, IF SOFTWARE IS STILL GETTING SOLD ALL THE TIME?
Hopefully those of you reading this from the customer side are already leaning back in your
chair, nodding gently at the idea of being frustrated with software vendors, before I’ve even listed a single complaint.
As customers, the business IT folks need to secure investment for software with a sound business case – but often in the space of technology and software, the benefits can be hard to properly gauge and are seldom guaranteed. Additionally, software packages are never straightforward, so when the business stakeholders hear, “We only need $1M to implement this fantastic solution!” they immediately think “Okay, in reality, that means at least $3M with additional features and add-ons to actually deliver results.”
On the other side of the table, software vendors are still trying to sell, be profitable, run a business... They often promise the earth, maybe obfuscating the sales process (probably by using words like obfuscating...), and knowing their asking prices will get knocked down by procurement teams. They feel squeezed to deliver against huge expectations and end up having to do it at a cost that hampers their ability to do so.
So, at its core, both parties are nervous of the other, and commitment levels are low. Customers demand low-risk and low-cost, and vendors feel obliged to deliver against these demands while still trying to find revenue in the gaps left by the reductions offered to secure the deal.
HOW DO WE GET TO A POINT OF TRUST?
After years as a customer, I am passionate about regaining trust between customer and vendor – I never want to be the frustrating vendor I dealt with on so many occasions! I want to deliver the best possible software, with a fair and equitable license model, that works for customer & vendor alike. I know it can be done, and we can bring customer and vendor together to a point of trust and mutual benefit.
First off, I hate it when I get offered a sales model on any personal purchase where I have 6 different tiered options – I mean, why would I, as a customer, want the worst of 6 options?! I don’t! And second, I hate it if I purchase something and then either find a better price for the same quality, or the same price for better quality. Vendors must find the most cost-effective way to deliver the best-quality solution. It’s the only way to maintain the trust!
HOW DO WE AT BLINX TRANSLATE THAT TO OUR SALES MODEL?
One single price for the software subscription, and that includes EVERYTHING.
EVERYTHING? Yes, EVERYTHING. We clearly define what that means, on a single page (The Blinx 'Plan on a Page'), with no small print. You know exactly what you’re getting for your investment.
No “user license” extras. I’m sorry, guys, but scaling technology is becoming cheaper and cheaper. This is a traditional-days holdover that NEEDS to go.
No “maintenance” extras. Why would I sell you a subscription to a product and then charge you to maintain it?
No additional costs for “implementation.” Yes, this may cost us a few pounds in the end, but this is us establishing some up-front trust and investment in our customer.
A vendor should know their business and financials enough to develop a single price, that can be broken out line-by-line if required. If this is presented in a simple, straightforward way, customers will trust it, and vendors will be delivering to a cost and quality level that can still allow them to run a business.
INCENTIVISING TOWARDS A MUTUAL GAIN
Beyond this, vendors can get even more creative in establishing trust, like we aim to do at Blinx:
Vendors should want their customers to get a large ROI from the product. The price of the product can be capped against year 1 ROI savings. E.g. 50% price cap against ROI: If a product is priced at $1M, then the customer should expect to realise $2M in savings during year 1.
If the savings target isn’t hit, then year 2 would be offered at 50% cost of the first year (Year 2 price of $500k).
At Blinx, we include a full-time, dedicated service team to develop the solution with your business goals in mind. You could consider this team to be an extension of your internal resources, highly skilled in our software to achieve results faster and cheaper than any internal resources you could hire. And yes, you probably guessed it by now, it is included in the EVERYTHING pricing cost. 😉
LET’S PUT THE TRUST BACK IN SOFTWARE SALES.
This is how we, at Blinx, are taking the experiences of being sold software for 15+ years and turning that model on its head to deliver a better one. One of mutual trust and benefit realisation - customers and vendors should both benefit from the sale of a product, naturally, but it should not be a stressful, fraught process rooted in mistrust and competing interests.
Customers out there, what are you biggest pain points with software sales today?
Vendors out there, are you ready and willing to make a change?