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Is Your SaaS “Click-to-Buy”?

Apparently, only about 13% of SaaS vendors have a click-to-buy option.  That’s an appaling statistic when you stop to think about it.  Vendors without click-to-buy require you to interact with humans in some way before you can get you service.  I can understand wanting to make the human interaction available, but why would a SaaS vendor want to insist on it?  It flies in the face of what on-demand ought to mean.

Perhaps its not as bad as all that.  A number of vendors probably don’t expect customers to click-to-buy.  They assume customers will insist on some contact first and that click-to-buy wouldn’t really deliver many more customers.  I wonder how true that really is.  I spent a day one time talking to the CTO at SugarCRM, Jacon Taylor.  What he said about the open source aspect of SugarCRM resonates with this issue.  In his view, one big advantages of open source was the ability for IT to do their evaluation without spending a lot of time talking to salespeople.  We’ve all had the experience of being “managed” through the sales process by salespeople–it’s their job to do so, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it!

I think of click-to-buy as click-to-try.  In my interviews with various SaaS CEO’s such as Chris Cabrera of Xactly and Concur’s Steve Singh, a point they made is that with SaaS, customers just start using the product rather than go through a protracted sales cycle.  Why wouldn’t click-to-buy be a logical extension of this idea?  When a vendor becomes part of the App Exchange program for Salesforce, they have an option to provide a demo as well as click-to-buy.

Vendors that do embark on a click-to-try program need to think about the ramifications.  Once the user clicks, they’re on their own, and it is important to make sure that experience is a good one.  I would look at a number of questions:

–  Is your SaaS application ready to be completely self-service?  Complex setup and terminology that’s unique to your product may limit your potential here.

–  Have you tested your click-to-buy program with some focus groups and usability studies before rolling it out?  These are not hard to do and provide invaluable insight in the quest to avoid falling into the “tragically knowable” trap.

–  Is User Experience King at your organization?  This is a subtle issue.  Sometimes salespeople and sales process are in conflict with user experience.  If you plan to take the latter back a step and go with click-to-buy, make sure user experience is firmly in control.

 Let’s say you’re not quite ready for a click-to-buy scenario in a self-service and user experience sense, you can still go for it.  How?  Treat click-to-buy as an assumptive close.  Collect as much information as you can and move the customer towards fulfillment, but at the end of the self-service process assign an Account Executive and Support Engineer to your new customer by name.  Let them know they’ll be contacted or they can contact their new AE and SE who will walk them the rest of the way through the process to get them up and running quickly.

Clever companies can even charge for this sort of thing if they add enough value.  3Tera offers an Assured Success Plan that’s along these lines.

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