Here is a hard truth. If your SaaS product isn’t already commoditized by your competitors it will be by the next time you do a comparative analysis of your competition or you are in an irrelevant product category and there is a reason why you’re swimming in the pond alone.
Newness and innovation in tech is always a process of companies leap frogging each other with product features. And eventually, the tools become so universally used that the big four (Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple) decide to enter the game and it is game over for a lot of companies.
There will always be a bigger fish in the game with more funding, more developers, and more sales people to come in and rain on your parade by making your same product features free or with zero barrier to entry. That’s just the reality. But there is a way out.
Brand isn’t just for Coke.
I’ve heard people claim that branding only matters if you’re Coke. For a sales person, this is some seriously flawed fatalistic thinking. The idea that a sales person can white knuckle their way to million dollar in ARR deals without both a company brand behind them and a well developed personal brand is probably the worst thing that the executive team can think about what is possible with sales. At that point you’re banking on lightening striking.
The misconception comes from the idea that branding is about ubiquity like Coke. That’s not the case. You only need to be Coca Cola to the smallest viable audience.
This is what a lot of revenue teams get wrong. They think they need as big of a spread as possible but it’s the exact opposite. You need to know what is the smallest spread possible. What is the smallest audience sample that you can become a house hold name to.
The reason we know this works is because of the reality of the state of the internet. On Facebook, you and I both know people we are connected with where their news feeds look like two alternate realities. In one feed, socialism is getting ready to consume the entire world and usher in the apocalypse and in the other feed a Nazi Confederate Army is preparing for the second civil war. They are two distinct and alternate realities coming from the perspective of a target audience.
You can be Coca-Cola to some people. But you don’t need to be Coke to everyone. And they will be none-the-wiser.
Building up your company brand and as the sales person investing in your personal brand is how you over come this first hurdle. Here’s why. When there is no context for who you are and who your company is, you are just a fly that got into the room and you’ll get swatted out.
Branding is the context your company provides for why anyone would spend an ounce of energy with you. And if your company isn’t doing it effectively, you have to do it effectively for yourself. Branding builds momentum. People have to have context and the more momentum you bring with you when you walk into the room the more likely you are to influence the room.
To that end, not only individuals should be investing in personal brand, but companies should be investing in the personal brands of their sales force.
Expertise Is The Under-looked Differentiator In SaaS Sales
Many of the low cost products out there rely on self-service, self-onboarding, and self-optimization. This is because at 10 dollars a month, you aren’t a profitable user if they spend any time talking to you at all and you have to rely on volume for profitability. Not as easy as it sounds. In early stages, your company may not know if it’s self-service or if it’s more support heavy. Complexity, more features, greater configuration ability, and the more scalable it’s built for the size of the customer’s business, the more expertise is required from your sales and customer success team surrounding the problem customers are trying to solve.
People like to understand your features because they validate baseline concerns but once those feature-based objections are overcome (which can be done with a PDF) the question revolves around whether the solution can actually solve the problem. But the problem isn’t actually that straight forward.
It isn’t usually the direct problem that is really causing the pain. It’s the problem behind the problem. A person who is buying a drill cares about the torque not because they have a torque problem but because they have a big hole problem, or they have to drill a million holes. To sell the drill you have to be an expert in holes.
The way many SaaS sales teams are trained and have been structured for years is all about product expertise and demoing how to use the product. Here’s the problem with that going forward. All of the competitive products in the product category check all the same boxes and if they don’t, they aren’t far behind. If you’re ahead now, you only have a small window of time to stay ahead. The only space where features win is in the hyper niche and the hyper custom. But even there, having strong expertise in those spaces is a precedent for doing business with those customers.
Enterprise SaaS sales, especially necesitate domain expertise because they don’t want a little cheap self-service solution. They want a full program and dedicated account management. They have to roll it out to their entire team and they don’t necessarily want to be the main driver of adoption. They expect expert strategy, dedicated account management, custom features and integrations. That’s the name of the game at enterprise sales and if your product is trying to be DIY, high volume, self-service, not invested in security, you’ll lose the enterprise battle.
Domain expertise surrounding the problem, solution, result is more about strategy and proven frameworks over feature fit. Can you solve the problem? Does it matter whether you have every feature they mention in discovery if you can get the outcome right? That’s what matters.
This is another reason why personal brand is so important in SaaS sales. Do you have the reputation for solving problems? Are you showing up in virtual networking groups or in LinkedIn feeds with tangible and actionable content? Are you somebody that people want to talk to? Do you deliver when you show up on a podcast or on a panel? Are you turning on lightbulbs for people? Are you enlightening them?
If You Confuse You Lose
Borrowed from the StoryBrand mantra, “if you confuse you lose.” Clarity wins. End of story. Where people giving demos go wrong is they throw every tool in the tool bag at the prospect all at once. But you don’t need to show off every tool in the tool bag.
It would be like a trade show booth Ginsu knife sales rep not only showing off a use case for every single knife he has with him but going back to his car and grabbing every cooking widget from the entire catalog to show off one by one. It’s not necessary!
What do they do instead? They pull out the knife set and they start prepping a meal. Only using the appropriate knives for the meal. Why? Because people don’t want knives, they don’t want to be professional chefs, they just want to make good food.
The salesman wins if he can give out the samples and they taste good. What did the knives really do? Did the metal used make the food taste better? Of course not, but these were the tools used by a person who knows what he’s doing in the kitchen.
The message? You can be a better cook with the right tools. It’s clear. And because he only used the necessary tools for the specific cutting techniques and they worked beautifully. The assumption is that the rest work beautifully because they are the same brand and the expert trusts the brand.
The best people in sales come off more like a celebrity endorser rather than a product pusher. With what LinkedIn has become in the last year has really made that all possible and it’s a really exciting time to be in SaaS sales.
Brand, Expertise, Clarity. If you don’t come to the call with those three things you will always be told you’re more expensive and you’ll think you have to compete in the race to the bottom. But when people trust your brand and they believe you have a higher level of expertise because you’ve made it clear, they will make the investment and feel good about the price differential.