Guest Blog by Amber Milks. Amber has worked at SaaS companies for over 10 years in Professional Services, including DocuSign, Okta, and Veeva. She now owns Loop Consulting, helping individuals and small businesses scale their operations.
There are very few tools built specifically for Professional Services businesses, despite the fact that SaaS products increasingly require complex implementations. Most CPQ systems will try to box your professional services quoting into fixed price selling to minimize complexity and distract from their limitations in the professional services space. This may work for companies with very mature products that can sell turnkey PS packages (like Okta’s SmartStart packages) but for most complex enterprise deployments you need more flexibility. Even with packages you need to ensure there is appropriate customer fit for success without engaging someone from PS on every deal!
Give Sales the Right Tools to Win
The professional services team relies on sales to make the introductions to pitch services to customers, they are the front door. If we introduce too much friction in this process, they will abandon us. And who can blame them!
Most company’s first instincts are to give sales a smorgasbord of options for services: gold, silver, platinum level packages, custom offerings, white gloved services, inexpensive options for SMB customers, industry targeted bundles, etc. This results in an overwhelmed AE sitting through days of onboarding, while ultimately selecting the cheapest thing they find on the menu.
Then we move to the fully custom option where you hire 1 services sales person for every 100 AE’s to write custom SOWs for every deal, where everyone is miserable but services attach grows (but at what cost!?). The sales team quickly complains that deals take too long and services are too expensive so it’s costing us deals to our cheaper competitors. This model is quickly thrown in the trash.
Ultimately selling services becomes a burden and Customer Success ends up with a churn bomb when customers never go live on the product. A sales problem (i.e. not selling services in the first place) becomes a Customer Success problem that can really only be solved by sales. And now we’ve completed one of Dante’s circles.
If They Don’t Build It, The Churn Will Come
Most SaaS companies place churn on the shoulders of their Customer Success teams, far after the sales teams have packed up their bonuses and left the building.
If the friction is too high in the sales cycle, the sales team will skip the critical step of bringing in services and training. Suddenly the customer mysteriously churns, causing the renewals and CSM team to throw a red flag and demand free services!
A PhD in Services Selling
Because traditional CPQ systems rely on “dumb quoting”, your sellers often need a PhD in services to get a quote through the system. They have to know the perfect combination of questions, inclusions, exclusions, RevOps rules, and discount thresholds (not to mention a hope and a prayer) to get services attached and then the delivery team will complain it’s not the right services attached to their deal. This is usually coupled by pages and pages of enablement and powerpoints explaining what services to attach to what types of deals.
Most sellers are going to avoid your services like the plague in either scenario. If your product is mature and requires little implementation to be successful, you can likely avoid the aforementioned churn bomb. But if you’ve come this far in this article, you’re not likely one of those lucky few.
Your Product NEEDS Services
Denying that your product needs services, relying too early on a partner ecosystem for outsourced services, and/or creating friction and complexity in your sales cycle will kill off your license customers sooner or later. There are a few tactics to ensure the success of your license business is supported by your customer success organization:
The less mature your license product, the harder it will be to have turnkey packages that fit all customer personas. Building packages too fast will almost guarantee churn and huge issues in customer success that result in a radical shift to fully custom SOWs as a reaction to high churn rates.
Evaluate your product at critical stages and bring your professional services team into your product development lifecycle to provide feedback on how to make implementation faster, cheaper, and easier for customers.
Your sales team should be preparing your customer for their up front implementation cost from the very first conversation, not after they have put only license cost in front of them. Surprising a customer with a huge services quote is a guaranteed way to lose a deal and pit your sales team against your services team.
Sales should be positioning services as required for success, not optional to the sale.
|Systems & Sales Support Teams|
Your internal systems need to enable all of the above. If your RevOps teams and CPQ tools treat services as optional and an afterthought, so will your sellers.
Assume that you will need to quote services and ensure your tools are capable, and that you will need them to support your revenue, billing, and accounting for those services. If your support functions around sales know this is critical and build their tools accordingly, it will reduce friction for the sales team overall.
WorkRails Can Help You
This is where WorkRails enters the market. It’s the only configurable, professional services focused system that starts with the quote and makes it easy for the sales team to quote services. Instead of relying on days of enablement, it guides the sales team to the right services by pulling data from Salesforce or any other CRM.
Sales teams love WorkRails because it:
- Minimizes enablement: through guided selling by pulling opportunity attributes, ensures the right services are attached
- Reduces friction: eliminates additional conversations with PS teams in the sales cycle
- Minimizes RevOps rejections: approval processes and connection with CPQ eliminates back and forth with RevOps that delays deals
PS teams love WorkRails because it:
- Scales PS sales: reduces the number of PS sellers needed
- Increases PS attach: the right services attached to the right deals
- Reduces churn: reduces friction and can make services required for specific deal types