We all want to push, push, push. To make the month and the quarter. And you have to.
But there’s a lot of stuff you also need to hold back on to go long. Like not pushing too hard.
Many enterprise customers have narrow windows during the year when they evaluate new apps, often for budget and planning purposes. And other narrow periods where they get the resources to deploy a new app and manage the often significant business process change involved.
Even at little team SaaSr, we have this issue. We get so busy with SaaStr Annual and Europa that Q4 is our only chance to deploy a new app at scale. Right now, we’re hoping to move to HubSpot during Q4 and also migrate to a new support app, as well as a few other changes. But if we don’t get it done by mid-December … it will be too late. It will have to wait until October of next year.
So what are a few corollaries of these windows:
- You pretty much need to get a deal closed by Q3 if it’s a big one to get budgeted for next year. After that, software that gets purchased can come from a discretionary budget (I had a $400k one as a VP of Adobe). But those purchases are usually much smaller than budgeted ones. Big Companies lock down their budgets for next year in Q3, even if they sometimes and even oftentimes don’t actually purchase the software until Q4.
- You can pull in some deals, but some customers really do want to and need to wait until they have time to deploy. Pushing any harder than that can backfire. You have to ask, and listen. Business process change is a much bigger deal than most SaaS startups realize.
- Deals you think you have lost may just not be ready yet. Again, you have to really ask and listen. The prospect may well be ready to buy in a few months when the window opens. An extreme example is Tesla. Tesla wasn’t ready to buy Adobe Sign / EchoSign until they shipped cars. Yet we met them 2 years before that. 😉
- Careful drip marketing and follow-ups are key here. You have to check back in, and continue to add value. If you aren’t doing thoughtful drip marketing to prospects, or following up strategically on those with seeming longer lead times, you are doing it wrong. Especially for larger deals.
- Discounts don’t solve this problem, and usually make it worse. Although done just right, they can sometimes help a little. Inexperienced sales reps or those used to doing SMB sales often try a magic, big discount to get an enterprise deal to close more quickly. But that alone doesn’t create a window. It doesn’t create time, or resources, or help. However,sometimes a thoughtful, modest discount can help push 1 project over the line to prioritize in that window. Get this wrong though, and you just create confusion and no additional urgency.
- You really do want your enterprise customers to deploy fast, but sometimes it can take the better part of a year. One of the top ways to drive down churn is to make sure your customers deploy your app for real as fast as possible. But sometimes, the window to deploy closes for bigger customers even after the deal is signed. You have to make sure you are there to help them when they are ready.
So yes, be impatient and push. It’s part of sales, up to a point. But also really ask. Ask not just if they have budget (and do ask), but make sure you ask what their target date is for deployment. And if you can help bring that forward in any way. A great services team sometimes can help a lot.
Maybe Later image from here