This year we’ve had a string of fairly terrible experiences buying software at little ol’ SaaStr:

  • With one well-known SaaS vendor, an employee e-signed a 2-year contract without permission.  We never deployed the software, and yet the vendor threatened to sue us if we didn’t pay for Year 2.  Even though we never used the product, paid in full for Year 1, and the signor had no signatory authority.
  • Another vendor, the sales rep was so aggressive it took us 14 months to buy.  We would have bought the prior year, but the rep was so insistent on rip-off pricing we ran out of time and just gave up.  The rep also shut off the trial repeatedly before we could even input any live data or use the trial in any meanginful way. It took intervention at the C-level to get the deal done.  And it took more than a year.  It should have taken 2 weeks.
  • A third vendor, the rep pushed us into buying a very expensive edition we didn’t need to start.  After months of drama, we bought a slightly inferior competitor that we could just deploy in a week.  The rep not only blew the deal, but burned through countless hours of our time.  The CEO of the initial vendor reached out to me later and told me there was a simpler edition we could have started with, and would have.  But the rep intentionally did not tell us, in search of a higher commission.
  • A fourth vendor took advantage of one of our less tech-savvy team members and told him the product could do tons of things it couldn’t actually do.  Deployment was a disaster.  Not only was our business materially impacted, but of course, we did not renew.
  • A fifth well-known, mission-critical SaaS vendor shut us off completely during the renewal.  Then took 3 days to turn the app back on.  Yes, we screwed up on payment. But they also sent the invoice to the wrong address and wrong contact. Most importantly, taking 3 days to restore service is not cool.  Not at all.  There was no way to instantly restore, even with instant payment.

The list could go on.  This is 2018, and it’s time to change the way we buy software.

But if we don’t change sales rep behavior, other changes won’t be enough.  Importantly, none of the above 5 vendors will I recommend to a friend, no matter how well the deployment goes.  At least not for a year or more.

So I have a simple suggestion:  it’s time to get an Uber/Lyft score for sales reps.  An AE Score.  And pay them an accelerator — but only for 5 star deals.  We’re all doing NPS now.  But how many of you are doing sales rep NPS?

The suggested process is as follows:

  • 90 days after a sale, an automated survey is sent to buyers — with just one question.  How was the buying process: 1-5?  Sooner than 90 days is too early.  “Churn and burn” deals, where products are sold to customers that don’t need them (bullet point 1 above) and “fake outs” (bullet point 4 above) don’t show up for a few months.
  • Reps with a 5 star on an individual deal, and a 4.8 or higher overall — get an accelerator bonus.  Maybe even 20%.  Enough to be material.  And possibly, this accelerator is in lieu of other accelerators.  Ideally, it’s the only accelerator.
  • Every account exec’s AE Score is published in Salesforce and internally, so everyone knows.  Customer success can be alerted to the low rated AEs, as can the CEO.  And their calls can be listened into on and other tools and corrective action can be taken earlier.

I’m confident this will drive up NPS and customer happiness, and also — improve close rates and decrease renewal churn.  Think about how your Uber/Lyft experience is vs. a taxi from 5 years ago.  You want an AE asking your prospects if they want bottled water, or mints. Or what music they want.  Asking if it’s too hot or too cold, how to get it just right.  Not trying to jam a 3-year contract down their throat without a trial.

And just as importantly, giving a 5-star score to reps will radically decrease “churn and burn” and “fake out” sales.  Reps will lose the incentive to close crummy deals and sell versions of products customer will never use.  And to claim a product does things it doesn’t really do.  Which is a huge benefit to the company as a whole.  A customer that churns before they even deploy is a customer you never really had, even if they pay for Year 1.   And a customer that burns a ton of resources for zero long-term benefit.

Can AE Score be gamed?  Of course it can.  But only to a certain point.  It’s time for 5-for-5 to come to SaaS.  And to have the AE sweat it for 90 days.  No prospect is going to give a 5 that isn’t deserved.

Maybe even later, we can add Tips.

You want sales reps talking about how happy they made their customers, like the above.  Bragging about their 4.92 AE Score.  And if you don’t measure it — you won’t know.

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