Competition

Small Deals at Large Companies. Hooray!! And 100% At Risk.

echojason@gmail.com'

Jason Lemkin

Every customer you close, the next day, is at risk of churn.  A month-to-month customer can basically cancel anytime.  An annual contract customer can sort of cancel anytime, but really probably won’t for a year, or even 3 (more on why Year 3 is the biggest risk for bigger customers here).  You know this, of course.

But the riskiest deals of all are Small Deals at Large Companies.  Yes, the logo looks great.  Feels great.  Is great.  But you start off at almost immediate risk of losing the deal.

Why is this?  They are almost always just an experiment.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 1.11.52 PMImagine a Big Co.  They pay $1.5m a year to deploy Salesforce.  And $1m in consulting fees to deploy it.  And say $300k in CPQ tools and others to get Salesforce to do what they want.

And they pay $20k for your little SaaS app to make it all even better.  $20k may be a huge deal for you at this stage.  But to that customer?  It’s a small part of a $2m+ project.  One they like.  That they are willing to put into production and manage business process change for.  Which is important.

But still, it’s immaterial to the overall cost of the business process in question.  So it can easily be discarded.

Furthermore, experiments are at high risk for competitive vendor change as they scale.

An experiment is just that — an experiment.  If you tried Vendor A for an experiment, and the customer liked it … but it had A Big Feature Gap … and your competitor doesn’t.  Then all the experiment might do is line your competitor up for The Big Win later.

Even worse, Small Deals, by bypassing the CIO’s office and other process steps — put you at even more risk once the project is a success.  Because the CIO’s office, or the SVP’s office or whomever … may do their own competitive bake-off.  And not pick you.  No matter how happy your little silo, your champion of your little deals at BigCo, is.

In fact, Small Deals at Big Cos are so risky in the medium term, some SaaS companies don’t even pay sales reps commission on them.  Not until an account is either X% penetrated, or approved by the CIO’s office, or approved by Procurement, or other gates.

So what’s to do?  Well, you probably know what to do.  You just probably aren’t doing it yet:

  • Consider assigning Customer Success resources to the Potential Account Size, not Actual Account Size.  At least sometimes.  Make sure if you close Google for $20k … your CS team is still treating them like Google at $250k.  Or $2.5m a year.
  • Consider all Small Deals at Big Cos. as Unclosed Opportunities for The Other 90% of the deal you don’t have yet.  Don’t just track the total potential account size.  Consider them unclosed opportunities you have to go get.  And make sure they are resourced properly.
  • Map out the account and penetrate at all levels.  Real enterprise salesteams know how to do this.  If you got in through a back door, without going through the proper channels — then you don’t even have anything close to proper buy-in.  You may need it from every key stakeholder at the customer.
  • Consider Lost Small Deals at Big Companies not really lost yet.  Don’t make this rookie error when you lose a Small Deal at a Big Co.  The big deal there is likely yet to be closed.  You may have a great chance of getting the upsell, the bigger deal, in 90 days, in 180 days, in 365 days.  Keep on this account as an Active Opportunity.  And marketing and demand gen should have separate campaigns for these customers.
  • Get on a Jet.  Go there.  Go visit your champion.  And ask to meet >>all<< the other stakeholders.  Ask her to assemble as large a group as possible for the meeting.  Your competitor will.   If they get the other stakeholders in the meeting, and you never do … even if you won the Small Deal … you’ll likely lose the Large Deal later.

That great logo?  Be nervous.  You should be.  When the deal is EchoSign-ed … the work has just begun.  Even just on the sales side.

Published on July 6, 2016
  • I never thought about it that way. Very well laid out, thanks for sharing these pro insights with us Jason

  • I always think of a small deal at a big co like we just have started talking and they were serious enough to see a demo. Because a small deal for them IS a demo. Your champion at Google has no problem to shell out $20K to test their assumption at a micro-scale.

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