Recently there was a lot of discussion around if there are truly “10x engineers” or not. It’s a complicated topic.
But one thing that is clearly true — there are 10x Features. Talk to any experienced SaaS sales leader in a competitive space. She’ll agree.
What’s a 10x Feature? It’s a feature that, for a material number of customers and prospects, wins the deal vs. the competition. Period. Not always, but often.
10x Features are real, but they don’t last. The competition figures it out and copies your 10x feature. But still, that takes time in SaaS. And then later, once you are past say $20m+ in ARR, often (but not always) you begin to achieve rough feature parity, brand takes over, and the 10x feature often doesn’t quite win a deal on its own. That doesn’t mean you don’t have feature gaps. Salesforce still has feature gaps. But it means many of the core features at least are enough built out in the core competitor group that there aren’t as many obvious 10x features. And it also means once you have a strong enough brand, that partners often can fill these gaps.
But for a while, as you are scaling, you can beat the competition in at least specific deals in specific segments with a 10x Feature.
Actually, looking back I see I made a video of our 10x Features in order. I got a little misty-eyed looking back:
Here was our rough list. Some are laughably dated, but some are still as relevant today as ever:
- 2006: Fax integration. Back then, the few other esignature providers could not accomodate fax. Many companies still wanted fax at this point. We could accomodate both in the same workflow, automatically. We won a lot of those deals. For almost 3 years we were alone with this 10x feature. It was surprisingly hard to do well, given all the exceptions and corner cases involved.
- 2007: Salesforce integration. We launched in the first AppExchange class in late 2006 with the first true, deep Salesforce integration. We built the template that everyone else then copied. There were rougher approaches to Salesforce integration before us. But for about 2 years, we had the only native, seamless integration here. We won Dell, Comcast, Verizon, and a ton of other leaders just because of this 10x Feature. We know this, because we sure were lacking a lot of other key features!
- 2008: Cross-platform. We had basic mobile, Mac and Windows, whatever you wanted. As the web began to grow, just having Mobile Sign and Safari compatibility alone could win deals. “Do you want 80% of your customers to be able e-sign your contacts? Or 100%?” Today, table stakes. But back then, believe it or not, we had the only cross-platform solution.
- 2009: Fully localized platform. Boy we won a lot of deals here with our “Global Edition”. Web sales went global and everyone wanted a product where the e-signature app worked in the native languages of signers and senders. If you haven’t localized an app before, and didn’t architect it that way from the beginning, it’s a big project. We won Google, Facebook, Twitter, and so many other deals just with this feature. The competition took 2+ years to catch up!
- 2010: Ease-of-Use. By 2010, we were finally started to get to basic feature parity. Phew, a long time! Because we’d started as freemium, we still surprisingly had a huge headstart in usability. We’d show prospects that cared about ease-of-use how much easier to sign it was on EchoSign. And it was. And we’d win. Again, again. And again. Want to sign in 1 click, not 10? On the iPad? Anywhere, in 1 step? We’re your vendor! We closed 4 of the 6 leading insurances companies because of this.
- 2011: Collaboration. In 2011, we built something about 5+ years ahead of the market: full on-line and off-line redlining and contract negotiation. That was crazy early in 2011. We were hacking Google Docs and Office to do things they really could not do then yet, and it was awesome. Adobe later ripped it out. But it was wicked awesome (if early). Any deal that wanted to negotiate contracts before signing, we’d win. Even if it wasn’t perfect. Because it was a 10x Feature only we had.
Later, brand wins. It really does. As you leave the tail end of the early adopter phase, mainstream customers will begin to overlook even 10x features just to buy the trusted brand.
But it sure can work for a while. Talk to your team about what your 10x feature is. And make sure the sales team always has at least one killer 10x feature. I always did. I considered it my job.
Also, building 10x Features is simply awesome, when you really build them and it works. Everyone gets it. They make you a winner. At least for a while. Until you figure out and ship the next one.