Dear SaaStr: Should We Charge for Pilots and How Much?

Charge for any true pilot.

If you don’t charge, it’s not a pilot.  It’s an extended demo.

Now, that’s better than nothing. It’s something. But a free demo is fraught with issues. Most importantly, the feedback you get is often radically different from free “customers” than paying customers.

And let me be clear: I almost never see “Free Pilots” convert to paid.  They are usually a sign of desperation in sales.  Of sales not believing the value is there, that they can close a paying customer.  So they are hoping free will do it.  But it doesn’t.  There’s never enough engagement.  And in the enterprise, there’s always at least some budget for a paid pilot that matters.

Don’t confuse “Free Pilot” with Freemium.  A true freemium product, that can be self-adopted very rapidly, of course, can work.  But a Free Pilot, that takes real work to deploy, and some business process change?  They never convert to Paid, in my experience.  Or at least, almost never.

You have to start somewhere. Getting someone to use your product is better than no one using your product.

But getting someone to pay something to use your product is 50x better still.

The feedback is 10–100x more honest and real when there is money attached to that usage.

A related post here:

Dear SaaStr: What is The Typical Conversion from Paid Pilot to Annual Contract in SaaS?

(note: an updated SaaStr Classic answer)

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