Ah, the age-old question of if you really need salespeople these days. Isn’t that kind of … old school? Can’t bots replace them?
Well, there are probably at least 3 core true-isms with customer buying:
- For a product much more than $299 a month, most prospects want to talk to someone before they buy.
- For almost any product that requires real business process change, most prospects will want to talk to someone before they buy. And
- The best people for prospects to talk to are specialists that just handle those conversations and nothing else. We call them “salespeople.”
So for those products: Yes. Done right, salespeople are highly specialized professionals that handle one little piece of the journey — managing and serving the needs of a prospect until it becomes a paying customer. And making sure they take that jump. And yes, there is a bit of friction between those 2 parts of the job.
Freemium and self-service are great, and you and I love to buy products that way. The other day, I tried to sign up for a $59/month gym membership, and a “salesperson” tried to force me to sit down for a 30-minute sales session before I could do my first workout. I walked out. I only had 70 minutes to get in, work out, and get out! A boiler room process for a $59/gym membership? That makes no sense in 2021+. I just went back to the office and just bought the membership on-line, and walked back. That was faster and easier.
Squarespace is IPO’ing at $700m+ without a sales team, all freemium. Yes, it can work at the bottom of the market, for a tool you can easily use on your own.
But prospects for more expensive and more complicated products have questions. Especially, questions about the true risks and true benefits of your solution. And done right, a salesperson is a “free” way to get a resource to answer all your questions.
Can you do this without commissions, and without the pressure tactics of a salesperson? Well … maybe.
The problem is not only do larger deals require a person to talk to … they also don’t close themselves. Oftentimes, they require mapping out business process change. Sometimes, they require discounting and other pseudo-urgency. They require navigating procurement, legal and other stakeholders.
You can put a Happiness Officer in charge of all this. But the deals never close at the same rate, at the same velocity, or for the same amount … than if you have a Closing Specialist do the job.
So if you want to close deals much more than $299 a month, and you want to close them quickly, for the maximum amount … you’ll probably need sales.
Can some services scale > $299/month without salespeople? Some, sure. API and B2D products that start cheap can naturally scale higher, e.g. everything from Twilio to Google Adwords and more. Stripe went a long time without a traditional salesforce, as did Slack. Still, they all end up with salespeople.
Take a look at this A+ discussion on the topic with Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio:
You and I don’t always want to talk to a salesperson. But seasoned buyers in the F500 don’t mind. That’s why they skip right to “Contact Me” on your pricing page. They know that a great salesperson is their agent, in many ways. She gets them the data, the information the prospect needs. Sets up the trial. Maps out the business process change. A great salesperson is an enterprise buyer’s ally.
And those ones — they tend to close a lot of business.
(note: an updated SaaStr Classic post)