Customer-centric Growth by Lincoln Murphy

SaaS Free Trial: How Self-Service fits with a High-Touch Sales Process

How do you determine whether a self-service SaaS Free Trial is appropriate for your otherwise high-touch sales process?

A SaaS Free Trial is an integral part of the sales process and not something separate… never forget that.

So, whether you have a 100% automated, self-service sales model, a high-touch sales process, or a hybrid (many companies fall into this category), a Free Trial can be a super-effective part of the process.

If executed correctly, a Free Trial should not only raise the conversion rate of prospects to customers, but raise average sales price and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), while at the same time reducing Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) and the length of the overall sales cycle.

But before considering how the Free Trial fits in, you have to determine whether a self-service sales model is even the appropriate model to begin with.

To do that requires two main inputs:

  1. The market’s willingness to accept a self-service sales model
  2. The complexity of the product (i.e. how easy it is to get started under a self-service model)

There are other inputs, but they don’t matter if the market wants a high-touch experience and/or the product is too complex to be sold this way.

One caveat to the “it’s too complex” issue is this: very often complex products are lead by a core piece of functionality that is really only a portion of the overall product; a self-service Free Trial strategy can be constructed around just that part to work past the “too complex” issue and still get prospects adequately Engaged and Invested in the product.

Anyway, since the Free Trial is an extension – a very important and often neglected extension – of your sales process, that will determine how “high touch” your Free Trial process will be.

High-Touch: Defined

But let me be very clear… “high touch” doesn’t mean every “touch” is a one-off, human-powered touch… no way.

With the idea that “high tech allows for high touch” in mind, as much should be “automated” or rolled into the in-app experience as possible for scalability.

High-touch isn’t what it used to be, don’tcha know.

But, and I know it sounds funny, there are markets that actually want high-touch, human-powered experiences and will shun the pure self-service model.

The thing is, we need to be clear on what is meant by “want” in this context.

When I ran my Mail Center Management SaaS company, I found that the expectation in my target market was anything but self-service.

In my case, it was likely the timing since SaaS was new and not widely accepted yet, but there were also some strong drivers in the market that resulted in a mentality that was anything but self-service.

In fact, a current client has switched from a traditional, Enterprise Software model to SaaS and is dealing with the question of how to introduce self-service into a market not accustomed to working this way.

And while it is becoming more accepted, there are still plenty of markets where they expect a more hands-on, human-centric sales approach…

…your goal is to figure out how to mix self-service with lifecycle marketing automation and actual high-touch, human-powered sales.

Know Your Market

All of this is good to know if you’re coming into disrupt the market – to do something different like self-service – because you might be in for a bit of a shock when they don’t accept your methods right away (can you afford to wait out a re-education of the market?).

To you it might seem like the most logical thing (“take control”, “do it yourself”, etc.), but to them – and they are the only thing that matters in this equation – it is different than what they’re used to, and they’ll fight it.

This is where you have to remind yourself that you aren’t your customer and consider WIIFT – What’s In It For Them – and look for ways to work around and within the confines of those market expectations.

Remember… self-service in the Free Trial is different than an entirely self-service sales process… you can mix and match where appropriate.

The reality is that a Self-Service Free Trial can be part of any strategy – even in markets with a high-touch, human-powered sales process requirement.

This is done by automating as much of that “high-touch” part of the process as possible, moving support into the app, improving the Engagement process of the application during the Free Trial, adequately managing expectations, etc. to reduce the burdon on the sales team to allow for scale…

… all the while giving your customers the impression that they are being worked with in the high-touch way they expect and require.

But all of this comes down to one major requirement: you have to know your customers and work within their wants and needs.

And probably don’t guess what those are… you should be sure.

Let’s Optimize your Free Trial Conversion Rate

There is only one of me, so I can only help a limited number of SaaS providers at any one time. But if you’re serious about finally turning your SaaS Free Trial into a customer-acquisition machine, email me with the details of your situation and I’ll get back to you to setup a meeting.

– Lincoln

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