Friday, 2 September 2011

Is doing nothing a strategy?

It's something I often hear in meetings, 'Sometimes, doing nothing is a strategy'.

It's right up there with, 'Sometimes, no decision is a decision.' Indeed, I was taught a whole series of selling strategies where our biggest competition was identified as 'doing nothing'. That was in the early days of SaaS at the turn of millennium when we were cutting our teeth selling what is today Microsoft LiveMeeting but was PlaceWare. Very often, SaaS identified new communication methods or collaboration tools which helped companies save time, costs, increase productivity and so increase their bottom line. When packaged in those terms, it was a wonder why people didn't bite your arm off. But in spite of some real benefits which not just saved money but increased teamwork and output, people turned it down in favour of the status quo.

Today, such tools are used widely across our industry as de facto standards of doing business. Teleconferencing, web collaboration, webinars, ad hoc meetings like Webex, Go To Meeting, LiveMeeting and others are all parts of the standard kit bag of the modern day company. Back then, it was bleeding edge stuff.

It took a lot of hard work, evangelising and daily use of the product to sell monthly seat intsalls but we saw that by getting a small sale, building adoption, internal reference selling and proving ROI continuously we eventually got larger seat sales and big renewals. By the end of the second year we had built up quarterly annuity sales of over $1m in Europe alone. A year later, Microsoft bought the company and bundled the product for free. Webex, our major contender, was bought by Cisco for $2.3bn and is still charged on a monthly fee basis today.

Some companies really understand SaaS sales, some don't. What is certainly true is that in order to sell it and adequately engage others to buy and sell it, it helps a great deal to have been there and sold SaaS before. Today, traditional vendors talk of resellers transforming their model yet the same company has themselves not transformed. In most cases, they don't use the product internally and they are not rewarded solely (some evenly partly) on the sales of the SaaS version of their product.

It makes them poor advisers to customers and resellers to start with. But in my opinion, it is a recipe to make sure that 'No decision' is once again the vendors' greatest competition and that is because for resellers and their channels, they are generating a 'doing nothing is a strategy' as a response.

By not evangelising and truly believing to the point of total dependency on the sale of the product, they are not committed to its success. That's a huge problem for those vendors who are trying to convince their users and channel of their SaaS or Cloud credentials. Nobody believes a doubter. Nobody believes anyone who hasn't got 'skin in the game'.

The strongest advice I can give to such software vendors is to put your money where your mouth is. Get true SaaS people in, change your model of reward and make the Cloud based product a separate division - even in competition with the old product - with separate P&L. That's the real world. And it's a real strategy. It's what you are asking your resellers to do.

Don't make 'No decision' the competition and don't make 'Doing nothing is a strategy' the reason why you don't succeed.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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