If you ask sales professionals why a contract fell through or a deal unraveled, they'll often respond with these typical answers:
1. We couldn't get executive approval.
2. There was an issue with change management.
3. There wasn't proper governance.
We've trained ourselves into believing problems with deals often fall on the head of the organization.
In reality, it's just the opposite.
The tail wags the dog
The predominant belief in B2B sales is that all it takes to be successful is executive buy-in.
We've been told over and over again that if you can't reach a decision maker, you have no chance of ever successfully closing your deal.
While that's true, it's shortsighted and only covers half of the equation.
These days, very few organizations work from the top down. Instead, the success of a company relies on the happiness and productivity of those just starting to climb the org chart.
In order for vendors to be truly successful, they not only need to meet the needs of decision makers, but ensure they are also effectively meeting the needs of the end users who will actually use their products or services.
Let's illustrate this principle with a simple example.
Let's say an organization purchases computers from two separate vendors.
The respective sales reps meet with the organization's executive, they go over the deal, they sign the paperwork and the organization orders the computers.
As employees start using them, they determine the machine from Vendor A is terrible and they work exclusively with the machine from Vendor B.
Unless Vendor A is able to resolve the employees' issues, they will communicate their frustration up to the executive, who will terminate the deal with Vendor A and shift exclusively to Vendor B.
Even though the purchasing power rests with the executive, in the end, it is actually the end users who wield the power to unwind the deal.
How this applies to SaaS sales
This problem is actually exacerbated in the world of Software-as-a-Service sales. While computers may suffer mechanical problems or design flaws, there are many more problems that can occur with software.
In addition, in the world of SaaS, a company's success depends on long-term retention instead of one-time purchases.
Like in our computer example, SaaS sales often start with a sales rep engaging with an executive prospect and making really high-level B2B decisions.
From that point, the executive is rarely involved. She likely passes off the implementation to a manager while she and the sales rep go out to dinner.
Already there is an immediate breakdown in communication because rarely will the executive effectively explain why this new software is important to the company.
The manager is balancing a full plate, and now he is expected to implement something new. Unless this project is easy to get up and running, it'll be dropped pretty fast.
Software fails at the end user level, so if you try to implement a piece of software based on what an executive believes are the needs of an end user, it isn't going to work.
How to nail your implementation
Apple got it right.
Apple designs its devices and software to deliver an amazing user experience and meet the needs of the customer.
SaaS companies should take a page out of the Cupertino tech giant's book and treat post-B2B sales like a B2C relationship.
Keep in mind that an executive knows only what the individuals below tell him or her about how well the software works.
That means when looking to implement, from a strategic perspective, you always need to interview the end user.
Always remember that everyone's needs are a little different.
Executives want visibility, forecasting and predictability, whereas a sales manager is solely focused on hitting quota. Sales reps are focused on doing things their way, and don't want to have their whole process disrupted.
If you pitch the wrong vision to the wrong person, you lose. You need to sing a song that everyone gets.
You won't win everyone over, but the movers and shakers, the power users, must buy into the process so they can become your advocates. Make sure they know how to use the system.
It's not enough that end users see the benefit in your software; they must be able to extract it.
Review the process with them and see if there is something that was misunderstood, because there always is.
Lastly, be involved and attentive. Make sure you hear about problems before the executive does. That way you can communicate to the manager and executive what's not working and what your plans are to fix it.
Don't overlook early perceptions
At the end of the day, the executive might unwind the contract, but realistically, he or she isn't suddenly waking up one day looking to scrap a deal.
Later on, the executive will have access to data, which will determine the success or failure of new technology. But in the beginning, when there is little visibility, success is purely anecdotal.
An executive will make decisions based on how end users are feeling. It's your job to make sure you do everything in your power to make sure they're feeling great.
Special note: This article is courtesy of my esteemed colleague Robb Young, InsideSales.com's senior director of customer success.