Sales Models, Metrics, and Motions Blog

SaaS and the Hunter Farmer Debate

by Trish Bertuzzi on Tue, Oct 20, 2009

We recently wrote a post called SaaS and the Evolution of Inside Sales.  We got great feedback in the form of comments, but what I found most interesting was that so much of the dialogue focused on the challenge that arises from SaaS and that challenge centers on the hunter v. farmer model.

Here are some select comments:

Having been a VP of Sales for 5 years with a SaaS company and now a Founder of SaaS company I have found that two things to be true: 
1) People still buy from people and want to know who they are working with 
2) The line between inside sales and account management has become blurred. 
With a SaaS product I have seen that a inside sales person can make @ $10K sale via the phone and webex (I have not seen a higher sale without someone having to jump on a plane) but once that sale is made that same inside sales person then becomes the account manager also. 
The customer only wants to "deal" with the same person who sold them the product. As most SaaS sales are a subscription, account management becomes critical. The SaaS model falls apart if the renewal dip below say 85%.
So, while you may be able to make the sale inside, you will eventually have to have some kind of field team continually building and strengthening customer relationships

posted @ Wednesday, September 23, 2009 8:19 AM by Jonathan

A little personal rant, I have purchased a few SaaS offerings, and I have to tell you that it is very frustrating how little attention I received after the purchase is completed. I want my insides sales rep/account manager to care about me after I sign that contract and pay my bill. Don't assume I am going to sign a contract for year 2 if you treat me so poorly. I have 2 contracts due this month and I have had the rep forget to call me at a time that we scheduled, assume that an email is enough information, and arrogantly assume I am going to sign up because you did all this. Better processes are needed, better coaching is required - I will not buy from a robot but a respectful person on the other end of the phone. Rant over. ; )

posted @ Wednesday, September 23, 2009 9:41 AM by Noreen Vincent

I would add that SaaS is beneficial to buyers in that their risk is reduced by only renting for a short period of time (typically a year) and that this puts pressure on vendors to bend over backwards for buyers to encourage renewals. 

posted @ Wednesday, September 23, 2009 9:43 AM by Robert Lesser, Direct Impact Marketing

Good point about the blur between SaaS inside sales and account management. With many SaaS products, as opposed to being locked in, customers pay as they go. This makes account management, as you cite, very critical. The relationship needs to be continually nurtured to maintain the existing subscriptions and grow ("farm") subscriptions from within. The hand-off can be a tough one; when clients get used to talking to one person, they want to continue that. We have similar blurring going on between inside sales and support.

posted @ Thursday, September 24, 2009 8:57 AM by Shawn

So, it appears customers don't see us as hunters and/or farmers they see us as suppliers.  I came across this quote from Sam Walton the founder of Wal-Mart.

There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.

So, with all of our talk about buyer centricity, when we segment hunters and farmers are we shooting ourselves in the foot by not giving the customer what they want?

And, if we don't segment the model, do we eventually turn our hunters into farmers and what does that do to our growth strategy?

This is a complex issue so I would love to hear your feedback.  I'll post again with what we find.  Thanks for listening and sharing.


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