Thursday, November 7, 2013

Indian Cloud based SAAS products - The correlation between Sales and Support models

Cloud ...Cloud ...Cloud ...This has been the buzz word around in the last 3 years and it is to stay. The industry is adopting Cloud based solutions , products like never before. High growth markets like India where technology adoption has just started, there is a good story to crack the market. Also, businesses are looking at new options on the cloud .The question that arises now and is very important for start-ups who offer services on the cloud - What is your Sales Model? How do you reach your target market? How do you sell?
Most often than not, this is also THE QUESTION which investors will ask you. What is your strategy or at-least the plan for scaling up operations and revenues? Having the luck to speak to some of our industry peers , friends and competitors as well in the start-up community , we have seen a mix. of ideas on the strategy for growth. But what we found from experience is quite different.

Couple of ideologies which you will hear mostly are 
  1.  We are a Cloud based company, we will sell online like any e-commerce store and support is via email or phone. No customer visits at all.
  2. We sell online/offline but we support online only and no customer site visits for support.
  3. We are reluctant to support customers at their site but yeah , we do send if it is a large customer.

Here's the catch. Does your Sales model also put pressure on customer support and the way you operate? The answer is Yes, it does and in a significant way than you can imagine. Based on our experience, we have classified into phases the growth of an organization and how your Sales and Support models change.

Phase1 - Online Sales & Support ( just started off with a SAAS model)

If you are selling online only and the only way you generate revenue is by pulling more users to your website, then yes your support model can be completely online. Even if customers insist for a site visit, you can justify and answer their queries online than visiting their office. More importantly, your product should be simple enough to support online.

Phase2 - Online or Offline Sales and only Online Support:(struggling)

This is the worst model you can look at but is the most fancy one. Basically, as an organization you are shouting out that you want to make sales & generate revenue either online or if required, by visiting a customer using a sales team but you will support customers only online or on phone but will never visit their site.

This is the worst model imaginable from a customer support / customer satisfaction perspective and lot of customers will churn easily to competition. You will want to quickly move to the 3rd phase or model- the most popular one in India. Companies which get stuck in this phase (Phase2) quickly move back to Phase1 or die down.

Phase3 - Online or Offline Sales & Support ( product is established and the need is identified, growth phase):

The Sales and Support teams visit the customer based on the size of customer, critical nature of the issue or depending on the partnership maintained.

Especially for the Indian market, it is the most dependable model for scale in revenue since the market dynamics are still mostly offline.

Conclusion:

You could be a poster boy startup and technically the most sophisticated product in the market but to survive in the Indian market and do business, you will need to create a support system which is in line with your sales organization and customer expectations.. Also, since most of the startup's will go from phase1 to phase3 to increase the revenues, their support model too has to change as they grow. You could be a high tech. startup but to grow and survive the Indian market, you will need an offline support systems since your customers need not be as high tech. as you, they just need to be able to afford your product :) .


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