It always amazes me that when you are not looking for something you end up discovering something great. This was the case at Dreamforce 2008 when I was taking a break in the Developer lounge. I happened to hear some of the a presentation by one of the founders of a company called Apttus and was impressed by the pragmatic advice offered for SaaS organizations, regardless of size.

When deciding to start Apttus the founders, long time industry veterans, were convinced that the traditional model of software was fundamentally flawed – they didn’t want to be in the business of persuading customers, and saw the SaaS model as an alternative.

But just saying you are going to be a SaaS company doesn’t make you successful.

Below are some of the lessons learnt that Apttus shared (para-phrased from the original presentation so hopefully I got the salient points):

1. Know your domain well, then use that knowledge to access the gaps in the existing offerings and focus on that.
2. Think carefully about building your own or build natively on the platform. 12-18 month development cycle is just too long. As Luke Skywalker said, “use the force!”
3. Only enter the market if you have a fundamental advantage. Your solution has to be so compelling that your customers can’t say no.
4. Everything comes down to the demo. 80% of the decisions are made from the tacit feedback of the demo, the other 20% is just logistics. So make sure your app and demo are easily customizable to ensure you make that initial connection.
5. When demoing go for 5 wows – If you don’t get your customer to react in a positive way the value of your solution is not there or you missed the mark.
6. Make the entry point low. If you solution is good and provides value, subscriptions will grow over time – you should not limit that initial adoption.
7. Mould your entire company around SaaS principles – the sales process must be short and adjustable (3-month quarters are too long). Delivery, upgrades and services must all be painless, rapid and scalable.

Now this is the stuff that should be taught at the big business schools.

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