Have you ever worked in an office during the shift to a new technology solution? If so, you surely remember a long transition during which employees begrudgingly migrated their files and work processes. Whether employees actually liked the new system or not was irrelevant; they all had to move to it by a certain date because the old system would no longer be supported. With such a large capital expense, the entire organization needed to support the change.

That situation is dying a quick death because of one incredibly disruptive force: the Cloud.

Since Cloud-based technology services are offered using "software as a service" models, the cost of entry is negligible and installation is fairly easy, and the blessing of the IT department is no longer vital before moving forward.

Today, enterprise IT buyers can come from any functional area of the business. Budget approvals and compatibility testing have been replaced by "check it out and see what happens"; if it doesn't work, try something else or go back to the old system.

The risk of making a poor decision is lower than ever simply because changing to a new solution has become easier.

This new model has wreaked havoc on the traditional marketing model, which was refined over decades around large, infrequent spends presided over by a few key decision-makers and driven by IT.

With the acceleration of a larger "as a service" economy that includes "hardware as a service" and "infrastructure as a service," this disruption of tried-and-true sales processes is expanding beyond technology into multiple verticals.

Perhaps the most seismic shift, though, has occurred in the role of vendors in product adoption.

Buyers no longer need to justify large capital expenditures and the headaches of switching providers are low, so they are less motivated to drive adoption rates among their staff. Vendors have traditionally relied on internal efforts to enforce adoption, but they are increasingly finding themselves stuck without enough advocacy within client organizations to drive utilization. So the smart ones started doing it themselves. The others are floundering.

How can a vendor—an outsider—drive adoption rates for its solutions inside a client organization?

Get proactive with training and support

A recent industry survey found that 81% of Cloud service customers do not completely or properly use all the tools they have access to. The result could be abandonment, which is the death knell of any software offered as a service. Compounding this problem, managers often lack the knowledge, motivation, or time to properly train their staff.

Awareness and education are the first steps to driving adoption, and vendors are in excellent positions to provide both.

Working directly with as many users as possible is key; setting up direct channels of communication that empower users to contact vendors directly for support (instead of relying solely on internal resources) is helpful.

The best education strategies are also proactive. Identifying users who are not accessing tools or those who are watching training videos or seeking other forms of online support, alerts vendor support experts regarding whom they should contact directly to offer assistance.

Own new touchpoints that expand beyond implementation

Almost all Cloud users (80%) require at least two touches from marketing team members before they will try a new service, and half require four or more touches to do so. That's just the beginning of the new sales process, because implementation merely opens the door to the true driver of revenue: adoption.

Accordingly, many new touchpoints lie beyond what is traditionally thought of as the sale.

Though the outreach looks different post-sale, the process itself is continuous and multidisciplinary, with service and support functions wrapped into sales and marketing.

Effective communication strategies to drive adoption include useful tutorials, reminder emails on solution availability and features, and direct phone calls to determine whether there are any adoption hurdles to overcome.

Stationed on the front lines of driving adoption, marketers must possess increasingly robust technical know-how; they also need direct, on-the-fly access to higher-level support to overcome adoption obstacles.

Emotional intelligence matters

Empathy, relationship-building, or trust—whatever you choose to call it—matters more than ever.

Though it has become easy to schedule automated outreach, 74% of 200+ Cloud business development representatives surveyed said the telephone is the most effective channel for engaging users. The personal nature of two-way voice conversation uncovers hidden challenges and opportunities to problem solve in real time, solidifying the vendor's role as a true partner.

The gap left because in-person training is occurring less frequently on-site can be filled by a combination of telephone, live chat, and email outreach that engages users and encourages them to make full use of the tools they have access to. The emotional connection built by real-time conversations is an excellent way to encourage adoption and turn employees into advocates who can boost adoption among their peers, subordinates, and supervisors.

* * *

Whether selling software—or anything else—as a service, the strategies and tactics that convert leads and keep them have changed. Customer lifetime value is the new measure of success, and it is almost entirely dependent on driving adoption after the sale.

There is no more baton to hand off after the sale; sales and marketing professionals are the new owners of accounts before, during, and after implementation.

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Sales and Marketing in an 'As a Service' Economy

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image of Marcel Florez

Marcel Florez is senior vice-president at N3, where he oversees worldwide social media listening and Cloud sales teams supporting some of the largest technology companies in the world.

LinkedIn: Marcel Florez