APIs · Saas

How to drive a private beta of a SaaS API product with a big company?

Salman Haq Technologist

March 5th, 2015

We recently launched an API product and got interest from a big company to do a trial run with us. Now I know often times teams within these big companies shop around for anything which 1) they're internally developing OR 2) something which they "may" want to build themselves and get as much information about it as possible. However, in our initial discussions, they have laid out specific use cases very clearly and convincingly so my doubts about the first 2 cases are minimal.

However, I would like to get feedback on what's the normal pace of these discussions and a beta run? Also, is it normal to ask them who we're competing with and be more transparent about the whole process?

Any feedback from people who have successfully run trial runs for SaaS products with big companies would really help.

Travis Russi

March 10th, 2015

Three keys to business: be likable, be flexible, be invaluable.

Always charge money for these types of integrations, especially with larger companies (that can afford it).  If they can't afford a $5,000 integration fee, they aren't serious.  Period.  Move on.  If you're likable, you can get them to commit something.

Once you get them to put some skin in the game (honestly, not that hard if your value proposition is right), be flexible.  Make them as happy as possible without diluting your value (i.e. don't do a bunch of free work).

Don't worry about the 'They'll steal your idea' scenario.  Big companies move slow.  Small companies move fast.  They need you just as much as you need them.  

Look at any dev shop that has big clients; those clients have lots of development resources available internally, so why do they use outside consultants?  Because some things take too long or cost too much to do internally.  Focus on filling those niches and you become invaluable. 

You'll find that lots of opportunities will open up with large clients.  Look for them.  Be patient and interesting things will happen. 

Ed Jeffers MD at EDGE +

March 5th, 2015

Salman, You are getting used and about to change that to abused. As tempting as these “big company” deals sound take from experience they end up not being worth it and more than likely a very costly mistake. At the very least they are just stroking and testing at the worse they are looking for ideas for their own but these days chances are they will muck it up. They need you much more than you need them and if you start down this path then expect it to spiral evermore downward. First they want the beta for little or no charge. Next they will want custom changes which will suck you into the one “big company” customer vortex and loss of all of your development and service resources (not to mention all of your time). Then they will stretch the trial into infinity and when they finally get around to talking about payment and terms they are going to screw you down to the bone because they are "the big company". You need to keep in sight what the drivers are. You are not dealing with a big company as a person or sole entity as much as that would be nice. You are dealing with an individual(s) who are trying to a)keep their job b) get a promotion c) get a raise d) latch on to a solution so they can become indispensable to the "big company" This has nothing to do with you, your company, or your solution this is just business. I know I used to work for "the big company” and I know what kind of perks were being offered to go out and squeeze the hell out of vendors and if it was a new entry to bend them over any and every way I could. In the end it blew up in my face because as we restructured all of the so called good deals that I made went to another department and another henchman like myself just with a new set of KPIs and perks, solution/vendor be damned. I would politely tell these guys that you are happy to come to an arrangement with them with an upfront or set up fee, some kind a pre-agreed support fee and a formal process for change request with a pricing scheme. They will at first act like they do not need you and will say "no thanks" to which you reply OK thank you this will open the door for us with some of your competitors, then leave quickly and do not, I repeat do not look back and never call them back. Trust me if they really want what you have and will pay for it they will call you back and this time for real money which by the way should be substantially more than what you are currently asking from them. I know it`s really hard to do when you are just starting out but the number of young start-up’s I have seen get eaten by this "big company" trap far out numbers the ones I have seen succeed by walking away. Believe me I have used all if the swag, *Hey just think what it means if you* *have us on your customer list* or *We will be a great reference account for* *you *better yet *Just think if you get 10% of our business how well you will* *be doing* (yeah but at what margin), *Hey do this now and next year we* *will by a whole bunch more or (some bullshit %) next year. *Never, ever, ever make a deal based on futures it is always bullshit. Think about it Bill Gates turned down the first three offers from “the biggest company” IBM, Enough said and that was just for DOS. This is tuff and takes some balls but at least you will walk away with them still intact. Hope it helps Been there done that! Ed Jeffers Regards, Ed Jeffers 0404 835 176

Rob G

March 11th, 2015

Salmam; "Any feedback from people who have successfully run trial runs for SaaS products with big companies would really help" :  this is simply a tech trial and sales process so the fact that your technology is SaaS has little to do with it.  This is not a one-off simple conversation.  What you need is feedback from people who have successfully sold technology to large companies and it wouldn't hurt to get advise from those who have been on the big co tech purchasing side of the table too.  Selling to large companies is complex and the complexities and subtleties are more than can be covered here.  And when you throw in the variables of your specific prospect and the individuals involved it gets that much more involved.  I would suggest that you find an advisor with experience selling tech to big companies or hire an experienced enterprise tech sales person. There are just too many moving parts here, but in general:  1) don't give it away - charge for your services and product (one part of qualifying the prospect) 2) don't rely on just one contact - develop many contacts inside the org., especially a 'coach' who can give you inside intelligence, 3) an NDA would help, 4) put things in writing 5) agree to a schedule and deliverables and evaluation criteria and what happens when you meet those criteria, 6) set pricing expectations up front, 7) don't let them chew up all your time/resources, 8) don't get stuck in procurement - they can only say 'no' they can't say 'yes', 9) make contact with the person who will sign the check BEFORE you need the contract signed, 10) always confirm important answers with more than one person (just because the dev mgr for x department says "...ABC..." , confirm that with others), 11) yes, should absolutely find out who the competition is, what the evaluation criteria is, what the budget is, who has the budget, what the approval process is, who can say 'yes' and who can say 'no', is there a committee, who's on the committee... and several dozen other questions.