So there’s lots of buzz out there from “sales experts” about how free trials in #software aren’t working.
(What does work, they say, is their new book or sales training – but that’s a post for another day)
Using a lot of words and things, the basic premise is that customers won’t buy the cow when you give them the milk for free. Yeah, I get that. The inner salesperson in me says free trials can be ineffectual and even detrimental to a buying process. Free trials make the buying process longer. And unlike most things in life, like vacations and Walking Dead seasons and licorice, a longer #sales cycle isn’t better.
Companies are having problems converting free trial customers to paying customers – people sign up for the freebie, but then they don’t payee when the trial is overee.
Wait, I thought this was a post about how free trials do work?
Keep reading Daniel-san.
Here’s my take – and you can take it or leave it: if you aren’t converting FREE to PAID, it’s your process or your product.
OUCH! Truth bomb detonated.
Here’s the skinny - we live in a world where we – all of us – as customers don’t want to pay for something until we know 1) we’ll like it or 2) it’ll work
Let’s think for a second, how many of the #prospects and #customers you’re calling on DAILY have been burned by software #salespeople and their vaporware before? Have you ever met with a buyer who had invested in a “solution” didn't do what the nice smiling salesperson said it was going to do? Many of these buyers “took chances” on technology and companies and software – they literally personally VOUCHED for their vendor. These customers were thought-leaders who bought their vendor’s "vision" – and what did they get? Software that didn’t work, end users that were unsatisfied and management that called this thought-leader’s “thoughts” (and continued employment) into question.
Hey that sounds great! Let me run into the arms of another software vendor that says “we don’t support free trials because we sell our value proposition!” Because THAT worked so well in the past.
This isn’t just in issue in the software or #SAAS space. Now I love cinema, and while I can’t stand the recent movement in Hollywood to make more sequels, remakes and reboots rather than produce new and original content – I understand it. Think of it like this - Hollywood is as risk averse as your standard, run-of-the-mill software/IT buyer. So are they going to fund and produce scary new scripts that people may or may not like? Or are they going remake Die Hard 7000 times and reboot Spiderman with a new Peter Parker every congressional election cycle?
Our buyers are risk adverse and if we're honest with ourselves, it’s because they bought that thing from Widget.Com that was supposed to do X and Y and the production release barely did A and B. And they ended up taking the hit in the reputation and their company took the hit to the pocket book.
In my world of #CRM, for 20 years CRM salespeople have been selling Sales Operations people on the promise of CRM. Last time I checked, customer satisfaction with CRM adoption is hovering about 50% - the same as it was in 1998! 1998 my friends- this is the year that Google was founded!
But back to the topic at hand, in a perfect world, selling the customer on the vision is optimal, but at the end of the day, the big green button has to do what big green buttons are supposed to do, and many clients aren't going to believe it if they see it in a demo. That fault, dear Brutus, lies in ourselves.
We’ve created a risk averse customer. They have to press the button themselves. IMHO, a trial or pilot or POC (whatever you want to call it) can be an effective mechanism to move a deal to close.
Don’t believe me?
Ask Netflix. Or Hulu. Or Adobe. Or Spotify. Or McAfee. Or any number of profitable software vendors. Their free trial to paid customer conversion rates are STAGGERING.
So why isn’t YOUR free trial strategy working?
Well, the first problem may be your product. Let’s be clear – when my daughter opens Netflix, StoryBots opens and starts playing…every time. EVERY TIME!
My Hall and Oats plays in Spotify, my PDFs open in Adobe….the software works and provides me REAL VALUE. So when the free trial ends, I pay for it. No problem.
If your software doesn’t work, you may as well stop reading. Go back to your dev team and GET IT WORKING. Or get a new job. Either one will work.
But let’s say your mouse-trap actually catches mice – your product works like gangbusters – but your free to paid conversions are hovering around the number of current Zune users.
What should you do? Well, you have to agree that free trials are here to stay – like in-laws during the holidays - and you have to create a strategy that works for you. Everybody’s secret sauce is a little different, but these four things may help you and your company convert from an accidental non-profit to a profitable company.
1. Make sure your trial is long enough – What’s the least amount of time a customer can use your product and see value? Whatever that time is, make that the trial time. You have to ensure that the trialer will truly see the full benefit of your solution during the course of the trial. If your solution helps a customer manage a quarterly process, how will a 14-day trial work for them? It won’t. So if that’s what you’re doing, like the doctor who told the man who was hitting himself in the head with a hammer, PLEASE STOP. Craft a trial time with definite outcomes that can be measured within the trial time. Did I say measure?
2. You can’t manage what you can’t measure - The trial has to be managed and measured - after all you can't let the kids play in the street without watching them. Unmanaged trials are great for Apps like Netflix and McAfee – but you’re not selling those Apps. If you’re a B2B solutions vendor, your solution is more complex than watching The Big Short on an iPhone – so you need to create a process where you can manage the trial and its outcome. A free training works well here – it provides you the opportunity to use your DEMO to trail the prospect on the trial. It inserts you in the process. And once interested you can craft what a successful trial looks like for that prospect and what it takes to make them a paying customer. And make it easy for the prospect to schedule a chat or a training to show them how to use your mousetrap. And let’s talk about that word “easy”…
3. You have to make it easy – Downloading and trying an App in the Apple AppStore is easy – my mother does it WEEKLY and she was born when Truman was President. If you make it too difficult or too “salesy” to trial your solution, your users will balk and your free trial signups will stall at the gate. Train your salespeople to hold back on the pitch and let the value speak for itself. If your prospects push back on free training suggested above, then have a library of self-guided training micro videos ready for them to use. Make is easy to “do it alone” if they want to do it that way. But make sure they know they can engage your customer success team during the trial. The truth is that your prospects are smarter than they ever have been, and by the time they’re ready to download your solution, they’ve done a boatload of research and well into their buying process. If that’s when they contact you, you have to talk on their terms. But if you’d rather lead the process….
4. Get out in front – everyone from #Forrester to #Gartner has released data that shows that customers are at least 50% through their purchase process BEFORE they reach out to a vendor. So you have to be part of that first 50%. This is where REAL SOCIAL SELLING comes in. And not just browsing LinkedIn for people to cold call. You need to hang out on the internet where your customers hang out. LinkedIn Groups and Twitter Hashtags and Success Groups – you have to be out there in the world talking about problems and offering solutions. Your salespeople need to become thought leaders – they need to provide real content that adds value. I eat my own dogfood – I hang out online with sales people and sales managers and sales ops people because those people are my customers. I offer insight that I hope provides value that has nothing to do with my ZynBit solution. See, I haven’t even MENTIONED what my product does in this post! And what if your salespeople say “that’s what marketing is for?” Then unleash your inner Alec Baldwin and tell them to “hit the bricks!”. Fire those salespeople and hire salespros that have a 2016 business mentality. Modern sales is all about insight – and if you don’t have people that can provide insight, you don’t have the right people.
There’s a lot of noise out there about the sales profession. But believe me, Free trials work. Either you can look at your desktop/iPhone/Android that’s chock full of free-to-paid conversations and create a real conversation process that works for you and your product or you can listen to some sales guy who says “free trials don’t work” who’s trying to sell you their ”How to Sell” book.
It’s your lying eyes or $29.95 on Amazon.com.
I’m interest to know what you think – and I on point or off base? All comments are welcome! Happy Selling!