Customers & Partnerships –
In the SaaS model, your customer is ultimately your partner and your actions need to provide a clear benefit to your partner. Revenue is not derived from a channel strategy or a reseller strategy, in which the producing and selling of manufactured goods results in different margins that are delivered at varying points within the supply chain. SaaS is a “co-seller” strategy, where two items can be sold allowing both parties to offer their products side by side, enabling the partner to sell more of their own good without interference.
Early Sales & “The Whale” –
Your earliest sales will define you, so go for your full sized target customer first. No business goes from selling to Joe’s Corner Market to Wal-Mart, so don’t be tempted by small cash flows. Succeed or fail fast, and have the sales mentality where getting rejected is not an option. Landing your first “whale” (large customer) can feed you for months, and creates software usage, which is the whole reason we build SaaS companies in the first place. Your whale will certainly ask you for tons and you’ll likely have to give the product away at first to gain usage, but be clear that the product will not be free forever.
Managing your Whale –
Don’t let the whale rock the product. Be clear in your deployment that you will not give into your customer’s bespoke demands, but that you will do tons of configuration work to meet the client’s legitimate needs to solve its problem, without changing the core functionality of your product. Once signed, the client will have more respect and ask less of you if you hold your line and do not create custom code. Offer to solve your client’s problem but that you’ll do it your way.
Also keep in mind; often you’re not dealing with the company itself, but rather a “nasty” who works there, or the “clown du jour”. Don’t give in to today’s nasty if their demands are unreasonable, but don’t walk away from the whole account if the account is important on the basis of dealing with one clown.