SaaS continues to be a hot topic, especially here in Silicon Valley.  But widespread adoption in the
Saas enterprise hasn't quite arrived.  While there has been some significant success, notably with companies like, Concur, ConstantContact, there are dozens of smaller, private companies still trying to gain traction.

SaaS, or Software as a Service, is a business model that involves providing customers with access to technology through the Cloud–meaning that the SaaS vendor hosts the software, in a highly secure, scalable environment, and takes full responsibility for maintaining and managing the customer's implementation, offsite. In exchange, the customer pays a monthly or annual fee. The benefits of the SaaS model are obvious for the vendors–the holy grail of business models "recurring revenue".  And the benefits are huge for the customer too–reduced labor to manage the software (and associated hardware, databases etc), as well as instantaneous upgrades, easy configuration, and generous services and support.

Despite these benefits, marketing SaaS, and especially SaaS for the enterprise, can be a tricky endeavor. Many of SaaS's business benefits negatively impact the IT department, by decreasing the amount of IT folks needed to manage the system.  And ironically, the IT team is nearly always brought in to evaluate the SaaS solution on matters like scalability, regulatory compliance and security.  Asking IT to advocate for SaaS is a little like asking the turkey to advocate for thanksgiving.  While many will celebrate, he's the guy with the most to lose!

I'm seeing a lot of companies succeed in this difficult dance.  Here are some of the successful trends on the horizon:

1.  Focus on companies who have demonstrated support for SaaS…Qualify, Qualify, Qualify  If they already have other SaaS implementations, especially enterprise wide, that's good.  If the CIO or CTO has explicitly endorsed SaaS as the way of the future, that's even better.  If the IT guy "has some concerns, but is open minded"–consider passing on this selling opportunity.

2.  Letting the customers do the selling  The nice thing about having the "next generation" solution is that customers who embrace it are usually proud to be associated with it.  That implies a willingness to participate with their vendor by speaking at industry events, participating in webinars, and guest blogging on the corporate webiste. Even the more reticent among them are often willing to serve as customer references, including the ones who aren't officially allowed to endorse vendors.  The most successful SaaS companies have well structured, vibrant reference programs.

3.  Use the Zero Moment of Truth  Google's idea of the ZMOT is a powerful one.  It's the concept that the majority of all sales, whether B2B or B2C, begin well before the buyer announces herself to the company (by contacting a salesperson or entering a store).  Anyone thinking about SaaS is probably doing online research before they ever call you.  Make sure you have lots of content that explains and makes the case for your product and for SaaS.  Otherwise, you won't even make the short list.

4. Coming in on the Trojan Horse  One of the best strategies that has been used by SaaS companies is to start small, and to come in via the side door.  Unlike premise-based software solutions which often require a major financial and time commitment to implement, and which also may require a "rip and replace" approach to the prior technology, many SaaS solutions can be piloted in a in inexpensive and time-efficent way.  Instead of pitching "replace", try pitching "add" or "test".  Once they see the impact, they'll sell for you! (see trend #2)

5.  Market Directly to the Business Buyer  By 2017, Marketers will have a bigger "IT" budget than IT–according to industry analysts at Gartner.  This trend is also evident across other functional areas in the organization–finance, operations and sales.  Because technology is such a key driver of success in every functional area, budgets are shifting, and every business is now a digital business.  As functional leaders become tech savvy and command tech budgets, they become attractive tech buyers.  This trend has tremendous implications for the kinds of campaigns you want to develop–as you appeal to the business owner instead of making the tech play–but if you can do it, you will succeed!

Tech is no longer its own discipline–it has become a part of nearly every aspect of business.  This major change in the business landscape has big implications for selling SaaS.