In my role of helping executives and investors grow <$10M SaaS companies by building a scaleable sales and retention engine, one of the most common questions I am asked is “Should we deploy software platform X”. Who better to help me answer this question than Vinay Bhagat, CEO of Trust Radius, which is the industry leader in software reviews.
He and I collaborated together and came up with the following set of steps you can use to help identify the right software solution:
Step 1: Ask Yourself - Will a Tool Fix Your Problem?
Too often, people fall into the trap of thinking that software will solve their problem. But software only accelerates and automates the current processes. If the current process is broken, or non-existent, software will exacerbate the problem, not solve it. The first step should be to understand whether your current processes are correct, or if you need to focus on getting those right first.
Step 2: Gather Requirements
Assuming you are ready for a tool, the most important step is requirements gathering. That’s just a fancy way of saying “what do you need the tool to do”. Talk to a broad range of stakeholders in your organization, from individual contributors who will be the main users to managers who will likely be managing the individual contributors to executives who will expect to see tangible ROI from the investment. Capturing the requirements can be as simple as a list in a shared spreadsheet or it could be more comprehensive (a lot will depend upon the cost and the impact to the organization of deploying the software). Vinay also recommends using review platforms, even at this stage, to both identify potential solutions and read about the various use cases. Doing so will enlighten you about what’s possible and extend your thinking about the requirements that you can codify in-house today.
Step 3: Research what’s available.
Informal networks (peers, friends) are a great source, but so are trusted 3rd party sites like TrustRadius. You’ll quickly learn whether the pros and cons of the software, as well as come across other potential solutions that you were not even aware of.
Vinay adds “Use filters to find products for your specific use case, and to find reviews from people similar to you or see how the products perform on dimensions like support and ROI realized”
Step 4: Take Some Demos
This is one of Vinay’s favorites because it means that you get to be customer (instead of the other way around!). He suggests documenting all the questions you have based upon your requirements document, and your research.
Once you have this, reach out to your short-list of vendors for a demonstration of the product. Ideally, you’ll do a 30 minute high level demo just to confirm that it can do what you want it to do. And then ideally, a follow up demo to see exactly how it will handle your specific requirements.
Don’t be afraid to push the vendor to have them show you exactly what you what, and ask tough questions. Don’t get distracted by them showing things they have but you don’t necessarily want.
Step 5: Get the Right Resources
Make sure that you have the internal resources and management alignment to make the deployment successful. “Peers are a great resource,” says Vinay. “Ask them about their real-life experience - what worked, what didn’t and what would they do differently if they had the opportunity to implement again”.
Step 6: Negotiate, buy and deploy
The right tool, deployed well and used effectively can dramatically improve efficiency and effectiveness of your demand gen, sales and customer success organizations. It may not be ultimate solution to all your challenges but it can definitely accelerate your growth.
We have 20+ years of experiencing in helping companies use software and process improvements to achieve exponential growth. If you’d like to learn how we can help your company grow from <$10M to $50M+ please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Azim Nagree is an ex-Bain consultant with 20+ years in leading strategy, growth and operations transformations.