For Series A SaaS companies, growth is paramount. That’s why Baton invited renowned CS expert Rod Cherkas to share his insights on managing implementations at early stage companies.
As the founder and CEO consulting company HelloCCO, Rod has held post-sale leadership roles at such CS market makers as Gainsight, Marketo and RingCentral. In this post, he offers his expert view of how the implementation process looks different at the Series A stage.
In order to secure their next round of funding, Series A companies need to demonstrate that both their revenue and their operation are on the rise. While new customer acquisition and existing customer retention are important factors, delivering strong implementations are also a true key to scaling.
Implementations are the first opportunity to introduce the product and impress early adopters, making them essential to building momentum for steady growth. But despite making it past the seed round, series A companies are still in their infancy. As they try to find their product-market fit, their implementation process begins to take shape.
At this stage, the implementation team is often asked to do whatever it takes to create positive experiences and strong results among early clients. There may or may not be implementation offerings that are well-defined, and if there are prices attached, they are often highly discounted or waived altogether to help close deals. This allows the company to establish early adopters and a positive brand in the market. These early advocates can help champion the brand and facilitate steady growth by spreading positive word-of-mouth across their networks.
It’s not uncommon for the CEO or co-founders to be part of most new sales deals, as they have personal relationships with many of the buyer executives. As their reputation is at stake, they are sometimes personally involved in tracking the implementations to ensure the client is satisfied with the end result.
The implementation resource, whether an implementation consultant, advisor, or most knowledgeable employee, works with clients to do whatever it takes to get the customer implemented successfully. This resource also commonly gets pulled into sales deals, often playing the role of solution consultant or solution architect, doing the demos and providing technical expertise. They are frequently the most knowledgeable resource on the team about what actually works and doesn’t work well for clients.
However, for many companies in Series A, the resources responsible for implementing clients may not even be part of an organized implementation team. They may be part of a bigger post-sale group and do more of the implementations than the others, but might not have a clearly defined role.
Having onboarded only a few clients, the implementation team is typically still in the process of learning how to do their implementations on a repeatable basis. There is much tribal knowledge, but not always best practices or documentation. In many cases, there may be a one-size-fits-all mentality. While there is some variation, there is often a single approach and set of processes applied to implement customers. It’s not until later in a company's growth that teams begin to segment and create different offerings for client types (like small and medium-sized businesses and enterprise clients). With fewer resources at their disposal, metrics and activities that may be important in the future are often not yet tracked - utilization, billing rates, services sales, time to value, time tracking, SOW creation, etc.
What’s Important At This Stage?
- Transparency - In series A companies, many of the founding members have their hands in every aspect of the operation. From the pitch to the sale and beyond, they’re committed to the client and want to see them through until the end. Founders, all the way up to the CEO, may want to know how implementations are going because they were involved in the sale and have their reputation at stake.
- Client Satisfaction - With future growth and success hinging on early adopters, there are sometimes very few limitations or boundaries on what the implementation teams are asked to do for clients.
- Creating Advocates - Aiming to create early advocates, implementation teams are often instructed to do whatever it takes to earn their approval, particularly for big name clients with well known brands.
- Learning and Documenting Best Practices - At this stage, there are rarely best practices. There are just practices. They become clearer as teams gain more experience regarding what works and what doesn’t. As teams become more familiar, best practices move out of the realm of tribal knowledge and into initial documentation.
- Getting New Team Members Productive, Quickly - Over time, the individuals doing implementations start to organize their thinking to help new team members get up to speed quickly. It is in their best interest to document processes, so that new team members can get their work done independently and efficiently. Otherwise, the more experienced team members will need to get pulled into more implementations. Teams are small, so getting people productive quickly makes a big impact.
In series A, SaaS companies are just beginning to figure out how to handle client implementations. There is a clear desire to attract and please new customers in order to obtain early adopters, but only a rough path from pitch to solution. As implementation teams become more familiar with the process, they begin to develop best practices and document them to increase market adoption of their product.
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About this series:
This article is the first in a three-part series that looks at Series A, B, and C Saas companies during implementations. The articles were developed in collaboration with Rod Cherkas, founder and CEO of HelloCCO, a consulting firm that works alongside CEOs, Post-Sale leaders, and their investors at fast-growing Enterprise SaaS companies. Since 2002, Rod has been at the forefront of defining and executing innovative post-sale experiences for recurring revenue businesses in ways that improve client onboarding, increase retention, expand product adoption, and accelerate growth in shareholder value.