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How to prevent your SaaS offering from becoming ShaaS (Shelfware as a Service)

A truly world-class Enterprise SaaS offering should include high-value professional services as part of the product – Here’s why.

As a SaaS provider, your primary mission is to make your SaaS clients successful by having them utilise 100 per cent of your platform’s true value proposition.

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Your client’s main concern is about getting a nice return on the investment that they have made with your SaaS offering.

And your investors’ main worry is that you and your team deliver and capture high value from your clients.

The only way to achieve all of the above is by maximising the complete use of your SaaS platform inside your client’s business. Only then will your firm have established a real long-term client relationship that will also be an asset when raising your next round of funding or IPO.

All well and good, you might be thinking. But there’s just one catch: your customers are not experts in maximising your platform’s full potential. How could they be? They don’t do this for a living — you do!

Generally, it takes between 6 – 12 months for your new client to fully unlock a fresh SaaS offering within their operations.

And the longer it takes to achieve a ROI, the higher the risk of them churning or asking for discounts.

Only experts can add value

SaaS companies generally resort to the shortcut of either discounting the SaaS pricing, reduced Annual Contract Value (ACV) or terms, reduced Total Contract Value (TCV) hoping that it removes the perceived risk and that, with time, your client will realise how to ride the bicycle on their own.

However, the fact is that the client/prospect generally do not have the required expertise to rapidly attain ROI on their own. The result being is that your SaaS contract likely will become a Shelfware expense. At the first opportunity, your client will want to re-negotiate a lower price and/or more than likely churn.

Tier One, Enterprise SaaS firms such as Adobe, Oracle, SAP, SAS and Piano accelerate success by including Professional Services in the pricing and offering, ensuring that clients start rapidly generating ROI.

Your team are the experts in your SaaS platform and in your category, so it’s time that you productise your expertise and bundle it into your SaaS offering.

In short, productisation typically involves an additional revenue stream of your existing business from the knowledge, technology, or data needed to run the primary operation.

Professional services

A professional services offering’s main goal is to deliver value to your clients. The payoff for you is in capturing steady and predictable value for all of your stakeholders.

Your organisation should have a clear value proposition on why a client should invest in your SaaS offering versus the competition.

It should be a clearly defined ROI, be it in incremental Sales Lift or Reduced Costs — and it should be backed up with concrete historical data of your previous clients’ bundled SaaS and Professional Offering.

If you don’t have this data, then that’s the first piece of business you should start quantifying, documenting, internalising and marketing: just exactly what your value proposition is in cash terms.

Willingness to Pay

At the start of the prospecting engagement, your prospects/clients may not realise the value of professional services that they can acquire by engaging with your firm, so here is a list of the five most common complimentary offerings you can deliver with a premium commercial offering:

  1. Auditing their current challenges — offering your team of experts to scope and document their current situation and future ROI opportunities and losses.
  2. Onboarding — how to help them migrate their current set-up or start from scratch.
  3. White Glove Configuration — Your team doing the heavy lifting in setting up your platform to deliver on the captured business ROI goals.
  4. Benchmarking — Using your proprietary data pool of anonymised data to share best practices and guidance on how to develop a model that will hit their ROI goals.
  5. Managed Services — Building a team to do the day-to-day management of your platform, leveraging all of the above points in a design thinking format.


Your clients want to be successful. You want your clients to be successful. You want your staff to be happy delivering the best experience to your clients. And your investors want your venture to be successful.

The main area where you can differentiate is by leveraging the following:

A. Your company’s market leadership status
B. Your company’s aggregated data
C. Your company’s know-how
D. Your company’s professional services offering

The opportunity is to recognise, document, and deliver on the above and be willing to capture financial value, and therefore invest in your client’s business.

It’s about clearly demonstrating the value of why your clients invest in Professional Services and how that drives success, and how that fact allows you to differentiate your value proposition in the SaaS marketplace.

If your clients are willing to invest more for Professional Services as well as your SaaS offering, you will always drive a higher ROI for their business as well as for your SaaS, staff, and investors.

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