Thinking About Low Touch Conversions

Is it a fit for your buyer, industry, and product?

By: Santosh Sankar

One of our founding teams is exploring the concept and approach to implementing a “low touch sales model” for their enterprise product. Like all things related to decision making, they’re gathering data and anecdotes. I also shared some thoughts on the topic as I look across our portfolio and the startup world broadly.

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In my opinion, the moniker is actually better termed “low touch conversions.” I view this as a way to build and execute on highly qualified demand at the top of the funnel with minimal human interaction and increased technology or self-service flows. To clarify, I see this to be different from “the path of least resistance” selling that’s a great philosophy for higher touch approaches (more on this in a later post). Ultimately, any enterprise product with annual contract values north of “$50K-ish” likely still needs the attention of a salesperson. You’ll also notice that businesses that lead with a low touch approach ultimately add a high touch component to help with retention (via differentiated customer service) and also drive upsell.

Low touch conversions seem like a scalable mecca for venture-backed startup founders but is not for every buyer/industry persona, contract values, and product type. Sean Henry, Co-Founder and CEO at Stord notes, “It’s worth posing the question — does low touch selling actually help your business? It sounds like the dream, but there are some sales where you want to be in front of the buyer because it increases batting percentage and contract value.” For those exploring implementing a low touch approach, some food for thought to inform your perspective on whether they are a good fit.

Buyer behaviors. Generally, SMEs get a low touch approach and large enterprises, a high touch approach from the start. Some questions worth asking as you weigh a low touch approach: is there a demonstrable tendency by buyers to search for a solution to a particular problem, trial, then buy it? Are people consistently googling to solve this problem and landing on your page (or a competitor’s)? Are they ok trialing or going through a recorded demo/webcast to understand the product? Is this how they buy other tangentially related products? Don’t be shy to ask a buyer what the most similar product he/she has purchased and what the process was.

Annual contract values. This depends on the product and industry spend — some have higher ACV tolerances. I tend to notice in supply chain that anything above $50K in ACV usually needs group buy-in and harder to pass on a credit card. This threshold might also be a signal for an SME buyer but not always. No hard science here but tracking to credit card purchasing limits I hear/note when speaking to founders. Higher values also likely needs multi-stakeholder buy-in that will require an Account Manager or VP Sales to step in.

The product. Can the product quickly convey the value proposition? The key in supply chain and similar complex operational and technical environments are the integrations and ease of interoperability. Low-to-no integration requirements to support a trial or “self-serve” option ensures a fast time-to-realizing the value proposition without a heavy professional services component. Furthermore, for the buyer, it doesn’t need multiple stakeholders involved. Be sure to also understand prior to a trial what success looks like — it provides a basis to close, expand, and upsell.

If these three vectors align, one can usually deliver on highly-qualified prospects in a low touch process. Having that this, in complex technical and operational environments that come in supply chain and mobility, the product will rarely sell itself. Ultimately, one doesn’t want to try to automate the top of the funnel if it is just shifting the burden to customer success or operations people. You might just be getting prospects to trial quickly but the problem/product itself is ill-suited to a low touch approach. It turns out you’re still pulling people into functions at the top of the funnel! Sometimes this is an issue with the market’s understanding, sometimes a product issue, and sometimes just not a fit for the business.

I will note that in the Pre-Series A days, the learnings and lessons to drive to product/market fit are totally worth using a high touch approach if your ACVs allow.The importance of face time with customers in the early stages cannot be understated and I tend to encourage it as it often results in higher sales velocity. This will evolve at the different stages of a company lifecycle — often times allowing for a lower touch approach with certain customer segments as the company matures (for a later discussion). Be thoughtful as you think through distribution as what might seem amazing could actually be negative for the business.

Originally from Issue 60 of the Dynamo Dispatch.