Venture Capitalist at Theory

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2 minute read / Feb 3, 2016 /

With Smart Software, Sell Ironman Not Robocop


When buying machine learning enabled software, it’s easier to sell like Ironman than Robocop; a product that complements and augments the user’s skills rather than a true replacement. As machine learning continues to become a key differentiator among SaaS products, a secular and positive trend, startups are learning how to sell the promise of the software better and better. These are some of the objections customers raise during those sales pitches.

First, there’s a skepticism amongst buyers that a computer model can fully understand the complexity of a business process, handle exceptions and perform work equally well as a person. Many products have over-promised and under-delivered. For years, speech recognition sold a great promise. Only recently do millions of people reliably use Siri. Consequently, buyers have become skeptics of seemingly-too-good-to-be-true-intelligence.

In some cases, machine learning models have become sufficiently accurate and predictive that could entirely replace people. And at at some point, the software will enable workers to shift from traditional tasks to higher level work. But most buyers are not keen to engage a salesperson selling them software that will replace them.

Second, no buyer wants to hear that their business isn’t a snowflake. Each company has unique attributes to their brand, processes, and methodologies that form part of their sales pitch, their recruiting pitch and their culture. A one-size-fits all black box pitched confers a feeling the vendor views all businesses as the same. Buyers fear that the machine learning software fails to recognize the quirks that define the culture and differentiate the business.

Last, most machine learning tools don’t convey the rationale of the recommendation sufficiently well for users to understand. Humans are still better at connecting the dots to explain the increase in revenue or the decline in user churn.

For SaaS companies, sales velocity is a competitive advantage. And machine learning is becoming another. When selling machine learning enabled software, consider these sales objections to minimize your startup’s sales cycle and position the company for success. Empower your buyer like Ironman.

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