I met a really smart vice president of sales a few weeks ago working in a company with mid-market customer values in the $10-100k per year range. When I asked her about her sales process, she described how her team employs statements of work (SOW), which isn’t something I hear about very frequently in startups, despite the fact they are very powerful sales tools.
Statements of work describe the proposed working relationship between a vendor and customer. These are common in government contracts and in the advertising agency world where they are called creative briefs, among other places. But I don’t run across them very often in SaaS.
In this company’s case, the sales team uses statements of work during the middle part of the sales process (after qualification before contract) to accomplish three goals. First, to clarify the needs of the customer and set the customer’s expectations of what the product could and couldn’t deliver. Second, to further qualify a customer and establish commitment. Third, to equip the project champion the tools with which to close the internal sale with the ultimate decision-maker.
Each of these three points is important, but for me the third one is the most important. Equipping the internal champion with the right tools to make an internal sales successful is just as important as any other part of the sales process, and particularly in the cases complex sales, education sales, or expensive sales.
There are many ways to construct a statement of work and they are often industry dependent. But they often contain the following key parameters:
- A description of the current situation
- An overview of the challenges and problems the company faces
- Identifying the key members within the company will make this project successful
- A list of the key objectives of the partnership
- A collection of the constraints on the project including budget, deadline, manpower, other vendors etc.
- Definitions of success, ideally quantitative ones (super-important!)
- A discussion of alternatives to the partnership and why they aren’t the right way forward
- A few brief case studies or examples of similar customers who have been successful in the past
The statement of work converts the company’s phone or in-person sales pitch into an asset for the internal champion. Additionally, statements of work establish project success criteria which enable post-sales/customer success teams to exceed customers expectations routinely and repeatably. For this reason, SOWs can be a vital document in the handoff between sales and customer success and can also form the basis for better collaboration between the two teams.In addition, marketing also gets involved in order to contribute to product positioning and case studies. So, statements or can align three teams.
These documents don’t have to be very lengthy or involved. They are often templated and reused from customer to customer, particularly in pitching customers across the same verticals. But they can be very effective in accelerating sales cycles and aligning the go-to-market teams of your startup.