No free trials

When dealing with large enterprises, its my opinion that a salesperson should never offer up a free trial. If the marketing department wants to deal with that and then pass off a qualified lead to you – great but the blanket free trial has no merit in sales – unless of course you are salesperson that doesn’t want to make money.

Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t let large companies get their feet wet, but the idea is to get the commit upfront otherwise you will see the trial going much longer than you would like it to go.

When I ran my own company, everyone wanted a free trial of my software. And, I understood why. The software was a large dollar commitment. It has huge switching costs if it didn’t work so they wanted to make sure that the software would work the way they wanted it to. It also meant committing to large numbers of mobile devices which themselves were expensive.

What we did to overcome this was the “out clause” We provided them a contract which had to go thru legal which had them agreeing to purchase the software at a negotiated price, and they would have x number of days to back out of the deal.

We would set an installation, a set of acceptance criteria, and a series of installments or objectives which varied on the type of installation, etc. – details which are not important to the basic topic at hand.

Typical deals would look like this (or something similar):

$x for the software. First installment of $y is due on installation.

Company has 60 days to evaluate the software and accept or reject the software.

If rejection is made in 0 to 60 days after installation, 100% of the first installment is refundable

If rejection is made in 61-90 days after installation, 75% of the first installment is refundable.

If rejection is made 91-120 days after installation, 50% of the first installment is refundable.

If rejection is made 121+ days after installation, 0% of the first installment is refundable.

What I was essentially doing was getting the hard stuff – the legal, the pricing, etc. out of the way first. Sometimes, I didn’t require an upfront payment, but I had a pain payment after the “free trial” was completed.

Since the refund rapidly slipped away, you would be amazed at how this would force the hand. While this method was a more difficult sale than just agreeing to get the software in their hands, I would argue that it made for a lot of less wasted time. In the early days of my company, I was thrilled when someone would just look at my software and was happy to give it to them in hopes they would buy. But, with the pressure taken away, it was much harder to get them to get going. Running a contract thru legal and purchasing, etc. is hard and a customer will typically avoid it as long as they can. Forcing it at the beginning is the best way to make sure you work with people who are truly serious about BUYING from you – not those that just want to PLAY.


  • First, I love that you give tangible examples of how to execute this process. Following those rules above I think that you are really protecting yourself. In the Nov 11 post about enterprise sales we talked about not letting huge corps bully startups and following these rules will drive that protection…great stuff!

    Second, I recently launched a social web consulting service. The reason I did so came from the fact that I was already helping people develop a social web presence and I just needed to start asking people to pay for it. The same theory applies above…if you have a great product or service you need to ask people to pay for it and you'd be surprised how often they will pay for it… Especially when selling to businesses. Businesses know and understand the idea of spending money…just ask for it.

    Thx

  • First, I love that you give tangible examples of how to execute this process. Following those rules above I think that you are really protecting yourself. In the Nov 11 post about enterprise sales we talked about not letting huge corps bully startups and following these rules will drive that protection…great stuff!

    Second, I recently launched a social web consulting service. The reason I did so came from the fact that I was already helping people develop a social web presence and I just needed to start asking people to pay for it. The same theory applies above…if you have a great product or service you need to ask people to pay for it and you'd be surprised how often they will pay for it… Especially when selling to businesses. Businesses know and understand the idea of spending money…just ask for it.

    Thx

  • First, I love that you give tangible examples of how to execute this process. Following those rules above I think that you are really protecting yourself. In the Nov 11 post about enterprise sales we talked about not letting huge corps bully startups and following these rules will drive that protection…great stuff!

    Second, I recently launched a social web consulting service. The reason I did so came from the fact that I was already helping people develop a social web presence and I just needed to start asking people to pay for it. The same theory applies above…if you have a great product or service you need to ask people to pay for it and you'd be surprised how often they will pay for it… Especially when selling to businesses. Businesses know and understand the idea of spending money…just ask for it.

    Thx