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Yukito Isoda recently shared insights with us about developer-led sales. He’s been in the SaaS sales space for 7 years. Prior to being in SaaS sales, he spent his early career leading product development in the food manufacturing space. His career spans time at Yelp, Salesforce, and developer API companies PubNub and Moesif. At these developer-first companies, Yukito made a transition from selling traditional licensing to a usage-based model.

Describe your experience selling a self-serve, developer product

The self-service route is important for developers, because it takes away the barriers, politics, and often lengthy approval processes for decision making that is involved in bringing on new tools. It offers that red carpet for developers.

Self-serve also helps sales and customer success teams, because users have already done their due diligence and research on your docs and product. It allows everyone to have a productive conversation, ask great questions, and make everyone's time useful. Customers typically already have an awareness of what they're trying to do with your product. It’s our job as a rep to understand what product and engineering folks are trying to achieve and help them through the buying cycle to accelerate time to production.

What are your tips for selling developer products?

As a sales rep, it's important to be mindful in your approach when working with developers and understand how to best communicate with your customers.

It starts with a conversation, being empathetic and understanding what’s most important to them. Engineers have a lot on their plate. As a sales rep, if we come in blind and don't have awareness of where they're at in the versioning process and what they're going through, they're just going to think of us as someone trying to push a square peg in a round hole.

Most importantly, my biggest tip is to help product and engineering folks align on the business objectives and the implementation plan. One of the best ways to tackle this scenario is through a POC. In the situation of a paid POC it gives all stakeholders an opportunity to qualify against their objectives without the burden and pressure of taking on a large commitment initially. It allows for our customers to experience the value and grow into our products or services.

Which signups do you prioritize?

Moesif allows us to see the whole picture around API analytics for product, engineering, sales and customer success teams. Product insights give us deep insights into key areas that can tell a story about how a customer (company or user) is onboarding your APIs, how they’re interacting with your APIs, and why.

For product usage, I want to see what use cases folks are signing up for, what the volume of successful APIs look like, and if we can help them monetize their API’s through usage-based billing (which allows customers to monetize their APIs and send invoices directly out to them). That is definitely a great sign of a high priority customer.

Moesif cofounders Derric Gilling (CEO) and Xing (CTO) have done a very nice job building a super technical API analytics platform that normal business users like myself in sales, customer success can use to understand our customers API usage. Self-service tools need to be intuitive and easy to understand for everyone, and that’s why our customers like Symbl.ai leverage Moesif in tandem with Calixa to enable their internal teams and build a stronger connection with their customers by reducing friction during the onboarding process of their APIs.

When are you ready to talk to the executive buying team?

There's a couple of different scenarios. For example, when event volume is increasing we will want to understand what the actual usage is and forecast expected usage with the product or engineering teams before we get the finance team involved. But mostly, we are ready for executive buyers once we find use cases that expand product usage into other areas of the business.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of simply selling or pitching the technical features and functionality, rather than focusing on the greater business objectives. The question we should ask ourselves as sales reps is why should a company pay 6 figures for our solution, or how do we enable the business decision makers to re-prioritize things to impact their business now and future proof themselves for the long run.

What are your thoughts on traditional licensing versus usage-based pricing?

I’ve worked with both pricing models. I have seen instances where customers would end up paying for licenses during a one year implementation which doesn’t include the cost of the implementation itself. That’s a very tough pill to swallow!

Many companies are now looking to change their entire selling process and forecasting model from license-based to usage-based. Usage-based is a completely different ballgame. There’s definitely challenges when it comes to accurately forecasting usage-based from a sales perspective.

It is very rare to find sales leaders who are able to manage usage-based selling motions and reporting. Casey Clegg (who had brought me onto PubNub) and who built out the sales org at Twilio and PubNub did a really nice job at this. He showed our teams how to run these kind of deals, what customers want, and also what investors want to see. Derric my boss and CEO of Moesif is also one of the very few that understand this kind of selling motion, so it is exciting to meet, learn, and work with folks in the API space. Investors want to see forecastable or predictable growth in self-serve customer usage from an MRR and ARR perspective. That means as a rep you must thoroughly understand your customers business inside and out, because their success means your success.

Depending on the software, I think that a usage-based model is the true SaaS customer success model. It gives flexibility back to the customer in terms of getting up and running, and allows for greater adoption of your product offerings. I’d challenge all B2B SaaS companies to consider offering a usage-based model that will improve the customer’s onboarding experience and build a strong long-term relationship.