Published June 25, 2015 | Updated January 9, 2020

The as-a-service business model is hot. Equipment, software, and more – it’s all being bundled and offered as ongoing solution subscriptions that can be hugely convenient and cost-effective for customers and dependably profitable for you.

But as-a-service can also be an expensive nightmare, if the relationship goes south.

Every sale is built on trust – trust that the product or service performs as advertised and trust that someone will be around to help if it doesn’t. The degree of trust needed depends on the customer’s investment, which, depending on the purchase, can amount to far more than the price on the invoice.

It’s like any relationship. A small, one-time purchase is like going for coffee with someone you just met – low investment, modest expectations. A larger purchase is closer to a dinner and a movie date – greater investment, greater expectations. As-a-service is like sharing a roof – big investment, big expectations.

Few people will jump into a new living arrangement based on a great coffeehouse meetup. Fewer will enter into an as-a-service relationship based on one sales interaction.

Asking someone to move in after a latte? Awkward and likely to result in no future lattes with that individual. Asking someone to sign up for a service-based solution after a quick rundown of features and benefits? Also awkward and likely to result in all your future calls going directly to voicemail, never to be returned.

As-a-service is a relationship. To succeed, your sales efforts should be aimed at creating one. And not just at the level of individual salespeople, but at the process level. Without a well-defined process with relationship building at its core, your results are likely to be all over the place and it will be tough to really understand what’s working for you and what’s not.

Like any other kind of relationship, you’ll need to start small and build. Start by assessing your customer’s big-picture problems. Move onto the core issues at the heart of those problems. Then start talking about why those problems haven’t been solved already.

It could be that until now there’s been no solution that’s a good fit. Or that there are good solutions out there, but the company delivering them isn’t a good fit. Or it could be that the customer just hasn’t figured out an affordable way to acquire a solution.

The point is, you’re talking. You’re understanding. You’re building a relationship, not selling. Only once you get the customer and their problems at a fairly detailed level do you start talking about your answers to the customer’s core problems – your solutions, your people, your financing.