Let’s review some hot and not-so-hot items in the world of technology.

Hot: Cloud

Not: On Premise Software and Hardware Solutions

Hot: Software as a Service (SaaS)

Not: Perpetual License Based Software

Hot: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Not: Appliances and Use Specific Devices

Besides the obvious fact that they are all technology related terms, what do cloud, SaaS and BYOD have in common that is driving all three of them to be “Hot”?

Before I answer, how much more likely are you to buy something when you are able to try it first?

Think about this in work and in life. Have you been to Costco over the past few years?

You walk down the aisle and it is a meal on wheels; carts everywhere with “Free” samples of Skinny Pop popcorn, chocolate covered blueberries, pork dumplings and VitaMix juice blends. My wife and I sometimes laugh about going there on the weekend for lunch because by the time we finish our shopping we are usually stuffed.

Notice the quotes I place around “free” sample.

Nothing is free. By the time you get out of Costco it is rarely under $200 (in my experience). And if you are anything like me, you wind up buying at least one thing that was on “free” sample each time you go.

The free trial once again worked and led to another conversion.

Let’s go back to those technology driven items I talked about at the beginning of the story.
Cloud, SaaS and BYOD—have you figured out what they have in common?

How about that each of them is a platform that allows the upmost simplicity for resellers to gain users?

How many free, freemium or free trial services are you using today?

Do you use Google Apps, Dropbox, Pandora, Base CRM, Amazon Prime, Netflix or Constant Contact? While all of these cloud-based services offer a free edition, every single one of them offers a premium (subscription service).

They also all drive revenue off of you using their free services so either you are paying to remove ads or you essentially are the product (by which ads are pushed to you).

The beauty of the model that all of these companies have is that they make it extraordinarily easy for you to try their products. In the past year I have used or I am currently using every one of those above applications and have upgraded to paid editions of three of the services. In every case where I upgraded to a paid version I started out using a free trial.

Bottom line is in the world of selling, whether it is the food you buy or the technology you consume, smart businesses are finding ways to let people try their product before they make you buy.

Can This Be Applied To Every Business?

Even if you aren’t in the business of selling cloud applications or groceries, is there still a place for your business to benefit by reducing barrier to entry?

In a world where people want to try before they buy, it should definitely be a consideration. Here are some questions to ask to determine opportunities to lower the barrier to entry.

What are the barriers to entry for the products and services we sell?

Are there opportunities for current and potential customers to become more familiar with or experience our products and services first hand prior to purchase?

Do we create unnecessary constraints to make it harder than necessary for a customer to try our products and services?

How could we set up no cost or low cost trials of our products/services?

While there are exceptions to every rule, businesses have long invested in ways to allow their customers more direct access to their offerings prior to obtaining a purchase.

Meaning even businesses that may not have a product they can completely give away have figured out ways to move their clients closer to a deliverable prior to asking for the sale.

Consider the following examples not in the Cloud/SaaS/BYOD world.

1) Car dealers have offered test drives, sometimes even allow buyers to keep a car for a day or two during the buying process and CarMax revolutionized the three-day, no fault return allowing people a no question out if they opt not to buy.

2) Homebuilders build model homes of the houses they are trying to sell to allow a potential buyer to imagine themselves living in the home.

3) Companies like Cisco, Apple and HP build elaborate experience centers where potential buyers can visit and become immersed with technology prior to purchase.

4) Numerous companies offer 30-day money back guarantees on their products and services.

Begging the question, what does your business do to make it easier for customers to engage?

Smart Businesses Find a Way

No matter what business you are in, there is a way to lower the barrier to entry and drive more customers to try what you have to sell.

The question you have to ask yourself is how much do you believe in what you sell?

If your offering meets a need and your customer experience leaves little to be desired, how risky is it to lower your customer’s barrier to entry?

Given that 68 percent of defection has to do with customer service and less than 15 percent defect because of product dissatisfaction, maybe getting more customers to experience what you have to offer is the key. Just so long as your customer experience makes the grade.

New Rules of Customer Engagement, an e-book for sales professionals (and their bosses)