If you’re wondering what high-touch means, simply think of the good old days of customer support and communication. Long before automation and chatbots, human sales reps and customer support agents were responsible for responding to customer pains and needs.
Simply put, high-tech products need high levels of customer support, at every important customer journey touchpoint. Your high-value users have a specific set of needs from your product, meaning you need a dynamic and responsive level of support available.
The high-touch model can help you land valuable customers, but you need a process to sift through your leads to surface them in the first place. We’ll tell you how to do that.
Sure, we all try to enable independence and autonomy in our products, but sometimes your users need to talk to a real person about their problems. Especially if a lead is considering your product for their enterprise-level departments.
Your customer success squad might already have the high-touch principles down already, but what about your sales reps?
Let’s establish where your sales team fits in the helping hand of this onboarding-focused model.
But first, we’ll contextualize high-touch for SaaS businesses.
Developing the term for a modern business context
Author and tech oracle John Naisbitt coined the term “high-touch” in his iconic book “Megatrends.” Naisbitt warns against fully automated user experiences and encourages high-tech businesses to remain personally connected to their customers.
With a high-tech model, customers can onboard, order, and manage their own accounts with help from chatbots, AI, and automation. This nifty process allows companies to build and edit their tech stacks quickly.
High-touch is then the antithesis of “high-tech.”
This approach isn’t anything new, and it’s very similar to classic, warmer selling styles where vendors are personable with their customers and deeply understand their needs and preferences.
High-touch has a slightly different meaning in medicine (that we can still learn something from).
What does high-touch mean in medicine?
You might have been warned of “high-touch surfaces” during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic when we were all obsessively washing our hands.
Public spaces were suddenly much scarier regardless of your zip code and centers for disease control warned of certain environmental surfaces that were best avoided due to their high risk of transmission.
We were made aware of “fomite transmission” by environmental science & technology experts, with fomites being hotbeds for infections like clothes, furniture, and cutlery.
The outside world and public surfaces might have been restrictive, but your average COVID-19 ward was a strictly controlled part of a hospital.
High-touch objects like medicine cabinets and COVID-19 patients’ beds require stringent hygiene practices to avoid the spread of COVID-19 cases and other diseases like bloodstream infections and particularly nasty antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Beyond the COVID-19 outbreak, we can find plenty of high-touch stuff in science & technology.
High-touch areas or objects in hospitals are those that are frequently interacted with and need constant cleaning. In pharmacology, high-touch drugs require frequent management, temperature control, or compliance monitoring.
Sure, you might not be greeted with a medical malpractice lawsuit if you don’t practice high-touch in your selling practice. But it’s that finicky, fussy level of care that ensures your product’s usage is a comprehensively smooth and enjoyable one.
Not that every account warrants you rolling out the red carpet. Knowing which type of touch a customer needs requires a certain level of data enrichment.
High-touch vs. low-touch customer support
Recent HubSpot sales statistics showed that potential customers only open 24% of their received sales emails. More direct, personal approaches like sales calls may be more effective but are 80% dependent on five follow-up calls.
Sadly, less than half of sales reps abandon the selling process after a single unsuccessful follow-up call. They’ll then hope their low-touch, automated resources will convince a lead by wearing them down with sales email after sales email.
Low-touch customer support involves minimal human interaction, with customers largely depending on ready-made guides and resources, chatbots, or AI to progress in the customer journey.
The meat of human interaction in a low-touch environment involves front line support reps staffing online chat services, call lines, and emails.
Other examples of low-touch support include:
- A company’s website resources and blog
- Automated emails regarding product updates and guides
- A tool navigation’s notifications regarding new features and tutorials
High-touch customer support, on the other hand, is generally reserved for high-value customers or large accounts that require complex integrations and services like:
- Personalized walkthroughs for existing and new features
- Tailored customer onboarding programs
- Hands-on customer success management
- 1:1 strategy sessions with customers
- Specialized and unique training events
You’re probably used to handling huge amounts of signups, and might be wondering when an account needs the five-star high-touch treatment.
The less complicated accounts can happily get comfortable with your product without extensive support. You’d need an army of sales reps to apply a wholesale high-touch model.
If you’re a product-led growth (PLG) company, you’ll need your salespeople to become part of your high-touch model, if not the champions.
Champions, and innovators of the SaaS sales onboarding game.
How SaaS sales developed a human touch
When a customer is trying to implement a new tool across several teams, or find a personalized solution, they need to speak to an expert rather than navigate a vague FAQ.
Maybe the sales rep they spent so long talking through their desired outcomes and professional pain points with?
You’d be amazed at how rare such basic lines of communication are in modern business practice. The human touch is so vital to any B2B business model, and yet so many companies have failed to grasp this need for conversations.
According to a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey of B2B businesses’ onboarding practices:
- Nearly 50% of them struggled to deliver their products to the right places at the right time
- Just over 50% of the surveyed businesses’ clients knew what the onboarding process entailed
- Finally, just ⅓ of these businesses could honestly say their customer relationships were “accessible and uncomplicated”
According to the HBR study, it all comes down to obscure customer appreciation, poor departmental alignment, and fuzzy communications.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however, and business leaders are starting to realize that their customer relationships and journeys need more love and attention.
PLG has emphasized the need for high-touch in the SaaS industry
High-touch sales models are becoming increasingly important to PLG businesses, with many salespeople becoming customer support specialists. Ensuring that a user has the most educated and enjoyable product experience is enabled by dedicated customer support.
Consider the most used features or milestones in your product’s customer journey. They need a high level of user experience satisfaction and attention.
This dedication might seem self-evident, but high-touch and PLG unfortunately aren’t mutually exclusive for many SaaS companies. Although numerous businesses have already embraced high-touch, PLG is still busy converting sales-led companies.
On the other side of the SaaS fence, many PLG companies that once swore by the low-touch sales approach realized how limiting it was as they ventured into the demanding enterprise realm.
When you apply a PLG motion to your business, you can expect a digital metric ton of signups. Once you open the user floodgates, your more finicky, sales-led veterans might struggle to cherry-pick their preferred leads.
That’s where the high-touch sales model comes into play for PLG companies. It is invaluable for identifying and engaging with large, lucrative accounts. Let’s find out how.
High-touch helps you surface high-value accounts
A high-touch sales model is a healthy and sustainable strategy for driving and maintaining high customer loyalty. But when applied, you’ll realize it’s also an effective means of surfacing and engaging big, shiny accounts with enormous income potential.
This is where Breyta fits into the equation.
Our collaborative workspace helps you surface your most desirable accounts. You’ll know which type requires the high-touch thanks to our one-click integrations.
We want you to turn that juicy sales data into a surfacing magic wand for your revenue and sales teams alike. Create one awesome custom field from our integrations that also serves as a stringent ideal customer profile (ICP).
One with every essential firmographic and revenue condition or value bundled into a universal standard for surfacing and lead scoring.
Once you have that ICP in hand, you can filter each of your accounts according to our Customer Fit Score, rather than manually plowing through dozens or hundreds of accounts looking for diamonds.
Now that you know who to approach with the high-touch model, it’s time to show salespeople how to do so.
What high-touch means for your salespeople
PLG companies are inherently concerned with the customer journey. One that, in many cases, will be well on its way before your reps first meet a well-established user.
Given the modern non-sequential selling progression, your reps must be ready to meet a user at whichever milestone they’ve reached.
Enterprise-level leads are generally pressed for time and can’t be bounced between sales and customer success. Salespeople need to attend to all their needs in short windows, which is only possible if they have the right training and product knowledge.
The beauty of PLG is that it allows salespeople to break out of their traditional roles.
A product’s practical and successful usage is integral to your revenue. The people that actually sell it need to ensure users get a good hang of it and stay hooked.
Modern consumers won’t just buy something if you tell them it’s great. Sales reps have to show them why and how your product works for them.
Filling in the onboarding blanks
High-touch is also essential for ensuring a successful account onboarding.
A sales call or tour must provide a complete understanding and evidence of the value a product will bring to an entire account.
Whomever you’re selling to needs to convince the rest of their team or company that your product is worth a substantial subscription.
They must walk away from the initial sales process with enough expertise and appreciation to advocate your product through a land and expand process.
All this is only possible if your sales reps can satisfy each user's needs at every milestone or block in the customer journey.
Keep in mind that an individual lead’s reputation may be on the line if they return to their leaders with an incomplete or faulty product understanding.
Breyta’s User Engagement Score can help you find customers needing help and appreciate the effectiveness of your engagement strategies.
You can also track and zoom in on every step in the customer journey, and know when your customers are struggling with milestones like pricing or upgrade queries, board configuration, or user rules.
Rethink and revamp your user onboarding
The thing about SaaS product onboarding is that its effective timeline is far wider than some teams might believe.
It’s a relationship between reps and users that must begin well before a signup. And don’t think you’ll be waving off a customer like a proud parent after conversion.
Ensuring that your UX is top-drawer, thoroughly educating your users, and providing world-class tours; all these details are important, but they’re just a few of the cogs in the greater onboarding machine that keep revenue spinning.
To keep the machine metaphor going, value is the oil that lubricates each part.
With high-touch, what you put in is what you get out, and it’s essential you make a healthy first impression with a user. A healthy engagement standard that will carry them through the entire customer journey.
The salesperson and customer guide
Are your salespeople a bit confused about their role in your company? The simple truth is that a high-touch customer onboarding system should be integrated with their existing sales tactics.
In the first days and weeks of a new customer relationship, your salespeople need to help you with:
- Understanding your customer needs better
- Getting every relevant team functionally aligned
- Syncing with the customer’s preferred communication channels
Understand your customer needs better
You’ve probably heard of the jobs to be done (JTBD) theory. It’s an ingenious and practical way to understand how you can help your customers.
That classic saying by HBS Prof Theodore Levitt, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole” is a great starting point for understanding your customers’ needs.
Interview key account members and discuss their pain points in-depth. Your savviest salespeople will know exactly which products and features will get their jobs done.
When users have a practical, solutions-oriented investment in your tool, they’re more likely to become product-qualified leads (PQLs).
Get every relevant team functionally aligned
Your sales team isn’t just integral for your high-touch model, but is vital to a successful and smooth onboarding experience.
Sure, your salespeople should be more involved in customer success and they’ll objectively take a lot of weight off CS teams. But remember that your reps will eventually pass an account and its sales data onto another team.
The customer journey then needs to be underpinned by well-established expectations. All your teams should know what sales promised an account.
Sync your onboarding channels
The various channels your onboarding resources are provided through make up a large part of your user journey. Video walkthroughs, engagement emails, and webinars are all essential additional resources for your high-touch conversations.
Try to avoid relying on automated nudges and notifications for high-value accounts, as each one will need certain resources at different times.
Large accounts are bound to complicate your customer lifecycle, so it helps to keep a dynamic outreach system.
How to deliver the ultimate customer experience
For our final section, we want to cover some general but essential points for ensuring maximum customer satisfaction.
This guideline will ensure both sides of a video call stay smiling throughout your working relationship.
Become an authority on your customers
1:1 customer calls are great for learning more about your customers at face value. But one of the best parts about user data is that it allows you to build individual customer wikis.
Think of a fictional world or hobby you could lecture someone about ad nauseum.
This is the kind of passion you need to bring into your customer appreciation and understanding. Your ICP is the platform for a general understanding of your segment, from where you can drill into individual accounts.
Compile and pore over customer feedback
Experienced sales reps and leaders accurately debrief calls and break down each pro and con of their customer conversations. But what about your green reps? That's where conversation intelligence software comes in.
A tool like Enthu lets you record sales calls, that are then transcribed and analyzed. Enthu’s diplomatic AI uncovers objections in a sales call script, providing tidy insights for ironing kinks in your strategies out.
Enthu’s AI will also point out and reinforce behaviors that lead to closed deals. It’s an invaluable sales enablement asset.
Dependable salespeople land valuable accounts
PLG puts a much higher value and focus on the customer and their experience of your product with a heightened assessment. The high-touch sales model lets you focus that value add on the most rewarding leads.
You should always balance a customer's needs against their overall value. Breyta helps you to use your high-touch model discerningly, so your sales reps’ time and efforts aren’t wasted on accounts with low LTV.
Salespeople have never been more integral to customer support and satisfaction.
They need a thorough understanding of your product’s nuts and bolts. This practical and engaging method translates your value into each account’s niche usage and needs.
The high-touch model allows us to keep a vital human element in an increasingly technological world.
Demonstrating and applying a genuine, caring touch in SaaS sales ensures maximum customer satisfaction and stops us from becoming overly dependent on generic, automated solutions.