January 8, 2019

SaaS is spinning out of control – Farlan Dowell

“I’ve spent 10+ years selling SaaS,” Farlan shares, “And in every case, vendors were selling to fifty different clients with fifty different pricing schemes. Negotiations were nuanced, pricing was rarely public and little industry transparency created an unlevel playing field.”

The world of B2B SaaS sales lacks transparency and pushes as much software as possible on unsuspecting buyers. As troublesome as this is, ease-of-use, freemium models and instant deployment keeps SaaS attractive – anyone with a credit card and a business problem can spin up new software. But ballooning SaaS introduces a host of new problems for companies to contend with; security, compliance, lost productivity and costs, are a few.

Cleanshelf’s new VP of Sales, Farlan Dowell, gets this.

And these issues are at the crux of his decision to “switch sides” after over a decade of selling SaaS to join Cleanshelf and help clients find insights, cost savings and new efficiencies in their software use.

In a recent interview, Farlan shared insight on SaaS optimization, opportunities for overburdened companies and how Cleanshelf stops underutilized SaaS from eroding company health.

What issues from the “other side” have you believing that SaaS optimization is essential?
There are three huge issues for any company deploying SaaS and they all relate to transparency.

The first, is benchmarking. Cleanshelf manages SaaS spend and use data for businesses of all sizes, across all industries, using thousands of vendors. This is a ton of useful data and brings market awareness around what vendors actually charge. Benchmarking insight means Cleanshelf gives you the best opportunity to get the best deal.

The second is clarity. Very few companies actually know who is using what, when renewal dates are coming up and if they are running afoul of license terms of use. This is a simple, but revolutionary improvement that brings cost savings and compliance.

The third, is product efficiency. When a company knows what they own and actual usage levels, they can start to determine if they have the right products. They can be nimble and shut down, or bring on, software as needed. They don’t have to stick with the incumbents that have big brands, but can strategically design software usage plans with the best product, for the right team, at the right team.

We have to get this out of the way – isn’t it ironic that you’re selling SaaS to help companies control other SaaS?!
There is a reason that the future is SaaS. It’s easy to use, low maintenance and the simplest way to introduce time and resource savings into a growing company. SaaS is not inherently bad! It’s bad SaaS practices that are bad. A SaaS platform to manage all others? Now that is a great use of the technology.

How does a company know when it’s time to optimize their SaaS?
The tipping point is when you start depending on a spreadsheet or some antiquated approach to keep track of licenses. Consider this: a decent sized company likely has headcount dedicated to keeping track of software. Fully burdened, a company is paying $60,000 to $80,000 for an analyst to keep track of licenses, bother budget owners and try to keep up with IT compliance. This is mind-numbing work and not a core competency for most.

The folks that get-it immediately have tried to optimize on their own. A mid-size online ad company recently signed up for Cleanshelf only a week after getting in touch. The urgency came from their experience trying to do it themselves. They had spent weeks and months with little impact, little insight and plenty of wasted time. Then they integrated, and literally said “wow”. Now that’s fun!

What are the immediate benefits a company that focuses on SaaS optimization can expect?
First, their insights aren’t reactive. The analyst that maintains a spreadsheet doesn’t offer any spend or savings perspective until three months after the fact when data has been input and QA’d. By that time, it’s out of date...and she’s back to square one.

Also, when I talk to CFOs and technology leaders I hear that the 10%-30% straight-to-EBITDA savings is great, but – and here’s the kicker – that’s not even their number one benefit. They share stories of improved departmental collaboration, budgeting timeliness, process efficiency and freed up personnel that can focus on more important, strategic and creative work. Those hundreds of wasted hours? Now they get deployed to projects that are core to the business.

Why Cleanshelf? What makes this solution different?
The difference is in the details. First, we’re a platform, not a tool. This is an important distinction. A product like Slack, while useful, is a tool. It’s a two minute sign up and install. Cleanshelf is a true enterprise ready platform. We integrate with more than 1,000 cloud products meaning you get those elusive last mile insights; where is your ghostware, departmental trends and license tracking no matter where or how software gets paid for.

We have leading data security and compliance practices and know what to do with personal data (e.g – it’s safe, which I can’t confidently say about many freemium online tools). And our customer success team is second-to-none. They aren’t just support agents, they use a “Roadmap to Success” methodology to bring benchmarking insight and ideas for automation to each client. They’ve done hundreds of installs and have seen the pricing, workflows and experiences of companies of all sizes. They are tasked with white-glove onboarding to make sure the solution fits each customer uniquely and that they get actual insight. Insights are tailored and specific. Plus, this treatment isn’t a service cross or upsell, it’s simply how we do business.

Welcome aboard Farlan!

About Farlan

Farlan Dowell is a sales pro and team leader. He has fifteen years of startup experience in early-stage B2B Saas companies and has built a comprehensive approach to repeatable revenue. As the VP of Sales at Rainforest QA, he increased ARR from $300k in founder-led sales to $10M ARR, increased ACV from $10K to ~$100K and built a 25-person sales team that continues to grow. Previously, he was VP of Sales at marketing and analytics company, Upsight and advises leading tech companies including Clearbit, Blue Canvas, Honeycomb, Replicated, Test.ai, and Kloudless.

About Cleanshelf

Cleanshelf is the leading SaaS spend optimization solution focused exclusively on tracking, controlling, and benchmarking subscription SaaS applications. Cleanshelf’s cloud technologies help companies save up to 30% on their SaaS spending by automatically identifying unused, underused, or unmanaged licenses and subscriptions.

Headquartered in San Francisco, CA, Cleanshelf serves dozens of clients, including Drawbridge, Revinate, Dynamic Signal, Qumulo, and Service Rocket.


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