I am a long time Atlassian customer, even before Jira was SaaS and was on-premise only.
There is much talk about Atlassian's low-touch sales model. People ask, "why would you need a sales team if the customer gets online, researches, tests, then orders?"
But do they use "human sales" sales as well? Let's take a look at how they appear to implement their low-touch model.
Many company types, particularly SaaS companies, use a land-expand-hold sales tactic. Atlassian was one of the first companies to notice that placing a salesperson in the way of the customer buying was not always productive.
Customers can get all the information that they need to make a low-risk decision online. In the acquisition phase, Atlassian did not need a salesperson.
The key to this is to reduce risk and make it easy for the customer. To do this, Jira provided a freemium (zero cost) account with some basic functionality for up to 10 users. The idea is that if you expand, you will upgrade into a paid price plan.
The other idea is that switching to another application will become more difficult if you start using the app. The more data or people that you have in the app, the harder it is to change.
To acquire a new customer, placing a salesperson, in the way, would be counterproductive. If you do not modify the product for a specific customer, it is entirely self-service to implement. Additionally, if you have fixed pricing (or no pricing), why do you need a salesperson?
But after you get that first conversion, what happens next?
Anyone can try or buy one of Atlassian's products. There is no qualification. Having the customer using the product enables you to start to identify growable activities.
Did one of Atlassian's top targeted accounts sign up? Did an account sign-up and expanded users at a fast rate?
In the acquisition phase, a sign-up or a decision to buy (without a salesperson) is a form of lead generation that provides Atlassian a position to expand sales on the accounts that Atlassian selects. Instead of a qualified lead, it is a qualified customer.
Atlassian could separate their sign-ups as self-service only and targeted expansion accounts. The idea is that it is easier to sell to an existing customer.
After the original conversion, Atlassian can gather enough data and interactions to put using customers into boxes. From there, they can cross-sell to other products or sell more in-depth into the customer and expand users. They can implement analytics to identify interesting customers.
They may use solely digital channels to develop the account. However, in more complex and higher potential accounts, they can install an "Enterprise Advocate" or other functions (Atlassian recently added sales channels) to help guide the customer to expand.
At this stage, it looks more like a traditional solution sales model.
Part of the qualification and decision to install an Enterprise Advocate seems to be the increased integration and level of customization needed by the customer. Integration does not mean that the customer is bundling Jira with Confluence. It means more that they are providing platforms to resolve a larger set of complex problems like information management or company-wide collaboration.
The account development phase is like a qualification. Do you put resources in place to develop the account, or is it a self-serve account? Do you "solution-sell" or "product-sell?"
Having their customers segmented between true self-service and higher-touch accounts, they can automate the self-service interactions and develop a higher-touch process. Atlassian can establish an account further, gain referrals, or cross-sell in an omnichannel way. They can set up early warnings for losses. However, human interaction (higher-touch) is only for those prioritized accounts.
If you take a step back from the low-touch approach, it only seems low-touch in the acquisition phase. It reflects how customers make decisions in certain types of sales.
The alternative is to have a salesperson, upfront, trying to qualify a new trial sign-up, then go through a discovery call, then present a solution, later close the deal. Unless you have a complicated onboarding, to the customer, traditional acquisition sales add very little value. It is also unnatural for the customer.
Even though Atlassian does not use the term "salesperson," they do have "Advocates." The communication around "no sales rep" is part of their no-pressure branding. That branding approach fits very well with their target customers.
The product's usage is a qualification. If qualified, you can send in your sales resource (Advocates) to develop those accounts. You are deploying your sales resource in a customer-friendly way.
The Atlassian approach does not fit everywhere. The key to a low-touch acquisition model is to enable the customer to reduce risk in trying the product. The first two metrics are the number of new sign-ups and the number of users in the sign-up. You would run a higher budget ad campaign to drive more traffic to your site.
Atlassian actively sells its self as a low-touch, nearly anti-sales company. Part of their marketing message seems to be, try us, with no risk. You won't even have a sales rep calling you and hammering you with dozens of "qualifying" questions. And you don't need a sales rep. The success of Atlassian rips at the soul of many sales folks.
Maybe there are many lessons for sales professionals when seeing Atlassian's success. Is the salesperson getting in the way? Can technology replace what the salesperson does?
Where it can work:
Where it doesn't work: