Can you win back a churned SaaS customer? If they fit your ideal customer profile and had a real business need for your product, then YES. You can absolutely win back a churned customer.
In fact, you should always be thinking about how to win back a churned customer. SaaS is a fickle game. And companies are fickle entities. In today’s business climate things are rarely static. A stakeholder leaves. A business priority changes. An acquisition or merger happens. A budget gets slashes. A budget gets increased. Someone’s crabby and decides not to implement, but then moves on to a different department a few months later.
As Heidi Klum likes to say, “One day your in, and the next day you’re out.” Cheesy, but unfortunately true for some SaaS platforms.
How to approach winning back a churned SaaS customer.
If a customer churned 12 or more months ago, I recommend approaching it as a completely new sale. Don’t think about re-selling, just think about selling them from scratch. In fact, these customers should be recycled back to the sales team, so they can be approached just like any other prospective account.
Of course, it’s possible for sales to call a prospect in that company and that prospect says, “Hey, why are you calling me, we canceled that subscription last year”. Especially if you sell to smaller organizations. If this happens, it’s fine. Sales should be armed with the knowledge that it’s a churned customer so they are prepared to elegantly handle that situation. But more often than not when selling into mid and large size companies, this happens infrequently.
People move around, they forget old products, and it’s worth just approaching old customer accounts from square one again. You need a fresh approach, and bringing the old baggage with you from the last time they were a customer won’t really help.
If the churn was more recent, then the most important thing is to REALLY understand the root of the issue (which is often entirely different than what the customer said it was) and address it, by any means necessary. Here’s an article I wrote about bringing back a SaaS customer from the brink of cancellation, and many of the same concepts apply for figuring out the root issue and solving for it.
It’s not worth trying to win back a churned customer if you can’t change the circumstances that caused them to churn in the first place.
The customer needed a feature you didn’t have? You will need to launch that feature, or somehow convince them they don’t really need it.
The customer had a stakeholder that had a strong preference for your biggest competitor? You are going to create the conditions for that stakeholder to be receptive to you, and then prove your superiority at solving their challenges. You will also need to win over their hearts probably too, as vendor preference can be emotional as well.
The customer had a re-org and all of your business stakeholders now have new responsibilities that don’t intersect with your product? You are going to need to work hard to establish new relationships, understand their business needs, demonstrate how you can solve their problems and achieve their desired outcomes.
I don’t want to sugar coat it—sometimes winning a churned SaaS customer back is much harder than selling them the first time around.
Of course, if a customer isn’t in your ideal customer profile, had unreasonable expectations or somehow is not worth saving, then hopefully it goes without saying you shouldn’t chase them down to win them back. Customer churn is painful, and should always be avoided when possible. But I think it’s also wise to know when to fold them and walk away.