Integrations’ Impact on B2B SaaS Sales

June 11, 2024
0 min read
Jeremy Myers, former VP of Global Technology Services at Cornerstone On Demand, writes about the importance of integrations to further B2B SaaS sales.
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Deals don't progress without integrations. Jeremy Myers, former VP of Global Technology Services at Cornerstone On Demand, explores integrations' impact on B2B SaaS sales.

Jeremy Myers is an experienced leader across the IT spectrum, from engineering to consulting to project management, having last served as Vice President of Global Technology Services at Cornerstone On Demand.  He has over 13 years’ experience leading B2B software implementation and integration projects in the HR industry.

As with everything: it starts in Sales. 

As employment technology evolves and matures, it becomes more and more evident that employers are looking for comprehensive solutions to add to their tech stacks. Bespoke point solutions that offer unique functionality are only valuable when they can seamlessly share data with the rest of the organization’s tools. 

As a result, integrations have profound significance in the modern sales cycle—for both the prospect and the Sales team trying to close the deal. To fully examine this significance, I spoke with several SaaS leaders—in both Sales and Service Delivery—to get their take on integrations’ role in the sales cycle. 

The consensus among the people I spoke with was that integrations are no doubt pivotal to closing new business. In their experience (and in my own), the existence of specific integrations, or at least demonstrating competence in building like integrations, often furthered deals along; but the absence of or ignorance toward those integrations often imperiled the deal.

At the same time, these industry veterans noted that building integrations—those pivotal deal-makers—presents a challenge. API integrations require a large investment of time and resources upfront, plus ongoing maintenance; but many integrations don’t offer widespread value because they’re used by only a handful of customers. In other words, sometimes the cost of building an integration outweighs the return on investment. 

To compete in today’s cloud-based tech market, Sales and Delivery Service teams need to approach integrations strategically and may consider leveraging emerging solutions like unified APIs to get a leg up on the competition.

Deals don’t progress without integrations

The rules of engagement for Sales and Solutions Consultants are seemingly straightforward. 

Rule #1: Close the deal.  

Rule #2: If a hurdle is encountered, by all means: See Rule #1.

Of course, any frontline Sales leader will understand that these rules come with nuance. The topic of integrations poses a tricky hurdle for account executives—by raising the issue, they risk opening a can of worms that could potentially derail the sale. But as many of the leaders I spoke with attested to (and as I’ve seen in my own experience), avoiding the integrations conversation can have an adverse effect on the prospect. 

When the salesperson can offer an integration that solves a pain point, or at least demonstrate a competency in building like integrations, it often furthers the deal. When they avoid the conversation for fear of encountering a hurdle, these account executives run the risk of appearing incapable or ignorant when it comes to integrations—which kills deals more often than you might think.

Most, if not all, prospects in the employment technology market will have some need for integrating their systems, so it’s up to the Sales leader to quickly identify whether a deal is worth pursuing—to open the worm can, so to speak. If a prospect is looking for an integration that isn’t readily available, the question is whether or not the deal is big enough or strategic enough to even entertain the discussion. 

As one professional services veteran I spoke with put it, it’s binary: “We will flat out walk away from a deal if our tech team identifies an integration that needs to be added. Sales need discipline and rigor. Sometimes it’s painful.”  

Another leader—this one, a solutions architect and sales leader—added a similar sentiment: he said he’d rather turn down a deal early, at the widest part of the funnel, than spend time internally and externally discussing the requirements of building a new integration just to bow out or be disqualified later on. 

But when an integration is available, it can be a boon for Sales teams, offering an opportunity to expedite a deal. If the discovery phase doesn’t uncover any critical need from the prospect that would disqualify them, the Sales team can begin to gauge their interest in the company’s existing catalog of integrations and partners.

Oftentimes, the buyers negotiating the sale aren’t IT specialists, so comprehensive data flow isn’t their core competency nor their top priority. They’re laser-focused on securing a functioning suite of software that solves their basic business replacement needs. The integration leaders I spoke with pointed out that this is an opening for the Sales team to present their existing integrations as a strength and a potential differentiator. If, during the course of the initial meetings, the Sales team identifies crucial third parties and can expertly address integration pain points by presenting competency and/or an existing catalog, it could set them apart in the selection process. 

Bottom line: Deals are won when the Sales team displays integrations competence. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. 

Roadmap prioritization: To build or not to build?

During my research, one of the experts I spoke with called integrations both the crucial backbone of data flow and an unsexy, oft-ignored framework. They’re something that most people only think about when they’re not working—the dreaded 404 error. 

But integrations are only on the rise—API integrations in particular, as the employment tech industry continues to move toward SaaS and the cloud. There is a direct correlation between the size of the prospect company and the number of integrations they need. A colleague who’s been in the professional services space for some time called it a repeated reinforcing journey, in which buyers demand ever-increasing counts of “set and forget” integrations that work without manual intervention. 

Ideally, any integration a prospect requests will be readily available, pre-built by the company and easy to implement for a new user. That’s the holy grail. But when that’s not the case, Sales teams need to work closely with their colleagues in Product, Engineering, and Service to determine whether the juice is worth the squeeze. New integrations require significant investment of time and resources, which can force companies to make difficult decisions. 

There are three major factors the company must consider: 

  1. How necessary is this integration?
  2. What will need to be deprioritized?
  3. How much will it cost?

How necessary is this integration?

If a prospect requests a non-existent integration, it begs questions like: Is this really a deal-breaker? Is it required at Day 1, or can it be post go-live? How large or strategic (or both!) is this prospect? Have other prospects asked for this integration, or would adding the integration allow the company to enter a new market vertical?  

What will need to be deprioritized?

If the company decides the integration would be beneficial, the next consideration is the investment of resources required. Assuming the APIs are available, there’s a painful tradeoff to be made—what drops from the product roadmap? One of the professional service leaders I interviewed explained that at his company, there’s a troubling awareness that committing to a new integration means less innovation and less tech debt retirement. 

How much will it cost?

Sales leaders consistently report “sticker shock” when it comes to external builds. In one recent example, the price tag came back at $250k. This was on a $60k/year ARR deal. For this particular integration, the available pool of qualified consultants was small, so per the rules of supply and demand, they charged a high hourly rate. 

Sometimes, a company will go ahead and eat the cost in order to win the ARR or an influential logo, or to break into a new vertical. And while companies may have different buckets of money to spend on new deals (NRR vs ARR), most often, situations where one-time upfront costs dwarf the customer’s subscription spend so significantly are non-starters. 

Empowering Sales teams with accessible integrations

Employment applications’ Sales teams are at a crossroads: while integrations are critical to closing deals and winning new business, they’re also difficult to build and maintain, and are often too costly to justify building for just one client. 

Fortunately, new tools have emerged to solve these challenges—namely unified APIs. Global investment firm Activant Capital recently published research that called the case for unified APIs “compelling,” predicting that the market will quickly grow as API-first businesses continue to proliferate.

Unified APIs work as an abstraction layer, building and maintaining integrations with dozens or hundreds of software systems. Customers of unified APIs need only build one integration—to the provider—to connect to all of these systems. 

Unified APIs provide value to at least three departments at any B2B software organization. The Development team can expand the breadth of the company’s integration portfolio with a single connection. The Sales team can revise their pitch to be experts—not novices—in the integration space, providing newfound leverage in negotiations. And the Marketing team is able to uplevel their messaging by positioning the company as modern, forward-thinking, and connected.

By deploying tools like these, employment applications can bring new integrations to market in a fraction of the time and for a fraction of the cost of custom-building them in house. Companies that adopt unified APIs have the opportunity to transform a weakness into a strength and disrupt the marketplace. 

After all, as with everything: it starts in Sales.

97% of HR professionals say it’s important for your app to integrate with their employment systems

Learn more in our State of Employment Technology report ->

97% of HR professionals say it’s important for your app to integrate with their employment systems

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