Are You Selling Trust or Software? A Crucial SaaS Lesson from Salesforce.com’s Trust Site

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Are you selling trust or software? As a SaaS company, well, it is a little of both. Let me explain.

I learned something recently about the Salesforce.com agreement that has completely changed my thinking about SaaS Law and service level agreements (SLAs). What I learned was there is no SLA in the Salesforce.com agreement.
Yep, you read it right — there is no SLA in their agreement. What Salesforce.com has realized — and you need to remember — is that you are first and foremost selling trust. So Salesforce decided to spend less time negotiating the complexities of an embedded SLA in their SaaS agreement and instead publicized their SLA under a Trust Site.
Here is what every SaaS or PaaS business needs to know about Trust Sites.

What is a Trust Site?

A Trust Site is a public-facing website on which you post your SLA (current and historical uptime performance, or whatever metrics your customers need to know to trust you), Security Policy, and Privacy Policy. This is a pretty simple concept, but if you think about it, you are actually taking it to another level by making this information public.

Why Salesforce.com Moved Their SLA to a Trust Site

I don’t really know, but what I heard is that Salesforce.com was spending way too much time negotiating their SLA (how to measure it, how to determine and how to apply the credits, yada yada). This was unnecessarily extending the sales process, so they did some deeper thinking about the issue.
They realized what customers really just want to be assured that:

  1. The vendor knows when a site has performance issues
  2. The vendor is working to resolve the issue
  3. They will be notified when the performance issue is resolved.

All of this can be addressed through a Trust Site (instead of the SaaS or PaaS agreement) dedicated to explaining why customers should trust you with their important data. If that is the way your customers are looking at it, you better start thinking about it that way, too.

What You Can Do Now

Take a look at the sample Trust Sites below, as I have provided several examples. As you can see, your Trust Site does not have to look like the Salesforce.com site, and in fact you should figure out what key metrics your customers specifically want to see.
This is really not hard stuff, but if you get it right you could actually spend less time negotiating your agreement and build more trust with your customers. Now that is a really cool idea and great for SaaS Law.
Trust Site Examples:

Do you have any questions about developing your own Trust Site? Let me know in the comments below.

Disclaimer: This post is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not legal advice. You should hire an attorney if you need legal advice, which should be provided only after review of all relevant facts and applicable law.
 

Jeremy Aber
Jeremy Aber
President and Shareholder

Jeremy Aber consults OpenView portfolio companies on legal and contract matters. Jeremy runs his own IT focused law firm, the Aber Law Firm, and has over 18 years experience in technology and corporate law.
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