Evaluating SaaS, HaaS & Product Sales

Rohling Sales Growth Advisors

Traditionally we could break the business model into two basic categories: Product or Service. In today's world we have a minimum of three basic business categories:

  1. SaaS, Software as a Service.
  2. HaaS, Human as a Service. (Yes, I made this up. There is an important distinction to be made relative to planning for Marketing & Sales.)
  3. Product


SaaS products/services are software hosted by a central provider and offered to customers through the internet. Rather than installing or downloading a copy of the application, users can access the product from a web or mobile browser. The SaaS company then manages and updates the software based on user needs. Many SaaS solutions today help with data management, workflow automation, research, or tasks that help us to do our work more efficiently.


HaaS services can be traditional service companies like Accountants, Lawyers, Sales Growth Advisors, and Physicians. HaaS offerings can also include product-based businesses that require expertise in order to solve a problem. I would also argue that many product-based businesses belong under the HaaS classification because product solutions often require a high level of industry knowledge. In general, HaaS services provide high knowledge & value-based solutions that leverage the experience and expertise of the provider.

Products: Distribution, Retail/Wholesale, Online.

Product sales are the traditional act of buying something that you need (or want). Of course, the mechanisms to buy have changed dramatically with online ordering, but traditional distribution and retail methods are still viable. An argument can be made that product sales should be approached as a HaaS solution based on the concept that you possess expertise in an area (Consultative Sale) that can leverage the product as a solution or job to be done for a prospect or customer.  

For this writing, I want to focus on the SaaS and HaaS relationship. I see a trend in the marketplace where companies are looking to implement supplemental SaaS solutions to develop an annuity-style business in addition to their established business model. Fundamentally, this can work well, but often there is a disconnect from perception to the realities of execution with the addition of a SaaS offering. It is important to separate the human-provided service from the SaaS offering. While they may be related, they likely serve two different uses and personas. Your human-based services have existed to provide a high level of knowledge and expertise in a certain field, while the SaaS solution is likely an option to increase efficiency, build workflow automation or provide data analysis and decision-making for another persona.

Be careful to not cannibalize your traditional human service with a SaaS solution.  A SaaS solution can be provided in addition to your core offering, just make sure that you have identified the use and user for it.  In theatre, the concept of "type-casting" is to assign (an actor or actress) repeatedly to the same type of role, as a result of their previous success in such roles. Type-Casting also happens in sales where a prospect or customer views a provider as only having a solution for the initial problem that was solved. If you lead with your SaaS solution make sure that they also view your business as a viable option for HaaS knowledge-based solutions. Before you launch a SaaS solution develop a marketing and sales plan for both the Saas solution and your existing HaaS services.

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Who do we serve with our HaaS services? What problem do we solve?
  • Who do we want to serve with our SaaS solution? What problem do we want to solve?
  • Will the SaaS service our current HaaS business? 
  • How will the new SaaS and current HaaS complement each other in terms of revenue generation?
  • Is the Saas solution in line with our gross and net margin goals?

There are more questions to ask yourself and your teams before including a SaaS solution in your arsenal. Just remember to plan for a SaaS solution as if it were a new business. Your current business depends on it.

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