Challenges in Selling Commercial Open Source


Commercial Open Source Model View
Commercial Open Source Model View

If you are selling commercial open source software then this article would have some resonance with your present experience out there with customers and prospects. There are number of challenges around commercial open source software selling that warrants clear attention. Understanding these challenges will help address the arguments related to this model more effectively and help business leaders evolve the right set of arguments and demonstrate value of the commercial open source model.

Initiate the Uninitiated

A lot of organizations are not well versed with the commercial open source model or have limited understanding of the model.

The procurement of most such organizations is used to a license based purchase where an upfront license for software is obtained with annual maintenance.

Moreover, Open Source as free is a message that has stuck and one of the biggest roadblocks for a commercial open source sales team. When customers expect the software for free there is automatic competition with commercial open source models. Thus the uninitiated have to be initiated with the fundamentals of commercial open source model and why the model allows to pay for open source and generate all round value for the business.

Typical topics that need to be articulated are:

  1. Concept of Annual subscriptions instead of license sale
  2. Convincing the buyer on actually what he gets as part of annual support including the software product itself. Since the cost of the product as such is diluted in the argument, its sometimes difficult to bring out clearly the benefits that the support relationship will bring them. Most of them may not be used to these arguments.
  3. The case of renewal year on year (Why?)
  4. The value in the commercial open source buying process.

Explain the Value around the Commercial Open Source Model

Commercial Open source model is centered around the promise of:

  1. Better quality software due to its open source pedigree
  2. Excellent Support
  3. Regular product updates keeping the software up to date and available for no additional cost as long as the customer is under a commercial support cover.
  4. Quick Bug fixing
  5. Leveraging the  community strength

To strengthen the sales team, the commercial open source organization requires significant investments in:

  1. Training around differences between Open source and commercial version
  2. Assist sales people in clear articulation of benefits and value in terms of “What extra does a customer get in an annual support subscription vis-a-vis the license model”. The sales people must understand the fundamental differences and be an authority on the subject.
  3. Invest in community growth structuring the case for the need for a commercial open source business that in turn fuels the community.
  4. Differentiate the open source community project from open source company. Explain the goals of both these setups clearly.

This is not easy. Understanding the commercial open source model and its intricacies along with the economics behind the model is very important while striking a conversation and handling objections. The commercial open source model has very well been described here in “Single Vendor Commercial Open Source

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