SaaS sales is the process of selling Software as a Service (SaaS) products. SaaS is a software delivery model in which software is hosted and maintained by the provider. The customer typically licenses the software on a subscription basis and accesses it by using a web browser. The specific approaches to SaaS sales vary based on the complexity of the software, the availability of a free trial and other onboarding characteristics, and the target market. For example, B2C sales strategy (i.e., sales to individual consumers) differs substantially from B2B sales strategy (i.e., sales to businesses), and B2B SaaS sales require very different strategies depending on the size of the targeted companies.
There are specific challenges involved with SaaS sales. Given the proliferation of SaaS offerings, competition is fierce and there is a critical need to differentiate your SaaS product. However, it can be challenging to clearly communicate the value proposition of a new SaaS product that is complex or innovative. Also, the efforts of a robust SaaS sales team can be undermined by high churn rates. As SaaS platforms are commonly offered via a subscription model, customers often have the flexibility to terminate their subscription and migrate to a competitor with relative ease. Consequently, an intuitive, user-friendly SaaS product, supported by a stellar customer support and success team, is required for customer retention.
This article will guide you through SaaS sales strategies that can help to overcome these challenges and maximize sales revenue. Doing so will be critical to a SaaS business’s profitability and capacity to scale.
Understanding Your Target Market
A SaaS business should regularly conduct market research to identify the needs, goals, preferences, and pain points of its target market and how they change over time. Market research can consist of interviews, surveys, focus groups, conversations with attendees at trade shows, events, etc., and the monitoring of discussions on social media and online forums. From this data, target buyer personas can be created for each of the different types of people who may be interested in the SaaS product; for example, different personas can be created for different job roles, industries, company sizes, or demographics. Each target buyer persona should address the following questions:
- What problem does the SaaS product solve for this target buyer?
- Do they realize that they have this problem?
- What words do they use to describe their problem?
- How much is the problem costing them?
- What would be the benefit(s) of solving the problem?
- Which product features do they value the most and least?
- How much are they willing to pay for the SaaS product?
Market research should also be used to quantify the target buyer personas so that they also include key unit metrics such as Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and lifetime value (LV).
Once target buyer personas have been created and quantified, leads can be categorized into the relevant target buyer group and the SaaS sales approach can be customized to them as follows:
- Create a value proposition that describes how the SaaS product solves the target buyer’s problem, using language that resonates with the target buyer’s goals and the way they think about their problem.
- Personalize sales enablement materials to use language and visual imagery that relate to the target buyer’s role, demographics, industry, goals, and pain points.
- Tailor the sales process (e.g., pacing and frequency of follow-up, communication channels used) to the preferences, decision-making process, and timeline of the target buyer. Use follow-ups to answer their questions and provide additional information that addresses common concerns for this target buyer group.
- Craft demos, offers, and free trials that highlight the features most valuable to the target buyer.
Building an Effective Sales Team
- Hiring the Right People
Once the type of sales process that will be required for each target buyer persona has been identified, a profile should be created that describes the necessary experience (e.g., enterprise sales, industry experience, SaaS sales experience), skills (e.g., specific technical skills, soft skills such as communication and negotiation), and knowledge (e.g., of the SaaS business model) that a candidate should possess. When choosing candidates to interview, look for those with an established track record of meeting or exceeding performance targets in their prior sales positions. During interviews, assess the candidates’ fit with the company’s work style and values, as well as their preferred sales approach and techniques, and their ability to describe complex technical concepts in language that target buyers can readily understand. Sales role-plays can also be extremely informative when well-structured and applicable to the job role.
- Establishing Sales Goals
Set SaaS sales goals that support the company’s broader strategic objectives (e.g., expansion into new markets, acquiring new customers, improved customer retention). Sales goals should be quantified and a timeframe should be specified–for example, to generate a particular amount of revenue in a given month, or to close a certain number of deals in a given quarter. Goals should be set for the SaaS sales team as a whole, as well as for the individuals, and a commission or bonus structure as well as company recognition should be used to incentivize goal attainment. Ensure that the sales team has the support it requires from other teams to realistically achieve its goals. For example, if the sales team has a goal to acquire a number of new customers, ensure that the marketing team has a corresponding goal to generate an adequate number of sales-qualified leads.
SaaS sales goals should be realistic, and it can be challenging for a SaaS startup to create realistic sales goals given a lack of historical sales data to guide predictions. Market research and industry benchmarks can be consulted to understand the size of the market, as well as average deal sizes, and customer acquisition costs for SaaS products in the same space. This data, in conjunction with analysis of the capacity of the sales team, can help to inform goal setting efforts. Sales goals should also be continually adjusted as sales data is obtained.
- Providing Adequate Sales Training
Members of a SaaS sales team should be trained to a strong understanding of the product and its features, target buyer personas and the specific sales process for each target buyer, and the value proposition, as well as how the product and pricing compare to competitors. This training should evolve as the product does, and thus SaaS product managers or team members should be in regular contact with sales. Continual sales training, including role-plays, should be provided for relevant skills such as presentation, negotiation, closing techniques, upselling, and account management. Online SaaS training classes, including those geared toward a specific sales role as well as those that promote general understanding of SaaS business practices, can also strengthen the sales team. The sales team should also be given frequent feedback on recorded calls as well as their performance against their sales goals.
- Empowering the Sales Team
A SaaS sales team should be equipped with sales enablement materials including sales presentations, demo videos, case studies, testimonials, call scripts, responses to common objections, and email templates. They should also be provided with a customer relationship management (CRM) system to keep track of leads and interactions, sales automation tools, and the communication platforms (e.g., Zoom, Facebook) preferred by the target market.
- Getting the Entire Company Involved in Sales
As mentioned previously, the effectiveness of a SaaS sales team is dependent on the rest of the SaaS company. Everyone at the SaaS company should be aware of sales goals and progress, and all team members should know what they can each do to support those goals. Shadowing and feedback across teams will contribute to the success of each team–for example, if product team members shadow sales representatives during system demos, they can provide feedback to the sales team as well as improve the product based on the types of questions and concerns voiced by the sales prospects. Conversely, if sales team members shadow customer success as they help customers to find value in the system, sales will be better able to communicate the benefits the system can provide to prospects and speak to actual use cases.
Implementing Effective Sales Strategies
- Identifying and Prioritizing High-Value Prospects
A SaaS sales team will be considerably more efficient if high-value prospects can be identified and prioritized for contact. The target user personas described above can be used to identify ideal customers, for example by identifying personas with a high LV relative to their CAC or identifying the personas who would derive the most benefit from the product. A lead scoring system can then be created and applied, which assigns a score to a lead based on match up to the ideal customer profile as well as behavioral data such as online behavior (e.g., attendance at relevant webinars or visits to the product marketing website), or engagement with the sales team. Some CRM systems can also use predictive analytics to automatically identify high-value prospects.
- Developing and Executing a Sales Plan
A sales plan is a strategic document that outlines your business goals, target market, sales strategy, and a specific plan to attain your sales objectives. As discussed above, sales goals should be driven by the company’s overall strategic goals, the target audience should be segmented into target buyer personas, and a value proposition should be written. The sales plan should include these items, as well as sales and marketing strategies, the sales process for each target buyer persona, metrics by which sales performance will be tracked, a sales forecast based on the sales goals, a hiring and training plan and budget, and an action plan including deadlines and assignment of responsibilities.
- Upselling and Cross-Selling Strategies
Upselling and cross-selling can substantially increase the lifetime value of a SaaS customer. Frequent analysis of SaaS system usage behavior, which is a key aspect of SaaS product management, can help the sales team to identify key opportunities to provide personalized recommendations for upgrades or additional services such as priority support or user training. For example, a customer who is approaching their usage limit may readily agree to a plan with a higher limit. A recent increase in the number of users on a company account may indicate that the company would see the value of product training. Free trials of higher tier plans and package discounts can also make these offerings more attractive to customers.
- Overcoming Common Sales Objections
It is important to anticipate common objections to purchasing a SaaS product, and these should be identified proactively for each target buyer persona. During interactions with prospects, it is crucial for salespeople to listen carefully to objections and ask clarifying questions. Once the objection is accurately understood, techniques can be used such as “Feel, Felt, Found,” providing a demo or case study that provides information that counters the objection, emphasizing the value of the product, or offering a free trial. The sales team should be provided with sales enablement materials that include guidelines for the specific techniques to use to deal with common objections. A positive sales culture should include collaboration and open communication such that helpful techniques are shared among the team and added to the sales enablement materials regularly.
SaaS Sales Cycle Stages
The SaaS sales cycle consists of several distinct stages that prospects go through from initial contact to becoming a paying customer. Understanding and effectively navigating these stages is crucial for SaaS sales success. Here are the typical stages of the SaaS sales cycle:
- Prospecting and Lead Generation
This stage involves identifying potential leads and generating interest in your SaaS product. It includes activities such as inbound marketing, content creation, SEO, social media marketing, and targeted advertising to attract and capture leads.
In this stage, the leads obtained in the prospecting stage are evaluated to determine their fit and readiness to purchase. The qualification process involves assessing factors such as the lead’s budget, authority to make the purchase, need, and timeline (BANT). Sales representatives engage with leads to gather information, understand their requirements, and determine if they are a good fit for the product.
- Needs Assessment
Once a lead is qualified, the sales team conducts a needs assessment to delve deeper into the prospect’s specific pain points, challenges, and requirements. This stage involves active listening, asking probing questions, and understanding the prospect’s business goals and workflows to position the SaaS solution effectively.
- Solution Presentation and Demo
Armed with a clear understanding of the prospect’s needs, the sales team presents a solution and conducts a demo of the SaaS product. This stage is crucial for showcasing the product’s features, benefits, and value proposition. The demo should address the prospect’s pain points directly and highlight how the SaaS solution can address their specific challenges.
- Proposal and Negotiation
After the demo, a proposal is prepared, outlining the pricing, terms, and conditions of the SaaS subscription. Negotiations may occur during this stage as both parties work to align on the specifics of the deal. It is important to find a balance that satisfies the customer’s requirements while maintaining profitability for your SaaS business.
The closing stage involves obtaining the customer’s commitment to move forward with the purchase. This may include signing a contract, processing payment, and finalizing any legal or administrative requirements. A well-executed closing process ensures a smooth transition from prospect to customer.
- Onboarding and Implementation
Once the sale is closed, the customer enters the onboarding and implementation phase. This stage involves setting up the SaaS product, training the customer on its use, and helping them integrate it into their existing systems. Providing a seamless onboarding experience sets the stage for long-term customer success.
- Customer Success and Renewals
After implementation, the focus shifts to ensuring customer success and driving adoption of the SaaS solution. Regular check-ins, ongoing support, and proactive communication help maintain a strong relationship with the customer. Maximizing customer satisfaction and achieving their desired outcomes increase the likelihood of renewal and potential upsell or cross-sell opportunities.
By understanding and effectively managing each stage of the SaaS sales cycle, sales teams can guide prospects smoothly through the process, build strong relationships, and maximize customer acquisition and retention.
B2B SaaS Sales Strategy
In addition to understanding the stages of the SaaS sales cycle, implementing an effective B2B SaaS sales strategy is essential for the success of a B2B SaaS offering. A well-defined strategy helps sales teams maximize their efforts, streamline processes, and improve overall results. Here are key elements to consider when developing your B2B SaaS sales strategy:
- Target Market Identification
Start by clearly defining your target market within the B2B space. Understand the specific industries, company sizes, and customer profiles that align best with your SaaS solution. This allows you to focus your resources on prospects most likely to benefit from and adopt your product.
- Value Proposition Development
Craft a compelling value proposition that highlights the unique benefits and competitive advantages of your B2B SaaS offering. Clearly communicate how your solution solves the pain points and addresses the specific needs of your target market. Differentiate yourself from competitors by emphasizing the value your product delivers.
- Buyer Persona Understanding
Gain a deep understanding of the buyer personas within your target market. Identify the key decision-makers, influencers, and stakeholders involved in the purchasing process. Tailor your messaging and approach to resonate with each persona, addressing their specific pain points and motivations.
- Sales Process Optimization
Continuously refine and optimize your B2B SaaS sales process. Identify areas of improvement, streamline workflows, and leverage technology and automation where possible. Ensure your sales team has access to the necessary tools, resources, and training to effectively engage with prospects and guide them through the sales cycle stages.
- Account-Based Selling (ABS)
Consider implementing an account-based selling approach for high-value B2B SaaS deals. ABS involves focusing on specific target accounts and personalizing your sales efforts to address their unique needs. Develop tailored strategies for each target account, build relationships with key stakeholders, and provide a personalized experience throughout the sales cycle.
- Collaboration with Marketing
Foster close collaboration between your sales and marketing teams. Align on messaging, target market segmentation, and lead generation efforts. Leverage marketing data, content, and campaigns to support your sales activities and increase brand visibility. Regularly share insights and feedback to ensure a coordinated and integrated approach.
- Customer Success Focus
Adopt a customer-centric mindset throughout the B2B SaaS sales process. Prioritize customer success and satisfaction by providing excellent post-sales support, timely onboarding, and proactive communication. Satisfied customers become advocates and can contribute to your sales efforts through referrals and positive reviews.
By incorporating these elements into your B2B SaaS sales strategy, you can enhance your sales effectiveness and drive growth within the B2B SaaS market.
Retaining Customers and Maximizing Revenue
Customer retention is necessary to realize the potential lifetime value of SaaS customers and to ensure that the effectiveness of the sales team is not undermined by customers churning shortly after the sale. The design, development, quality assurance, and product management teams must coordinate to ensure that the SaaS product provides a seamless onboarding experience, is easy to use, and meets the needs of the target buyers. High quality customer support and a proactive customer success team are also key to customer retention, as is the collection and analysis of user behavior and customer satisfaction data.
Effective SaaS sales strategies involve all teams of a SaaS company, and they begin with market research that should occur prior to the formation of a sales team or design of a SaaS product. This research will result in a deep understanding of the target market that allows creation of a sales plan and tailored sales processes, pitches, and collateral that resonate with each distinct segment of the target market. SaaS sales teams will be empowered by this foundation, and their efforts will be optimized by sales technologies, training, and continual collaboration across teams.