Developing a Successful SaaS Sales Strategy

Michael McHugh

Founders are tasked with hundreds of responsibilities when starting a business. On top of hiring, financing, and building their product, early-stage founders are generally responsible for developing initial strategies — this includes the earliest sales and market strategies.

In this article, we will look to help you craft a successful SaaS sales strategy. We’ll highlight the elements you will want to think of when you start to build your sales motion. This will help your team to understand how to measure the number of potential customers in your pipeline and the growth potential you might see in your revenue numbers.

How are SaaS sales different from other types of sales?

Like any sales strategy, it is important to start with the basics when looking at a SaaS sales strategy. At the top of your funnel, you have marketing leads that likely find your brand via content, word of mouth, paid ads, your own product, etc.

From here, leads are moved through the funnel. In the middle, SaaS companies can leverage email campaigns, events, product demos, etc. to move leads to the bottom of their funnel. However, as the SaaS buying experience takes place fully online — sales and marketing organizations can be creative with their approach. The online experience allows companies to track more robust data than ever before. Additionally, SaaS products have turned into their own growth levers as well — the ability to manipulate pricing and plans has led to the ability for companies to leverage their own product for growth.

Related Resource: How SaaS Companies Can Best Leverage a Product-led Growth Strategy

The online presence and emergence of product-led growth have led to new sales strategies unique to SaaS companies. Learn more below:

3 Popular SaaS sales models

There are countless ways to structure your Saas sales strategy. For the sake of this post, we’ll focus on 3 of the most popular strategies. Learn more about the self-service model, transactional model, and enterprise sales model below:

Related Resource: The SaaS Business Model: How and Why it Works

Self-service model

The self-service model allows prospects to become customers without communicating with your team. As put by the team at ProductLed, “A SaaS self-serve model is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than rely on a dedicated Sales team to prospect, educate, and close sales, you design a system that allows customers to serve themselves. The quality of the product itself does all the selling.” This strategy is typically best for a strong and simple product that typically has a lower contract size.

Transactional sales model

The transactional model allows you to create income-generating actions where prospects have to become a customer at that point in time. This requires transactional sales models to have high-volume sales that can be supported by a strong sales and customer support team.

Enterprise sales model

The enterprise model is a strategy to sell more robust software packages to corporations – you will need baked-in features in a prepackaged manner to sell to a fellow business. Enterprise sales is the model that shares the most similarities with a traditional B2B sales funnel.

Inbound vs outbound sales

In a Saas sales funnel, you are constantly looking to consistently fill your sales funnel with fresh prospects. Once you have prospects you will look to find which prospects are worthy of being qualified and have a high likelihood of converting so you can spend your time communicating with those high-quality prospects.

There are two popular strategies for creating fresh prospects that would be defined as inbound and outbound sales strategies. Inbound sales is when you invest in marketing to create prospects reaching out to you – fresh prospects reaching out to your business to ask about your software product. As put by the team at HubSpot:

Inbound sales organizations use a sales process that is personalized, helpful, and directly focused on prospects’ pain points throughout their buyer’s journey. During inbound sales, buyers move through three key phases: awareness, consideration, and decision (which we’ll discuss further below). While buyers go through these three phases, sales teams go through four different actions that will help them support qualified leads into becoming opportunities and eventually customers: identify, connect, explore, and advise.”

An inbound strategy typically works best for SaaS companies that need a greater volume of customers and can nurture them and move them through their funnel at scale (e.g. self-service model)

Outbound sales on the other hand are having members of your organization reach out to potential prospects to see if they would be interested in using your service. Outbound sales require highly targeted and proactive pushing of your messaging to customers.

Generally, outbound sales require dedicated team members to manually prospect and reach out to potential customers. This means that outbound sales organizations do not naturally scale as well as an inbound sales organizations and will likely require a higher contract value. An enterprise model would rely heavily on Outbound sales, while a self-service business model will rely heavily on Inbound sales.

The SaaS Sales Process

The best Saas sales strategy will be a hybrid of inbound and outbound sales, but all of them should include a sales funnel. This funnel should have stages that help to qualify your prospects. These stages should be:

Step 1: Lead generation

This activity is often times a marketing activity that gives you contact or business information to explore the fit further

Step 2: Prospecting

This is where you develop the bio of who is the contact you are reaching out to within the organization. It is always helpful to prospect for someone who can make a buying decision

Step 3: Qualifying

In this step, you need to understand whether the prospect has the resources to pay for your product and the problem that your product can solve. This step is often the time for you to ask questions of your prospects

Step 4: Demos and presenting

This is when you will share the features and capabilities of your product with the qualified prospect. You want to show them the different features and where they can get the most value.

Step 5: Closing the deal

After your demo or a presenting call, the prospect should be pushed to a point where they need to make a decision on whether to buy your product.

Step 6: Nurturing

Once someone becomes a customer, you need to make sure to nurture them and grow your product offering with their business. This is the most difficult stage. Make sure to share your new product releases, stay in tune with how they are using your product, and build relationships with your customers.

Cultivating a robust sales team

To create a sustaining sales team, it is important to hire talented and tenacious people to own your sales funnel. They will need to track conversion numbers, stay organized with their outreach to prospects, and grow your funnel over time.

There are three key roles within a Saas sales funnel. Those positions within your organization are:

Sales development representatives

(also known as business development representatives) These members of your team own lead generation, prospecting, and qualifying potential customers on your sales team. They get paid 40-60k/year depending on geographical location and experience. They should be tasked with outreach and drumming up new business.

Account executives

Account executives should focus on giving product demos, closing deals, and nurturing existing customers. They should be a bit more buttoned up in their approach and have a commission incentive associated with the # of accounts they manage.

Sales managers/VPs

Sales managers and Vice presidents of sales should take ownership of the data within your sales pipelines. Numbers like # of new leads, # of new qualified leads, # of new customers, # of churned customers, amount of new revenue, and lead to customer conversion %. Growing these sales numbers each quarter. Measuring these numbers weekly, monthly, and quarterly. Making them visible to the rest of the company regularly.

8 Key Elements of a successful SaaS sales strategy

One of the most important elements of building a successful business is having a like-minded team around you to support and work with you. Make sure to align with all your team members and hire people with good work ethics and similar values of your company. A good sales team should be competitive, goal-oriented, and metric-driven. The sales managers and VPs will be really crucial in shaping the team dynamics and culture of your business. Hire great people and the numbers will take care of themselves!

We’ve identified 8 elements of a successful sales strategy that every Saas sales strategy should include

1. Solidify your value proposition

It is so important to understand thoroughly and communicate your product’s core value proposition. If someone decides to buy your product, they should know how to use the product and how to get the most out of it.

2. Superb communication with prospects

Communication is of the utmost importance. Make sure your prospects understand your product and how it will help their business. Inform them of new product updates

3. Strategic trial periods

An effective strategy is to give potential customers a free trial of your product to understand your value proposition. You want to make sure not to make this trial period too short or too long. Make it strategic so the prospect will understand the value prop but also be encouraged to make a buying decision.

4. Track the right SaaS metrics

Tracking your core metrics is vital to success. See a few of those below:

Customer Acquisition Cost – the amount of money it takes to acquire a new customer

Customer Lifetime Value – the amount of value a customer provides your company over the course of their relationship with you as a customer.

Lead velocity rate – the growth percentage of qualified leads month over month. This will help you understand how quickly you are qualifying your leads

Related Resources: Our Ultimate Guide to SaaS Metrics & How To Calculate and Interpret Your SaaS Magic Number

5. Develop a sales playbook

Every successful sales management team should develop a playbook on how to deploy their resources and where each team member should spend their time. Playbooks are often thought of in sports terms, but they also work wonders in the business world. They will help you do things efficiently and effectively.

6. Set effective sales goals

How many new customers does your business hope to bring in next month? This is an important question and one your whole sales team should understand and work towards!

7. Utilize the right tools to enhance the process

Your team should have all the resources at their disposal to communicate effectively and track their metrics. As you build out your strategy and team, be sure to give them all possible resources at their disposal. There are tons of great tools out there for teams to make the most out of their time and have direct methods of communication with customers and one another.

8. Establish an effective customer support program

A huge part of an effective sales strategy is welcoming potential customers and making sure your existing customers are not forgotten about. When customers reach out, it is important to talk and listen to their issues. Understand what they are needing so your product can continue to evolve.

Make sure anyone getting introduced to your product will also have the information they need to use your product successfully. It might be helpful to include this member of your team in your sales meetings and keep them informed as to messaging and efforts for growth!

Generate support for your startup with Visible

Developing a successful SaaS sales strategy is not an easy task. It will take a hybrid approach of many of the elements listed in this article and will need attentive members of your team to nurture it and test new things. We created Visible to help founders have a better chance for success. Stay in the loop with the best resources to build and scale your startup with our newsletter, the Visible Weekly — subscribe here.

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