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18 SaaS Sales Process Steps to Win Deals

18 SaaS Sales Process Steps to Win Deals

Irina Linnik
November 10, 2019

saas sales

It’s no secret that the SaaS industry is a great space to be in career-wise — it has been picking up steam and is expected to reach a mind-blowing $85 billion by the end of this year. Considering the number of new businesses popping out on a daily basis, SaaS products now face tight competition and company owners have to go the extra mile in order to remain competitive. But just like any other sales process, the SaaS sales process requires very different steps.

Selling SaaS products is different from selling other software solutions. There are lots of peculiarities to consider and dozens of tips and tricks that are recommended by the industry experts. Pretty easy to get confused, isn’t it? Luckily, there’s a set of universal rules that will help you boost your sales in no time!

So, what’s so unique about selling SaaS?

Should you treat selling in SaaS differently than other types of products?

Actually, yes. Since SaaS providers take full care of their products from start to finish, the product itself turns out to be more pricey and usually has a longer sales cycle. As well, SaaS salespeople have to keep in close touch with the marketing department in order to successfully promote and sell the product.

Here are a few distinctive features of SaaS-product selling process:

  • Longer sales cycle
  • More touchpoints
  • Close collaboration with marketing
  • An option to try a product for free
  • Different selling options depending on different product types

As you can see, the selling process seems quite intricate and requires a lot of flexibility and skills. While every SaaS company will have its own unique selling strategy, there are still some best practices to follow and build your strategy upon.

Here are the top steps to keep in mind in the SaaS sales process:

1. Watch the trial duration

For sure, you’ve come across services and products that offer a 30-day free trial – but do you really need so much time to decide?

Even though SaaS experts state that 14 days is more than enough for a trial, companies continue making a mistake of offering one month of free product use. And this actually brings more harm than benefit to the company, even though at a first glance it seems that longer trial equals happy customers.

Think about that: On average, a person needs just a few days to decide whether they like the product or not. When you buy a new pair of shoes, you won’t wear them for a month just to realize that all this time they’ve been uncomfortable and did not match with any outfit at all. Same with SaaS.

You don’t need so much time to decide whether it’s a good product for your business – in most cases, people make their mind in three days only and then they either buy it or leave and never come back. If you aren’t convinced yet, then take a look at your analytics and see how long the users actually spend with your product and whether they log in after a week of a free trial.

Shorter trial means faster decision-making. This, in turn, automatically shortens the sales cycle. In addition to that, people perceive short trials more seriously than long ones and that adds to the product’s reliability and customers’ engagement.

2. Don’t hesitate to call your users

One of the biggest mistakes that many companies make when selling their SaaS product is not contacting the trial users immediately after they sign-up. They usually leave it until the last minute, following the strategy of “leaving users to their own devices.”

While it makes sense in theory, it doesn’t work so well in reality. In fact, by not contacting your prospects right after they sign up, you are missing a significant number of potential buyers. Here are just a few reasons to call them right away:

  • You will reach them “fresh”: the moment the users signs up for a trial, you call them and can faster persuade to buy.
  • You can listen to the objections and handle them: if you don’t talk to a person, you will never know what he didn’t like about the product.
  • You can offer a perfect solution for every customer: by learning about their problem, you can offer a product that will best suit their needs.

Of course, this strategy won’t work for every SaaS product. It applies to B2B only. Netflix sure doesn’t call every person who signs up for a trial. But if you’re selling enterprise-grade solutions, this method can significantly boost your sales.

3. Invest heavily in personalization

If you’re an account manager, then you know how important it is to check in with trial users to learn more about their needs, upsell, and close the deal. 

When it comes to closing deals, personalization is the key to your customers’ hearts. People expect personalized solutions and services and respond much better to them than to more generic offers.

If we take email personalization as an example, the data says that personalized emails have a 6X higher transaction rate. So if you haven’t done so yet, it’s time to add a bit of personalization to your offers!

Start with your email address. Many companies send emails from support@companyx.com or similar mailboxes. However, a customer will be way more willing to open your email if it says jack@companyx.com. This little trick can increase the opening rate and promotes better engagement.

Another thing that you can do is personalize the actual email. Always include the customer’s name and write the email in an engaging manner. An important note here: choose a tone that will resonate with your target audience and customers – but don’t make it too dry! 

4. Use email automation

When selling SaaS products, it’s important to reach customers in a timely manner in order to retain them. But when you are occupied with dozens of different tasks, you simply forget that the customer needs a follow-up. This is where email automation steps in and saves the day.

There are several cases when you 100% need automated emails:

  • After the person signed up for a trial
  • If the person chooses to cancel the trial
  • When the trial is about to expire

In all these cases, a timely sent email can recover the customer and persuade them to try another product or pay for the subscription. And don’t worry about sending too many emails: during a 14-day trial, it’s perfectly normal to send at least 4-5 emails to a customer to build a relationship and engage.

5. Offer as much value as possible

With all the competition in SaaS, users need additional value to choose the product of their dreams.

If we look at Mailchimp, for example, we’ll see that the company offers a variety of free eBooks to its customers. That’s a really smart decision as these eBooks serve as an added value for the product users. 

With enterprise-grade solutions, you can offer regular whitepapers, free guides, and books, or video tutorials as educational materials that your clients can use and apply. An example to inspire you is free video library offered by Salesforce. It has dozens of free videos that Salesforce clients can access and use for growing their own business.

6. Remember the key metrics

Some companies claim they are too small for keeping an eye on the metrics. And that’s a big mistake that prevents them from growing.

Metrics are a must if you want to succeed.They tell you what’s going on in your business and how your customers act as well as they help pinpoint the problem areas and find the most efficient solution.

Here are some of the key metrics for SaaS sales:

  • Churn: the percentage of lost customers,
  • MRR: monthly recurring revenue aka the income that your company receives every months,
  • CAC: customer acquisition cost means s a cost of persuading a customer to buy your product,
  • NPS: net promoter score indicates the level of a customer’s satisfaction with your product
  • ARPA: average revenue per account shows the amount of revenue generated by one account over a specific period.

These metrics help the company better understand which areas are the pain points and which areas are “safe”. One more important thing to remember here: use marketing metrics as well. By tracking the number of visitors, conversion rate, number of sign-ups for trials and other activities, you’ll be able to better optimize the actual sales process.

7. Use multiple pipelines

Many people confuse a sales funnel and a sales pipeline, but they’re not the same at all. A sales funnel is about the user’s journey while a sales pipeline is about the deals.

A pipeline shows the stages of the sales process that the salesperson goes through in order to close the deal. In a perfect world, the sales pipeline aligns with sales funnel so you might want to optimize that.

Getting back to the topic, for SaaS companies, it’s recommended to have multiple pipelines like a sales pipeline and an onboarding pipeline. In this case, a sales pipeline will include such stages as the product’s presentation, follow-up, and negotiation, while the onboarding pipeline will comprise user training, adoption, and configuration stages.

For SaaS, multiple pipelines are helpful as they make sure nothing important is missed. Considering the number of processes that a SaaS company manages, multiple pipelines help to take better care of them and make sure the client remains satisfied at every touchpoint.

8. Ensure your sales team knows the product inside out

When offering a SaaS product to a customer, you want to go beyond talking about just features.

The key is to focus on the benefits. A salesperson needs to know everything about the product in case a customer describes a particular problem and asks for the possible solutions.

While many salespeople can easily bang out a speech on the product features, not all of them can explain the real value, hold an exciting demo or provide multiple suggestions for a particular client’s request. It takes deep knowledge of a product mixed with creativity and passion to get the customer engaged and interested. 

Thus, before selling the product to the customers, double-check that your sales team understands the product and knows both its pros and cons. By being honest with the customer, you show the expertise and sound more trustworthy than companies who emphasize the benefits while leaving the issues behind.

9. Optimize your demos

Demos serve a very important purpose: they educate the customer about the product and display its best features. But in an attempt to sell, a sales rep can sometimes go too far and the demo turns into a full-fledge training session, resulting in the customer’s boredom and annoyance. And what can be worse than a bored and annoyed customer?

So the first thing to remember about your demos: keep them short! 

A 10-15 minute demo is more than enough to highlight the biggest product benefits while 30 minutes (or even more) will cause nothing but boredom.

Another mistake that many salespeople do is talking about the product features while ignoring its benefits. By that we mean the following: a salesperson gives the same speech to all potential prospects but forgets to highlight the individual benefits of a product for every customer. 

A good demo shows how a product can solve one’s problem – keep that in mind when creating your next demo.

10. Don’t hesitate to be persistent

SaaS products tend to have a longer sales cycle.

That means your salespeople will have to interact with the customers more times compared to selling an ordinary product.

On average, it takes about 18 dials to connect with a prospect and at least one call per week to follow-up. If you think that’s too much, don’t worry: on average, a good salesperson makes about 50 calls per day and that’s not the maximal number of calls one can make.

You can make a call or send an email follow-up once a week. If the person doesn’t give you the answer for more than three weeks, continue following up once in two weeks. The thing is, if a person doesn’t answer right away, chances are high you might persuade them to buy. Maybe they didn’t have enough time to make a decision or maybe something bothers them – use follow-ups as a way to learn about their doubts and providing them with the right arguments.

11. Know when to walk away from a deal

Saying “no” to a deal doesn’t naturally come to mind in many situations. You’ve got a customer, willing and ready to buy the product and handle the hard-earned cash right in your hands – and you are saying no to it.

Crazy, right?

But an experienced sales rep knows when a customer will bring the company more harm than profit.

On one hand, everything is crystal clear: a person is interested in your product and is willing to pay for it. On the other hand, “bad” customers have lots of issues with their business, constantly demand support and maintenance from your team and eventually they just churn.

A good way to identify such customers is to answer the following questions:

  • Who is your perfect customer?
  • What are their needs?
  • How are they going to make a decision?
  • Does your product/service satisfy their needs?

By exactly knowing your target audience and their needs, it will be easier for you to contact the right people and provide them with the right solution.

12. List down the possible objections

SaaS industry is moving at a lightning-fast speed, with the requirements for the products changing at a regular base. Don’t forget the tight competition and you’ll understand that your salespeople need to be really flexible and adaptive when it comes to offering and promoting a product.

One trick that can help you sell better is listing down all the possible objections and crafting convincing responses for each. Once you know the possible (and real!) objections of your target audience, you can use the knowledge and product features to convince a person why the product’s pros outweigh the possible cons.

13. Choose the most suitable CRM

Don’t overlook the benefits of using various technologies to optimize and streamline your sales process! And number one on your list should be a customer relationship management system, known as CRM.

A good CRM brings numerous benefits to the company:

  • Automation of work processes
  • Visual display of important data
  • Optimization of work 
  • Built-in analytics
  • Accurate tracking of all interactions and touchpoints

There are dozens of CRM solutions out there and each claims to be the best one. But in order to leverage your sales processes and get tangible results, don’t go for any popular CMR – choose the one that’ll work the best for your specific company. A good CRM should be easy to use, intuitive, and have a quick learning curve. As well, look for the system that provides deep insights and good analytics so that you can adjust your selling strategy and easily identify the problem areas that require attention.

14. Prepare for communication with the clients

Talk with a potential client should never be an impromptu if you really want to sell. Rather than improvising and failing, here are a few things that every good salesperson should do.

15. Prepare the speech and the possible questions

Once you know your potential client, prepare a script that you are going to follow during the conversation. The script should include the value that the product will bring to the customer and the main product benefits. Such a script greatly helps as you will be confident in your words and prepared for the possible questions and/or objections.

16. Ask thoughtful questions

In order to find out the exact needs of a person, ask open-ended questions and go with one question at a time. Do not bombard the person with questions and give them time to think of their answers. As for the open-ended questions, they leave you a hole to identify the client’s problem and offer a solution.

17. Don’t ask aggressive questions

We already said that persistence is the key. But when communicating with the client, don’t ask straightforward deal-closing questions like “Are we closing the deal now?”

A good salesperson asks the deal-closing questions but does so in a subtle manner. In this way, there are more chances a person will agree to close the deal without feeling forced to.

18. Always think value 

One more common mistake that many SaaS startups make is lowering the price of their product in fear that the customer would hesitate to buy an expensive product. But in reality, the situation is quite the opposite.

People trust expensive products more as they feel that the price is justified by the quality. Vice versa, if the price is relatively low and you offer a 30-day trial, it may feel as if you are desperate to sell.

Remember how much effort you put into creating your product and charge correspondingly. And always emphasize value for the individual customer during the conversations with the clients – this will show your expertise and confidence in own words.

Summary

Selling SaaS products is tricky but once you figure out your strategy and outline the whole process, you will be amazed at how smooth your sales will go. Before starting to sell, you need to:

  • Assemble a strong and reliable team of sales pros
  • Identify your target audience and the needs of the customers
  • Outline the biggest product benefits and value
  • Analyze the competition to prepare the arguments why clients should choose you

Without this preliminary work, you will inevitably experience multiple difficulties as you will have to fix the issues alongside the selling process. So make sure to invest some time and effort into getting ready to sell your product to the people who need it – and you’ll be amazed at the results. 



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