Let’s talk about the biggest paradigm shift that SaaS has ever seen. It’s happening right now, and your SaaS sales process will never look the same again.
Did you know that in the last 3 decades, more than half of the top 20 companies were completely new players? What’s more, in the past year – 14 of the top 50 companies were SaaS, displacing old technologies.
The world’s biggest businesses were doing fine until COVID-19 hit. Now they’re doing even better.
The opportunity advantage for a powerhouse SaaS sales process is so apparent to me, so my goal on the blog today is to open some eyes and ruffle some feathers. This next wave of innovation (metaverse, crypto, web3…) can be the wave that carries a SaaS company to the very peak of success – or it could be the wave that wipes it out beyond relief or repair.
Sales for SaaS is different in 2022. Let’s look at how.
What is SaaS (with examples!)
Let’s take a quick walk down memory lane: back when selling software at scale was a monumental investment of time and money. It was downright hard.
Get this. Before the internet and cloud computing, a salesperson would meet a prospect in person, give a detailed presentation, assure and reassure the prospect on budget and timelines, and even assist with install. They might even wine and dine a prospect. Why all the pageantry?
For the prospect, new software meant:
- costly computing upgrades that involved IT investment
- moving millions of data points to new software in a slow, painstaking process
- possible breakdowns with days of outages
Now, for businesses operating in a cloud-based system, it all happens at the click of a button.
Do you see how that changed everything? Now Software as a Service, a subscription-based sales model, is everywhere.
You probably know what SaaS is… but, SaaS products like SalesForce, Hubspot, and Slack range in price from just a few bucks per month to thousands per month (Hubspot’s top plan is $7,000 monthly). They get even more expensive with more customized solutions. We’re talking price tags well into the millions per year.
The Big Upheaval: Cloud-based Computing
It used to be that when the average person purchased a computer they would pay premiums for faster speed, more memory space, and software packages like Excel, Norton Antivirus, and Microsoft Word pre-installed on their computer.
Microsoft enjoyed a long reign as the king of software until cloud computing threatened the throne. Google made SaaS products like Google Sheets and Google Docs available, and then offered a mind-bogglingly inexpensive, stripped down computer (the Chromebook) that was designed exclusively for cloud-based computing. And how does Google make its money? From user data and advertisements. Today, many apps for smartphones use this revenue model where ads are shown and data is collected in exchange for “free” software services.
Now everyone wants in on SaaS, and most sell a subscription in exchange for the service. Even production companies like Paramount now see themselves as a type of SaaS company, coming out with Paramount+ as a streaming app to watch videos, shows, and news.
Targeting Your Audience (what NOT to do)
We are all familiar with being on the consumer’s end of great SaaS. But what about doing SaaS sales on a B2B level? Well, sales around SaaS is having an identity crisis – it has forgotten its appeal and gotten flabby.
Gone are the glory days of the in-person visit and concierge level service.
Today, solicitations are a gross dogpile on LinkedIn. You can smell it’s Q4 because everything in an executive’s inbox is sticky with salespeople’s sweat (don’t be a sweaty-palm salesperson!).
Anyone with the title of CEO, Founder, CMO, or any other C-Level roles are getting totally overrun on LinkedIn. I know of several CEOs who get childlike enjoyment from hitting the “delete all” button. What a C-Level executive would most like to do is to get away from sloppy SaaS salespeople and back to the zen of inbox zero.
The SaaS sales method and approach may be all wrong, but the aim should still be C-Level. Yes, we want the decision maker, we don’t want to waste time down the ladder if we can help it. But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this.
Selling Saas to SMBs (small to mid-sized businesses)
Small to mid-sized businesses have a shorter sales cycle and are less complex to navigate structurally compared to enterprise companies. SMBs can be a goldmine, and many SaaS products are made specifically with this target market in mind.
Is it all it’s cracked up to be? These smaller businesses can come with their share of headaches though – they surprisingly often need more hand holding as they don’t have a dedicated staff to onboard the product. Their data might be siloed in old software systems, locked behind old logins. Their budgets are smaller with less margin, so it takes some intentional work to make these smaller customers a win-win.
You can still become the SMB’s darling by allowing easy online signup and integrations galore. But a word of warning: hopefully, you can train your prospects to be self-served. Avoiding a sales call is a good bet in this case, lest the salesperson be mistaken for the IT helpdesk. It’s so much easier to have a “buy now” button on your site, if your price tag is low enough.
Depending on your product, these are usually lower-ticket SaaS products priced between $20 – $1,000 per month.
Enterprise SaaS Selling
What if you started thinking bigger-picture. As a salesperson looking to secure these cherry-picked deals, you’re in for a longer sales cycle, and will have to navigate a more complex hierarchical system within the company.
But let’s take a sharper aim for a second. What is that one enterprise level customer you want, that you know if you scored for your SaaS company, it would be an absolute game changer?
Got that one in mind? Good. What will it take for you to get them? I’ll tell you that in 2022 and beyond, Zoom is not the personal touch it used to be. It may well require a return to old techniques, more traditional tactics like in-person demos. And of course it will require a level of rapport, earned trust and confidence that feels impossible to you right now.
These SaaS products are often “transactional” and require more of the sales person because they cost more. Remember, SaaS products can have a price tag of hundreds of thousands to millions. And we’ll get more into scoring these big whale customers in just a bit.
The Sales Cycle
Remember how I mentioned the dog heap on LinkedIn? Avoid the costly mistake of ruining your SaaS brand with the big gaffes.
1. B2B SaaS lead generation
The fact is, if you haven’t done a great job of lead generation then you are still in the dark about the prospect. Think you know enough after gathering business size, industry, and an employee’s title? You must admit that you still know very little.
A great lead generation system will excite the prospect about a sales call as well as equip you with a prospect’s pain points and other key pieces of data. Lead gen could look like a great advertisement, whitepaper, email drip series, and more.
But if you plan to cold call your SaaS prospect based on their role alone (this shows a woeful lack of knowledge), at least make that first touch an honest one. Now, don’t get me wrong, cold calling is tremendously effective, but only when done right.
2. Qualify your leads
What most SaaS salespeople do here is send out a series of pathetic emails.
On Day 1 it’s a clueless one-sided email about how magical your software product is.
Three days later you message the prospect again “just in case” they missed your earlier email.
3 to 4 days later yet another email…”I know you are busy, just wanted to be on the top of your messages in case you missed this”. And on and on.
Wow! The craziest thing about this behavior is the very notion that you can in-mail/message a C-level executive multiple times without really annoying them.
Don’t be like them. Qualify through conversation. Get on the phone. Call them!
And don’t forget, B.A.N.T. can be your friend here. When qualifying, be sure you’re picking up on your prospect’s budget, authority, need, and timing.
Most importantly, qualify through listening. You shouldn’t be doing the talking during this stage – instead, focus on being the best listener you can be.
3. Book sales appointments and demos
If you really want to book a SaaS sales demo, the best way is to catch the prospect by phone. When you do, you immediately have 5 seconds of their attention to build value, and every 5 seconds of value buys you an additional 10 seconds of their attention to sell your SaaS product. How can you build value in 5 seconds?
Done right, these three equate to confidence and result in conversions.
4. Close the sale
This is my favorite part. I wouldn’t be in sales if it weren’t.
Even if your SaaS product is the established gold-standard in the marketplace, please have the respect to sell with heart. There are still naysayers to convince or drown out, and there are people on the other side of the table who have championed you from within. It’s time to make them proud. A product demo is almost always a required step for enterprise level users because they have so many stakeholders to convince. And during the close of your demo is your time to shine.
Particularly if you’re working for a SaaS company that is leading edge, then you may be on the hunt for early adopters. Your demo should communicate ideas about the future world, not just your product or service. You are looking for people that will share a broader vision. Allow for a demo that is very inclusive of the prospect and treats them more like a partner.
When the time comes, position your close from that future vision.
5. Deliver the best software as a service
This one should go without saying, but I’ll say it: Deliver the absolute BEST SaaS that you possibly can! Don’t overlook this final step.
Finding a Trial Period Sweet Spot
A trial can whet the appetite, even if it’s not the right time for your prospect to buy. Being a go-giver is always looked upon favorably. Just don’t be stingy – if a prospect needs a period for team members in different departments to trial, make a way.
On the other hand, too long of a trial is no good. How long of a trial is too long?
There is no one-size fits all approach to this, because every SaaS solution is different. It never hurts to ask a prospect and work to get a custom fit, so keep testing!
Biggest Challenges Selling SaaS
Selling SaaS is exciting and it just might be the sexiest industry for sales, but it requires patience.
With small and mid-size SaaS companies, the main challenge will likely be a saturated market. The prospect may want to do a lot of research, testing, and product comparisons before buying. If you don’t have someone with an “in” be sure your key differentiators are clear, and don’t forget to constantly build the relationship.
For large and enterprise companies, the barriers are indeed different. The most pervasive and frustrating challenge you will find is the one thing that technology can’t surmount – it’s relationships. Once a company reaches a certain size, there is a veil between those within the C-suite and those without. It’s amazing how quickly and precipitously big decisions can be made when someone with the right level of authority becomes convinced. Get this right, and you have it made.
Keep Your SaaS Churn Rate in Mind
A monthly subscription is designed to make it easy to make the initial sale, by lowering the price point to such a degree that the customer can’t say no. But that initial sale should not end there. Always be selling the annual plan. If you don’t have salespeople dedicated to winning customers to the annual plan, this is a low-hanging fruit. This will reduce your churn rate (the number of people dropping out of your service) because you have them on a contract that is not month-to-month. The benefits are obvious.
B2B SaaS Accelerator
There is a strategy to accelerate SaaS growth that works worlds better than anything else these days. Again, all the most beautiful social media and graphics, all the inMail you can buy on LinkedIn will not impress anyone of any sway. These days, you have to think bigger than the internet.
Do you know what works? Picking up the phone. Calling decision makers! Get out of the dog heap and find your place. I urge you to try it. If you’re not sure where to get the phone numbers or have the call go well (the way I explained in #3), then pass the phone to us. This is what we do, this is what we live and breathe.
As the world shifts to a fully digital playing field, SaaS companies have to stay alert to new sales techniques that will help them make the right impression. If you are relying on LinkedIn or your marketing team to produce qualified leads for you, then you will not grow fast enough to survive the coming shifts.
Recall the world of just 15 years ago, when SaaS wasn’t a thing. The world is changing again, as we move to the metaverse and new forms of currency. It is time to master the art of in-person selling and cold-calling. Although it may seem counterintuitive, this is the big opportunity.
I believe in you, as a SaaS leader, that you and your company will make it through this next evolution. Remember – keep growing those skills that are unique to you. Build upon your talents daily. Your SaaS sales acumen has to be bigger than the internet. When the world around you changes, your best asset is not a specific sales system or a novel approach – it’s you.
Until next time,