It’s good to start with a definition. Even though SaaS has been around for a while, it is still often necessary to define it to customers.
SaaS stands for software as a service. It’s a software that is being hosted, secured, and managed by a single provider. It is easily accessible online, customizable, and comes with its own product engineers and customer success team that are there to serve the users and support the product.
SaaS sales is a process of selling web-based software to potential users. Working in SaaS sales means constantly looking at acquiring new customers and upselling to or retaining current ones.
Are there things that are specific to this sales industry? Is there anything to know in order to be effective in SaaS sales? We’ve asked ourselves these questions and found at least 7 answers. Here’s what you need to know:
Invest in your product
One thing is clear here: you are your own biggest helper and it’s completely up to you how much your customers will be spending on your solutions. A beautiful thing about SaaS sales is the control you have. It is up to you to create and keep adding new features that answer a real need your customers have and it’s also up to you to hire and train a team of excellent support specialists who will be able to guide your users every step of the way.
Aggressive sales aren’t necessary when you have great features and reliable support. And even more to that extent – you can keep adding useful features and especially if it’s based on the feedback your support gathers on the ground, it will be met positively, and your customers will be happy to upgrade, because they will see an actual value for themselves. That’s why probably the most important tip is to invest in your product and never stop doing that so that what you offer is filled with helpful features, and your customers are accompanied by a professional success team that knows every single feature better than the back of their hand and can show your customers how to extract real value from your product to the fullest potential.
Marketing metrics are your friend
A keyword in SaaS sales is tracking. Tracking visitors, trials, subscribers to your newsletters, conversion rates, and much more. The main goal is of course to eventually improve those metrics. As in many SaaS companies this data is managed by the marketing team, it’s very important to keep sales and marketing teams in very close collaboration. Marketing reps can contribute to the planning by providing insights on overall trends while salespeople will be very familiar with what’s happening in the field, they will have a very good feel of individual trends. Marrying the two is crucial.
Another source of data is your product itself. Rather than going with identical scripts and automated emails, studying and creating email campaigns based on marketing metrics and product data such as individual usage limits, nearing expiration date, inactivity, high activity, will let you know when an existing customer might be interested in a premium plan.
Short term relationships cannot provide long-lasting results
It’s not easy to stay in touch with your online customers. It isn’t impossible though. It means that as opposed to those selling face-to-face, SaaS reps will have to have killer communication skills on all fronts: email, calls, and in-person too (or did you forget about all the fun SaaS conferences?).
These skills are imperative in order to create long-lasting relationships with your clients. As we’ve already seen that profit depends on upselling, it’s clear why long-lasting partnerships are important. It also means that your product needs to be so good that people will want to use it and invest in it.
Once you’ve established a loyal customer base, every time you introduce new add-ons it will be easier to immediately test them and receive real feedback and also immediately sell them.
The next step is referrals and testimonials. At some point you might even consider a referral program for the most loyal among your customers, to work for you while you are working for them and bring more customers into the pool.
Say no to competitive pricing and yes to competitive value
Some of these tips are intuitively understood and some not so much. This one definitely belongs to the second category. It all boils down to one thing, essentially: if you’ve never lost customers because you’re too expensive, you’re probably too cheap!
Your users will be happy to pay for a service that solves their actual pain point, so it is just as important for them as it is for you to make sure you are doing well and you are not going to shut down tomorrow leaving them on their own with their problems.
If you do get those complaints it’s tempting to give in and want to lower your prices, but the answer is usually not that your prices are too high, your value isn’t good enough. And the good news is that you can address it! You have a developer team that can make sure that your product answers the real needs people face.
Offer short, on-point demos
SaaS sales is a long process. Actually, it never stops since your customer is there, with you, online, and there’s always a possibility to upsell, but that’s not the whole story. It’s very important to have a sound education process going on because SaaS products aren’t generally known as being an easy thing to use. You will want to offer demo sessions to your customers in order to teach them how to use the product, feel comfortable with it, be less dependent on the support and feel backed at the same time.
In order to achieve it one of the best tools is a very clear, on-point demo, that could be offered to every new client. Depending on your size you can decide whether to offer free individual demos, paid individual demos, or free group demos (webinars), where either only existing, or both existing and potential customers could learn all the major features of your product and become confident users.
The on-boarding process needs a lot of thought
Instinctively you probably know that onboarding is important. But factually, do you know why? We are here to shed some light on it. Think of a time when you joined a gym only to stop going after a month and cancel your membership after 2 or 3 months of hating yourself for having little motivation. Now think about how it can be translated into a software sales scenario. It’s likely that if you have a good initial acquisition process many people will be signing up for trials and even buying subscriptions, but how to make sure they stay and all the cost of acquisition doesn’t go to waste? You need to make sure people understand your product. The complexity of the onboarding process will depend on the complexity of your product. It can be done in one email or call if the product is pretty simple or could mean demo-sessions for new customers, or even an entire cycle of a combination of emails, calls, good feedback generation, demos and webinars for the particularly complex products.
Talking to churned customers is paramount to success
Churning means canceling subscriptions. It’s a common process (most small SaaS businesses tend to have a monthly churn rate of 5-10% according to the 2016 SaaS Metrics Report by Totango) yet many Saas businesses don’t have a specific process to track and contact churned customers.
Here’s why it’s important.
If you can keep your customers for longer, it will bring a consistent increase in revenue without having to generate more leads and spend more money on acquisition. A high churn rate drives up acquisition costs and hurts the customer lifetime value. It indicates that your service isn’t responding to customer needs, and could require further development. Hiring more support or adding new features drives up the running costs as well.
Those companies that have a process of tackling churned customers often use automated emails to do it, but it’s highly likely that customers that quit won’t be responding to your emails, and even if they will, their reasons could be vague and lead you nowhere. Calling a customer could bring in more answers, as well as enhancing your emailing system and taking into consideration the possible specific reasons why this or that customer could have quit with real offers of what they might get if they come back.
In short, whatever you can do to keep the churn rate consistently lower will bring in more reliability and better cash flow to your business.
Hopefully these tips will allow you to better understand how to grow your business to new heights.