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How To Sell Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Amit Ashwini
February 1, 2017

Working on cold outreach after scouting for a bunch of prospects through a witty hack doesn’t have the same impact as it did a few years ago. With SaaS applications, we like to convince ourselves the products are so great, so fast to deploy, so easy to use that the product sells itself. Taking the popularity of freemium-to-premium models for SaaS, it’s clear where that tale comes from. But as many figure out to their shock, when they try to expand to more departments in a government agency or large company, after landing users, this is extremely untrue. SaaS products don’t sell themselves, even with early viral growth.

And you might have landed a fancy client, but that doesn’t mean you can keep that sliver of business, let alone cross-sell, upsell, or sell across more divisions which could span many geographies. Doing so would require creating an outside sales team on top of the inside team. It’s exactly when the product feels like it is selling itself that building out this process and sales team is critical. Stalling or stopping at this point might expose you to competition and lose you the race to be number one in your category. Below are a few more points to keep in mind when it comes to selling SaaS products.

  • Way too many SaaS startups believe that they’re too small to worry about their metrics. Understanding the business metrics will help you figure out what decisions are costing your business too much money, even at a small scale, and help you figure out what choices are working well and which aren't. Metrics could prove to be the difference between a manageable one and a surprise spike in churn. It is the difference between realizing which outreach approach is not working and which is.
  • Data is great, but it's the insight you gain from the data that makes data great. So understanding how to use your metrics effectively becomes the key to being an effective sales leader. Whether it is finding out what landing pages are driving the most relevant leads or figuring out which outbound emails are being opened when you send them, the insights you gather from data is the key. Now, data isn’t only about the figures you see on the dashboard. Gather qualitative data by talking and surveying your users as well.
  • Content does play a huge role in SaaS sales, but it’s only a piece of the puzzle. The amount of content out there is at an all-time high. Therefore, it’s more challenging than ever to create content that adds additional value. It’s not enough to create an ebook, publish a white paper or write a blog post, expecting the world to take notice. Content creation is just a part of the puzzle when it comes to content marketing. Once the content is created, you have to distribute that content effectively. Make sure the content you’re building is aligned with both the goals of sales and marketing.
  • Start selling your SaaS product the day you sign up for the job. If you don't have a product yet, start selling the vision, the solution, and the team. It’s easy to get carried away, spend tons of time testing the market and asking people what they think of your idea. It’s more challenging and more rewarding to find someone who has faith in what you’re doing and willing to hand you a cheque to fill a need a few months in advance. Scout for these people, establish a relationship with them and turn them into your champions.
  • Stop selling products and start selling solutions. People contact you or check your webpage when they have an issue they need solved. But, often, they don’t clearly understand what they need or want. You have to be the expert here. To make selling a conversation that is ongoing, involves user needs, you have to ask the right questions. Questions will also help you figure out how close they are to buying, making the entire journey easier to track in a CRM.
 Staffing your company with professional services, customer-facing resources, customer support, etc. at this stage is an investment that will give good returns not just in increasing your footprint within that account but in building the mightiest sales tool there is: a good reference. Of course, new clients are great, but the best place to sell anything is where you’ve already sold it. So it’s critical that you turn that early customer into an internal advocate and an unassailable external reference. You see, great products and services don’t have to sell themselves. Their champions help sell it for them.
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