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Many believe that "sales is sales," and that the fundamentals of the process are the same whether you traffic in agricultural commodities or commercial jet aircraft. It's true in a sense; the basic requirements of a successful sales strategy remain the same regardless of the product, including connecting with a customer, communicating value, and understanding their pain points. That doesn't mean however, that different industries don't experience their own unique complications on top of those fundamentals, and this is certainly true when you consider sales operations within SaaS startups.
The SaaS industry has emerged so quickly and evolves at a rapid pace, making it hard to stick to any one sales playbook for an indefinite period. This can lead many SaaS sales leaders to question what specific circumstances related to their industry affect their processes the most. In order to build upon sales best practices that you would incorporate in any type of company and create specific avenues for maximizing your success in SaaS sales, these are the five questions you should be asking about your strategy.
1. Does our training program emphasize the ability to create powerful long-distance connections?
Unless you're in the minority, your SaaS organization probably focuses entirely on inside sales to grow your business. For this reason, SaaS sales reps are often required to create a lasting connection with prospects having never met face-to-face. Some sales professionals inherently excel at forging a long-distance connection, while others rely more on the non-verbal cues and other dynamics that make in-person communication unique. It doesn't mean that they're ineffective salespeople, it just means that your organization needs to take extra care to set them up to succeed in this environment.
2. Could we get more reliable results by switching to account-based sales?
It seems like the account-based sales model is on every B2B organization's mind these days, and this is especially true when it comes to SaaS startups. Products and organizational structures are both increasing in complexity, which has led to an increase in the number of key decision-makers in any B2B purchasing decision. By allowing sales reps to service an entire company and try to grow revenue from within it rather than expending energy and resources going after leads that have a much lower likelihood of materializing, you may be able to scale your growth more dynamically. Not only are clients more often satisfied, since they can get reliably excellent service from their point-person no matter who in the company makes contact, but the sales reps typically find it to be preferable as well. They can leverage previously-established relationships at the company to drive revenue, and use every tool in their sales toolbox to deliver a unique, customized experience for the client.
3. Are we focusing on improving the metrics that the board really cares about?
At the end of the day, the board of directors is going to have a significant say in the future of the company, and it's up to SaaS sales leaders to deliver results in the metrics they care about (which aren't necessarily the ones that are prized within the sales department). While sales managers at other types of businesses can often focus on low-level KPIs such as new bookings or opportunity win rate, the board likely wants to look at big-picture results that impact the long-term prospects of the organization in various ways. They'll be paying attention to revenue growth, of course, but they're also probably going to scrutinize the churn rate of clients. Studies have shown that minimizing churn, or even getting to negative rates of churn, can lead to exponentially-higher valuation rates for SaaS companies.
4. Is our hiring process optimized to produce technologically-savvy, adaptable SaaS sales reps?
While every sales rep has to be fluent in the language of their industry in order to be successful, SaaS requires an even more specialized level of technical comfort. Both the types of products, and the customers' buying environments change rapidly in the SaaS world, and sales reps must be able to learn new technological processes and adapt quickly in order to stay ahead of the curve.
5. Does the customer onboarding program create opportunities to deliver an outstanding customer experience?
The customer onboarding period is crucial for building long-term client relationships in SaaS, and the sales department needs to take an active role in helping to ensure that customers receive the best experience with the products. It's important to train sales reps to get intimately involved in the onboarding process through various measures, such as soliciting feedback from the customers to build a better process, and coordinating requests and events across several different business units. Building a great onboarding program can help you reduce churn and maximize revenue from an existing account.
Danny Wong is the co-founder of Blank Label, an award-winning luxury menswear company. He also leads marketing for Receiptful, a platform to supercharge all customer interactions for eCommerce stores, and Tenfold, a seamless click-to-dial solution for high-performance sales teams. To connect, tweet him @dannywong1190 or message him on LinkedIn. For more of his clips, visit his portfolio.