With the increasing demand for innovative tech solutions, new SaaS companies are popping up every day.
Even if you’re just starting out, you know the market moves fast. So, your SaaS sales process needs to move just as quickly to secure your desired Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR).
So just how do you create such a sales process?
For starters—and we can’t emphasize this enough—you need to understand that this is the Relationship Era and consumers don’t want to be sold things. They want companies to make an effort to build their trust in order to create a mutually beneficial business relationship.
Keep this in mind while we break down the steps to get you started in creating an effective SaaS sales process.
What makes SaaS sales processes so unique?
Your sales process is everything that happens from when a prospect first comes across your company to eventually buying (or turning away from) your product.
What makes a SaaS sales process unique is the way SaaS businesses are set up: most SaaS companies exclusively offer subscription-based software. This has its pros and cons.
The good news: Once you secure a subscription, you’re guaranteed long-term revenue (so long as you can retain your customers). This also makes it much easier to convince investors to throw money at your business.
The bad news: There is a constant risk of your customers leaving you, and it’s easy for them to—all they need to do is cancel their subscription. So, your retention game better be strong.
It’s important then that your sales process aligns with this business structure, as the sales style you choose could be a make-it-or-break-it decision for your startup.
No worries though, that’s why we research these things (which you’re obviously on top of if you’re reading this post).
Let’s get started, shall we?
Step 1: Define your buyer persona(s).
Who is your ideal customer?
It’s important to know who they are and define them on paper so all the members of your team are aligned on who they’re designing, marketing, or selling the software to.
These definitions are called your buyer personas. Once you know who your buyers are, you’ll be able to figure out how to sell to them.
Some of the details to include in your buyer personas are:
- Short bio
- Defining personality traits
Check out this example of a buyer persona:
A sales process without a buyer persona is like shooting in the dark. You can’t effectively target buyers if you don’t know who you’re aiming to reach.
Speed up the process.
Learn how to speed up the sales process in this webinar with DocuSign.
Step 2: Lay a foundation for your pipeline.
Your sales pipeline is where leads enter into and the stages they go through before eventually exiting the pipeline—hopefully, as a new customer.
Investing in a good CRM will give you an effective foundation to build your sales pipeline on.
Like we touched on earlier, the modern-day sales process of the Relationship Era focuses on building customer relationships. So, it’s important to use a relationship-first CRM that empowers you to build stellar customer relationships with the prospects that come through your pipeline, as well as effectively manage them in a centralized location.
Setting up your pipeline stages in your CRM will allow you see which stage (e.g. prospecting, qualification, proposal, or closing) each of your leads are in at a glance. Some of the other benefits include being able to:
- Keep track of your won and lost opportunities so you always know where your sales are at
- Remind salespeople to follow-up with prospects to maximize chances of moving them to the next stage in your sales process
- Increase your chances of closing sales
- Improve your retention rate
This video gives a quick overview of how Copper's CRM makes pipeline management simple.
Pro-tip: Learn more about how to do pipeline management right.
Great news: CRM systems are no longer reserved for enterprises—many startups are harnessing the control CRM gives them over their sales pipeline, as well as other features like integrating with all their other software (like your emails and marketing tools), and enabling custom reporting and analytics.
Plus, most CRMs have different pricing tiers or use a pay-as-you-grow model, making them accessible to tiny startups and huge corporations alike.
Once your sales pipeline is in place, it’s time to bring on the leads.
Step 3: Start filling your pipeline.
An effective SaaS sales process requires a pipeline that’s constantly pulling in new leads. To do this, you’ll need to focus on your inbound marketing efforts and ensure that you’re not only attracting leads, but also attracting quality ones that match your buyer persona and have a high chance of buying your software.
Inbound marketing = putting your brand out there in order to attract leads to come to you (as opposed to outbound marketing, which involves going out and finding leads yourself).
Some examples of inbound marketing initiatives to brings leads to your sales pipeline are:
Adding a blog to your website is a great way to organically boost your site’s SEO, establish trust and familiarity with potential prospects, strengthen relationships with existing customers, and position yourself as an industry leader by providing high-quality, useful content. (Hint: the post you’re reading is an example of this!)
Having a robust social media presence will make you seem that much more legit and trustworthy to prospects, which is especially important when not many people have heard of you yet. It also helps your business gain brand awareness and provides a platform to interact with existing and potential customers in a casual environment, making it an effective relationship-building tool as well.
Ebooks are a great way to trade valuable content for customer information. For example, many SaaS companies offer free ebook downloads in exchange for a website visitor’s email address and a couple of tidbits about their business. A website visitor who downloads your content is obviously interested in what you have to say—and now you have their contact information to hit them up.
Even if your website is getting a lot of traffic, if you’re not collecting any information on your visitors, your traffic isn’t going to do much for your sales process. Adding a newsletter sign-up field to your website will encourage visitors to enter in their email address, meaning you’ll be able to contact them whenever you like. Check out this example from Hustle Panda:
An example of a landing page designed to get email subscribers.
Step 4: Know how to qualify your leads.
Once you’ve got leads coming through your pipeline, it’s time to qualify them.
Qualifying a lead means scoping them out and figuring out if they’d be a good fit for your software solution, and if they actually have a good chance of buying it.
For example, say you sell email automation software. A website visitor may have signed up for your newsletter recently, so you have their name and email address. A quick LinkedIn search reveals they’re the marketing manager at a medium-sized food-delivery company. Sounds like they could benefit from email automation and are therefore totally qualified, right?
A look at their website, however, reveals your software won’t integrate with their (very robust) existing tech stack. In other words, reaching out to them would be a total waste of time since your product won’t work well for them even if they wanted it to. Game over—this lead isn’t qualified.
Like many things in startups, it may take some trial and error before you find a qualification criterion that works best for you.
Step 5: Never stop learning.
The more you know about your sales process, the more you can improve it.
You know who gives great constructive feedback? Your customers (and almost-customers).
Once you start connecting with prospects, make it a regular habit to ask for their feedback on the sales process, whether it’s going—in your opinion—really well or plain awful. Most customers will gladly share their opinions with you, especially when you come at them from the angle of wanting to improve in order to serve them better.
For example, upon wrapping up a sale, ask your new customer what it was in particular that made them decide this was the right solution for them. Was it the service? Your company’s reputation? Pricing?
Similarly, if a prospect tells you they’re not interested after a sales call, ask them what it is that’s holding them back.
This direct feedback from your prospects and customers will take a lot of the guesswork out of identifying and prioritizing opportunities for improvement in your sales process.
Analyzing your wins and losses like this will set you up with a constant feedback loop and empower you to make continuous opportunities to your sales process.
It’s time to start putting together that sales process.
Let’s be real. Starting up a new SaaS company is a lot of work. You’ll definitely come across challenges, but with the right knowledge, you’ll be able to overcome them.
Which is good, because starting a new SaaS company is also incredibly exciting and, if done right, can be very rewarding for both you and your future customers.
Your sales process will ultimately determine your success, so hopefully, these tips give you an idea on where to start planning yours!