Inside Sales Tips

11 Insanely Effective SaaS Sales Secrets Right From The Salesforce Playbook

Gabe Larsen

What’s the secret to succeeding in SaaS sales? It’s a question I’m asked a lot, so keep reading to find out more.

RELATED: Enterprise-Class SaaS: Stability, Security, Reliability

In this article:

  1. Jim Steele’s Strategies to Improve Sales Teams for Better Results
    1. Obsess over Customer Service
    2. Treat the Sales Process Like a Relationship, Not a Transaction
    3. There’s No Such Thing as a One-Stop Shop
    4. Empower Your Reps and Give Them Ownership
    5. Organizations Must Constantly Reinvent Themselves
    6. Teach Your Reps to Be Game-Changers
    7. Remain Humble; Be Knowledgeable Without Being Arrogant
    8. Partner Data with a Solid Customer Relationship
    9. Don’t Forget to Include More Upselling in Your SaaS Process
    10. If the SaaS Sales Process Feels Too Long, Don’t Worry
    11. Always Follow-Up on Your Leads
  2. Bonus SaaS Sales Tips: Improve Customer Interactions with the LVI Process
    1. Listen
    2. Validate
    3. Inspire

SaaS Sales Techniques to Improve Your Revenue

Jim Steele’s Strategies to Improve Sales Teams for Better Results

management concept | Insanely Effective SaaS Sales Secrets Right From The Salesforce Playbook | saas sales | inside saas

What is SaaS Sales? SaaS sales, or “Software as a Service” sales, is the process of offering cloud-based services through a system monitored and updated by an external provider to customers.

Everyone is looking for that X factor, that one secret ingredient that’ll help their organization reach more customers and increase sales.

That can be filling your sales team with highly capable individuals, or including a SaaS product in your sales process. Whatever you plan to do, you need to know how to maximize your sales reps’ potential for better performance.

My time spent at successful companies like Salesforce and IBM has taught me there’s not a single secret ingredient. Instead, I’ve found a number of effective sales secrets that together deliver some impressive results.

Here are a few proven strategies from my personal SaaS sales playbook, which I perfected during my 12-year career in sales leadership at Salesforce:

1. Obsess over Customer Service

Do you know the biggest reason why people stop doing business with a company? You might think it’s because a competitor is offering better products and prices.

However, according to a 2010 Customer Experience Report by RightNow (acquired by Oracle in 2011) and Harris Interactive, 82% of customers surveyed abandoned a company because of bad customer service.

Successful SaaS companies treat their customers as their number one seller.

Customers should never be taken for granted. Instead, organizations and reps should almost suffer from paranoia to ensure their customers are always taken care of.

When done correctly, your customers will become brand evangelists, furthering your reach and credibility.

Positive feedback from customers can be considered a success by the sales and marketing team. If you’re just starting to integrate SaaS applications into your product list, you’ll need to make sure your customers get the utmost service and support.

2. Treat the Sales Process like a Relationship, Not a Transaction

Customers aren’t always looking for a sales pitch. In most cases, they’ve already done their research and want to hear how your solutions fit their individual needs.

Because the Internet can be easily accessed, potential clients can now look for what they need online at any time. They have more freedom in researching for a SaaS company that can give their business what they need.

Customers are now more informed than ever. According to the 2014 State of B2B Procurement Study by Accenture’s Acquity Group, 94% of B2B buyers gather data and research online before buying.

Unfortunately, reps are so focused on numbers and hitting quota, they often forget that the purchasing process is a journey. Organizations need to invest in creating solutions that help inform customers early.

Aside from helping them with their sales process, a prospect also looks for SaaS providers they can rely on.

Because of this, reps need to continually check in with their customers after a sale. This helps form strong, emotional connections that create long-lasting business relationships.

Creating a relationship with a prospect not only needs great products — it also relies on excellent customer service.

3. There’s No Such Thing as a One-Stop Shop

Swiss army knife | Insanely Effective SaaS Sales Secrets Right From The Salesforce Playbook | saas sales | saas salesforce
Trying to solve everything causing confusion and overextension

Many organizations try to become the business equivalent of a Swiss Army knife. They want to have a tool, or solution, for every situation.

This just isn’t effective.

Customers have a lot of choices, and these choices need to coexist. Smart organizations work to create a partnered ecosystem that supports the customer.

Not everyone can develop on-premises software to cater to every clients’ needs. If your company can’t provide that, then look for partners who can.

The more partners you have, the more value you can deliver.

4. Empower Your Reps and Give Them Ownership

This next point is best illustrated with an example. Let’s say you’ve gone out to dinner and there’s a problem with your order.

If you want restitution, who should you speak with, the server or the manager? The manager would be best because he or she is the decision-maker.

The same goes for your sales team.

Unfortunately, sales reps often seem incapable of making decisions when speaking with customers.

When problems or requests arise, sales reps often protect themselves with the all-too-familiar line: “I wish I could, but my boss won’t allow it.”

This sentence immediately indicates that the rep has no control over decisions, and he or she loses credibility. Instead, reps need to take ownership.

They need to fully understand the SaaS sales process to know what to do during negotiations.

Reps need to communicate when deals aren’t in the company’s best interests and work to negotiate win-win deals. When they take this approach, they earn the respect of their prospects, while simultaneously building their confidence.

5. Organizations Must Constantly Reinvent Themselves

There are plenty of examples of companies whose refusal to innovate led to their demise. Companies like Blockbuster and Circuit City immediately come to mind.

Many organizations believe that if something is going well, they shouldn’t change. Smart businesses have learned that comfort is the enemy of growth.

Traditions should not blind leaders to the need to improve and innovate.

Individuals and teams should always be evaluating their progress. For example, are your scripts up-to-date? Are you using the latest in sales enablement technology to help your reps work more efficiently?

CSO Insights reports that, on average, only 60% of inside sales reps meet quota. With 40% of your reps coming up short, that’s a lot of lost revenue.

What if you could use an online hiring assessment that allowed you to know which candidates would reach their numbers before you even hired them? Or what about a gamification platform that could motivate your reps, leading to better results?

The XANT gamification platform, PowerStandings, can increase the output of your team by as much as 50%. In addition, our data-driven hiring tool, Sales Indicator, can predict sales success with up to 85% accuracy.

Always be looking for ways to improve and implement the right changes as soon as possible.

6. Teach Your Reps to Be Game-Changers

For those who have seen “The Pursuit of Happyness,” you’ll remember the scene where Will Smith’s character is competing for a spot at a brokerage firm.

Whoever brings in the most money after six months usually gets the job. Thus, instead of working through the call sheet, Smith’s character breaks protocol and jumps right to the top.

He decides that cold calling top-level executives is his best shot at success.

The lesson? Reps can’t be afraid to speak with leaders and executives.

If you don’t feel you’ve earned the right to sit across from a VP, you shouldn’t. It’ll be pretty obvious you’re in over your head.

I like sales reps who would jump at the opportunity to ride in an elevator with a CEO and prove they know his or her business. That level of passion and enthusiasm is well-respected, and their confidence is well-received.

You just need to build your confidence by knowing your product by heart and equipping yourself with sales methods to pitch and close sales with executives.

7. Remain Humble; Be Knowledgeable Without Being Arrogant

As SaaS vendors, you must know a lot about technology. You should be able to understand the relationships your software has with the other technologies your customer is likely to interact with.

However, you shouldn’t get caught up trying to frame yourself as superior in knowledge to your customer. Instead, as sales professionals, you should focus your efforts on finding solutions for your prospects.

Overall, you should appear as a person who knows what they’re talking about without coming off as too aggressive to your target customer.

8. Partner Data with a Solid Customer Relationship

Although you should downplay your knowledge to establish a strong customer relationship, you should make sure that you don’t neglect to brush up on your research.

When marketing or selling in the SaaS industry, you have to use data science to validate your claims. Otherwise, it’ll appear like you’re only full of hot air.

Once you’ve got reliable data to back you up, you can then focus more on nurturing your connections with your customers. For a SaaS sales model, in particular, face-to-face interactions are essential, especially for bigger deals.

RELATED: Building Rapport With Customers: 3 Steps To Build Trust In Minutes

9. Don’t Forget to Include More Upselling in Your SaaS Process

For a SaaS business in particular, upselling is much more critical than in other industries.

Technology is often changing and upgrading for the better. If you’re doing things right, then you should also be changing with the industry to survive.

Upselling is a great way of generating leads from existing or previous customers. Since you already know them more intimately than newer leads, you already have a current relationship.

Plus, upselling is the key to growth for a lot of companies, including SaaS organizations.

However, the reason why everyone isn’t upselling, understandably, is it’s difficult.

First of all, your existing customers know your strengths and weaknesses now. If you haven’t been upholding your end of the bargain, then they might not want to upsell.

Plus, it’s challenging to know when a customer is open to an upsell. To figure this out, you must be in tune with them enough to strike on the opportunity.

However, once you get the opportunity, upselling is a powerful selling strategy for SaaS software that you’ll definitely love.

10. If the SaaS Sales Process Feels Too Long, Don’t Worry

The SaaS sales cycle is often longer than what some salespeople are used to. Thus, plenty of SaaS sales reps end up panicking when they feel like they’re not going further along the sales funnel at the rate they thought.

However, this is quite common. Usually, a SaaS sale is a long-term commitment, and the sales cycle is going to be more prolonged the more significant the deal is.

Thus, you should just buckle down and focus on driving customer success and nurture other leads and current customer relationships while you’re at it.

11. Always Follow-Up on Your Leads

businessman on a phonecall while sending email | Insanely Effective SaaS Sales Secrets Right From The Salesforce Playbook | saas sales | saas sales process
Following up on leads for better sales

Following-up on your leads is one of the most basic SaaS sales principles you should follow. Given the length of a sales cycle for SaaS selling, follow-ups are vital to moving further along the sales funnel.

With more significant deals, it’s vital that you follow-up often and don’t wait too long before doing so. Otherwise, you might lose your place as the SaaS at the top of their mind.

At the very least, you should send three emails to your prospect. Persistence and consistency is key to success for a SaaS sales rep.

Bonus SaaS Sales Tips: Improve Customer Interactions with the LVI Process

Whenever I work with potential customers, I like to employ what I’ve dubbed the LVI process.

Here are the three steps in this process to successfully close more deals.

1. Listen

Customers have egos. You’ll never be successful if you patronize them.

Instead, you have to listen and learn what’s on their mind. Use active listening to learn about your potential customer’s business and specific needs.

Pay special attention to pain points you know your products and services can solve. By listening to them, you become more believable when you offer solutions to their needs.

2. Validate

This is where reps play back what they’ve learned. Validation proves you’ve been paying attention and understand their individual needs.

Some clients may not know their own needs until months later. Rushing and pushing them to close a deal may lead to these clients shutting you off completely.

You should position yourself as someone who’s there to help lead them to success. You’re there as both a guide and eventually a possible solution too.

This process can’t be rushed and could take a couple of days to a few months. However, it’s a key component in building the trust necessary to begin a business relationship.

3. Inspire

This is the sales portion.

This is where reps can demonstrate how their products or services will solve the client’s pains. Reps should share a customer story or demo that matches these needs.

By letting your client know that others experienced the same problems, you also show them that the issues they face can be fixed. They’ll eventually realize that your product is the answer to their needs.

But remember, each customer’s need is unique. Some may be similar to each other, but most of the time, they’ll be different in some details.

Again, this process must be tailored to each customer. A rep’s inability to craft a customized solution to meet a prospect’s needs is one of the most common reasons a sale falls through.

This is where you use data science as leverage towards improving your relationship with a customer.

These SaaS sales tips can help you gain recurring revenue by improving your sales rep’s performance. By making sure your customer service is up to par, you can build a lasting relationship with clients, resulting in more revenue.

How your sales rep responds to your prospect’s needs before, during, and after closing a deal will matter as much as how effective your SaaS solutions are.

What is your SaaS sales model, and how effective are your sales leaders in acquiring new customers and retaining existing ones? Share your experiences in the comments section below!

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Jim Steele

Video credit: MOVIECLIPS

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 10, 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.