Mastering the SaaS Sales Process: From Prospecting to Winning New Customers
Ready to master the SaaS sales process?
Whether you’re the founder of a SaaS business or an in-house sales leader, you are in a position to drive revenues to life-altering levels.
But there’s a catch — You have to perfect the process. Everything from sales strategy to the pricing model to managing the SaaS sales cycle to reducing churn rates.
Here’s your guide to dominating sales within the SaaS market. Let’s go.
Ready to level up your sales team with training programs used by LinkedIn, HubSpot, Slack, Gong, Zoom — amongst others?
Prospecting: The Foundation for Lead Generation
Prospecting is not only the foundation for lead generation but for the entire premise of selling software as a service.
When you get prospecting right, selling SaaS products becomes so much easier.
Prospecting in SaaS sales is about connecting with leads who are reasonably interested to buy — that’s why it’s no longer acceptable to generate tons of uninterested leads.
Instead, we must focus on prospecting to the right people. Customers who signal intent to buy are already in-market, and will be responsive to outbound communications.
This sounds a lot nicer than the traditional sales model, doesn’t it?
SaaS sales model today vs traditional sales model
SaaS sales model today
Traditional sales model
Email and phone calls
Based on ideal customer profiles
Could be anyone
Instead of buying email addresses and phone numbers of people with a loosely-related product, SaaS prospecting leans on higher-quality sources.
We’re talking about channels like:
- Social media
- Inbound content marketing
Referrals come from trusted contacts who understand the right time to refer warm leads to a salesperson. They understand who is a match and who would be a waste of your time. Referrers may be incentivized by commission models or may do so to earn credibility with a mutual client.
Social media means creating a community for like-minded people to follow along and engage. You should create short-form content that captures followers’ attention and, when the time is right, share links to longer-form content. Simply dumping links to your blog posts is not a good use of social media when it comes to SaaS prospecting.
Inbound content marketing leverages SEO optimized assets to guide prospects through a marketing or sales funnel. By offering customer support and solutions to problems, you gain trust and show authority.
Prospects who come inbound are far more likely to buy from you. But there’s still a job to be done here — and it starts with sales discovery.
During this phase, it’s crucial to understand who is and isn’t ready to buy.
Reality is that most prospects ARE NOT IN MARKET. Even if they think they are.
It really comes down to declared intent vs. assumed intent — if you rely too much on assumed intent signals, you’re going to encounter a lot of rejection:
- No thanks, I’m happy with my current provider.
- This sounds great, but it’s not a priority right now.
Best Practices for Prospecting
While every business will have its own prospecting best practices and product nuances, there are four must-haves for every SDR team.
1. Ideal customer profile (ICP) for targeted prospecting
Think of a buyer persona. But better. We’re talking about an exact target audience.
It’s long been the case that buyer personas have generic information that don’t help with lead qualification whatsoever.
Generic buyer personas, like the examples below, are useless.
ICPs, on the other hand, are detailed documents that correlate with intent to buy, revenue generation, and external factors that might delay sales.
A good ICP includes:
- Company size
- Decision makers’ job titles
- Company revenue and estimated budget
- Typical buying process
- Channels used
- Pain points
- Business goals
- Technologies already in use
- High-priority needs
- Timescale to implement
- What success looks like
- Materials needed to convert
- Objections that need to be handled
Contrary to traditional sales and marketing, the more filters you can apply to narrow down a potential field of prospects, the higher the quality of prospect you get out of your ICP.
2. Inbound content marketing for attracting potential customers
When you know who your ICP is, you need to create content that speaks to their PAIN.
Think about what they search on Google, what they are trying to remedy each day, and the long-term plans they’re working to complete.
These are all topics you can write blog posts, create videos, and host webinars for.
When you create the best version available online, you stand the highest chance of appearing at the top of Google, YouTube, or anywhere else you share your content.
And this goes without saying — sacrificing content quality is not an option.
3. CRM Optimization for Sales Management
Your content has started to attract people who match your ICP. They’ve signed up to your emailing list or downloaded a PDF.
Call them right away! (That’s the old traditional sales mantra).
That outdated playbook no longer helps with selling software in the modern age.
When you receive customer information in exchange for content, you’re going to store it in your CRM. Then, you’re going to link up your CRM to your website, email marketing software, and anything else a prospect might touch.
This way, you have a holistic view of what prospects are interacting with and where they are in their buying journey — this can also be referred to as the ABM warm-up.
Over time, they’ll either reach out and request a demo or pricing — otherwise, it’s time for you to be proactive and start some outbound prospecting.
4. LinkedIn Sales Navigator for Outbound Prospecting
LinkedIn has changed the game for outbound sales. Its Sales Navigator tool makes virtual selling easy with features like filtered search, enhanced visibility, and personalized algorithms.
You can now reach your ICPs and get on their radar, rather than waiting for them to come to you.
Finding prospects who meet relevant criteria is easy with LinkedIn Sales Navigator. But be aware that just because they meet your criteria, it doesn’t mean they want to buy from someone they barely know.
Learn How Great SaaS Sellers Find and Quantify BIG Business Pain, "Create Urgency From Thin Air," And SELL In An Economic Meltdown
Mastering the Art of Sales Discovery
The Art of Qualifying Leads
How do you define a lead? And how should you define a lead?
A sales-qualified lead (SQL) is often completely different from a marketing-qualified lead (MQL).
The difference can be a chasm in some cases. This is down to a major disconnect between sales and marketing functions.
Your marketing team is working on the wrong content, posting the wrong things on social media, and qualifying everyone who touches your website as a lead.
Their problem, right?
If you don’t educate your marketing team about what is the right customer and the wrong customer, you’ll never get near your ICP.
Two-way communication is crucial here. Marketing needs to know what’s working and what’s creating a bottleneck of irrelevant prospects.
Research by Super Office shows that companies who align marketing and sales make more money, have larger brand awareness, and close deals with a higher average deal size.
How to Define an SQL:
- Are they in a trial period?
- Did they request a demo?
- Did they start a freemium plan?
- Are they frequent website visitors?
- Have they downloaded multiple assets?
- Did they mention your product/business online?
- Did the prospect come to you or from manual outreach?
You might apply a lead scoring system here to work out how ready someone is to buy. This will also help prioritize leads when you’ve got a full sales pipeline.
When you’ve qualified an SQL, it’s time to get in touch. But we’re not going to set up a call and turn up unprepared.
It’s important to prepare sales discovery call questions that work hard for you. Sure, you will introduce yourself and build a rapport. That’s a basic characteristic of any salesperson.
But you want to make sure you get the most out of your discovery call.
Use these sales discovery questions in your next call:
- What challenges do you face with your current solution that you would regret if not solved six months from now?
- Why would you regret not solving that six months from now?
- Help me understand the biggest challenges you face when it comes to [X].
When you understand the customer's challenges and pain points, you become best armed to help solve them.
But most salespeople often jump into the “pitch” too prematurely. They see 🤑🤑 and start counting their commission.
Avoid using words like contract and commitment. These, along with many other sales terms, are things prospects don’t like to hear too early in the process.
If your sales development representatives (SDRs) are particularly bad at this, look into available SDR training programs.
Make sure your discovery calls are all about the customer and not about you. That comes later. And you probably haven’t shown them the product yet.
How to Run Effective Sales Demos
Presenting to Your Qualified Leads
Your discovery call went great and you’re ready to show off your product.
There’s a big difference between a product demo and a sales demo. This is where it’s important to understand what needs to happen in a sales demo.
Remember: this is not a technical deep dive. It’s a sales demo. Your job here is to show your prospect how their life will be easier when they have your product.
Consider investing in sales demo training for staff who come from a product background. And vice versa for sales staff who have never used your product.
How to structure effective product demos
While every product is different, the product demo structure doesn’t have to be.
As a rule, make sure your product demo looks something like this:
- Recap customer pain points and problems
- Ask if there’s anything specific they need to see
- Prioritize custom requirements
- Show features relevant to your customer’s problems
- Focus on benefits rather than technical features
- Communicate your value proposition
- Showcase industry-specific case studies
- Don’t try and shoehorn everything into one demo
- Pause for questions
- Recommend next steps
Recommended: The $100,000,000 SaaS Sales Demo Script
Tailor sales demos to buyer personas
Every time you deliver a sales demo to a new customer, think about how you can personalize it to their unique problems and environment.
If you have a customer in the same vertical, explain how they are using your product and how they benefit from it.
For example, if you’re selling LMS for government — make sure you are citing relatable use cases and anecdotes.
Show how a government agency would use a learning content management system to train state and local employees for onboarding and compliance.
The same applies to different people within that business.
A sales demo to IT personnel will likely get technical. So bring your technical resource along too. A demo to C-level executives, on the other hand, will likely involve number crunching, resource management, and questions about implementation.
It’s important to get to this stage on your sales discovery calls. It’s a good sign that your prospect is thinking about taking the next step. You’ve reached the negotiation phase.
Related Course: 30 Days to Deal-Closing Discovery Calls
Negotiation: Bridging the Gap Between Seller and Buyer
Understanding Negotiation in Sales
Let’s get one thing clear. Negotiation doesn’t mean discounting. The role of negotiation in the sales process is to help the customer buy from you.
Indeed, the recruitment website, has a nice definition of negotiation:
“A sales negotiation is a discussion between a buyer and a seller to make a sales deal.”
Your role is to facilitate the negotiation. When an objection arises, you need to be armed with a response or remedy. It may feel like you’re working for the prospect at this point. And that’s okay. You’re doing what you need to do so you can get the deal to the point of closing.
Only when a negotiation is complete can you think about closing a deal.
When you receive a new objection, make a note of it and discuss it with your marketing team. This might become a product marketing material or a section on your website.
Everything you learn from your customers can help you better negotiate with future customers.
Best Practices for Negotiation
The very first thing you need to do in a negotiation is practice active listening.
Not just listening.
Paying attention and fully understanding the ask. You must appreciate the challenge associated with any objection so you know what appropriate action to take.
Next, work on handling objections by working through them one at a time. It’s impossible to solve everything with one answer or action.
List out your prospect’s objections and rank them in order of priority. Are any detrimental to the deal? Are there quick wins?
Commit to looking into the objections but never commit to solving the problems entirely. Sometimes, your SaaS product simply can’t do what someone is asking for.
In this case, you can prepare a counteroffer with all the functionality you can provide.
As you work on objections, make sure you keep all stakeholders up to date along the way. If a feature request or discount will take a long time to implement, set expectations early.
When the objection relates to pricing or contract terms, we move away from objection and into the realm of pure negotiation.
Sales leadership plays a vital role in this phase. Experienced sales managers will have the experience and authority to provide discounts without the need for lengthy approval processes.
Here, you might expect to see time-based discounts, offers for extra support or services included. Or some sales managers might know when to stand their ground.
Less senior sales managers still have an important role here. They act as the conduit between prospect and business, trying to plug the gaps to get a deal over the line.
For junior sales managers, sales management training courses can be a key to autonomy. You can learn techniques for winning over decision-makers, spotting when prospects have pressure on them from other parties, and roleplay real-life scenarios so they become a habit.
Whether you're seasoned or new to sales negotiation, ensuring you remain polite and attentive throughout the process is a huge step toward closing the deal.
You may also like: 77 Coaching Questions Great Sales Managers Ask
Closing the Deal: Turning Prospects into Customers
The Closing Process Explained
Closing refers to making the agreement official. This usually takes the shape of a formal contract or purchase order.
To reach this stage, customers may have completed their trial period and negotiated pricing or contract length.
Dream customers may get to this stage quickly. But, don’t let them fool you. Some customers will make you jump through lots of hoops at the closing phase.
The role of a sales rep here is to provide everything deemed necessary by the customer to get a written agreement or payment.
What to expect during the closing phase
- Security assessment
- Implementation plan
- Converting free users into paid
- Visiting a customer face-to-face
When these steps (often found in the objections and negotiations phase) are satisfied, it’s time to literally ask to close the deal.
Using questions like, “When would be a good time to go live?” and “Do we have everything in place to sign the contract?” extract answers that either lead to signature or further objections.
A question with finality to it, like “Is there any reason why we can't proceed with the order?” will drive decisions and move conversations on.
Assuming you did a good job capturing and addressing objections in earlier phases, there should be little to hold up deal closure.
Once you get the verbal approval, it’s time to send a contract. Here, your legal team and sales team should have already come together to have this in place. However, just because you have a single templated contract, it doesn’t mean your customer will agree to everything.
In some deals, this can be a deal-breaker. If one clause is 100% in the eyes of your business, but not workable to the prospect, this should have come out in the wash already.
When it comes to enterprise sales, conditions in contracts may not suit your prospects' internal procedures. If a deal is worth it to your business (value, case study, etc.) then it’s worth finding mutual ground in your contract.
There is usually a process of “redlining” where your prospects’ legal team will send over things that they would like removed or modified from your contract. These can be literal red lines made on your contract or suggestions sent over via email.
Work with your prospect to come to mutual terms. When you reach that stage, the only thing left is the signature and payment.
Nurturing: Beyond the Close
The information you absorbed during the prospecting and negotiation phases plays a huge part in nurturing the customer relationship during implementation and onboarding.
Understanding Customer Nurturing
Customer nurturing moves away from the transactional relationship and provides an account manager feel to a customer’s experience with a business.
After all, they just spent months getting to know you, so why would you break up that relationship?
We call this phase of the SaaS sales process “customer success”.
Strategies for Effective Customer Nurturing and Customer Success
When you look after customers during their onboarding and implementation phase, they’re more likely to buy further products and less likely to churn (leave after their initial contract term).
By adopting an account manager or customer success approach, you stand the chance of keeping your customer happy.
Happy customers = upselling, cross-selling, increasing customer lifetime value.
Once your customers learn to trust you, your business, and your product, it becomes easier for them to approach you for more help and for you to approach them with additional products.
When it comes to contract renewal, the process becomes a transaction as you’ve been in touch with them the entire time.
You’d be right if you attempted to do this manually for every customer without some form of automation.
There are many parts of maintaining a healthy relationship with a customer that must be manual—responding to emails and tickets, proactive catch-up meetings, etc.—but there’s a whole lot you can automate too.
Think about implementing the following when planning customer nurture:
- In-app customer support
- Virtual live chat assistance
- Automated follow-up emails
- Virtual training academy videos
- Customer self-service knowledge bases
- Flags and alerts when customers raise tickets
- Customer self-service adoption documentation
- Automatically gather frequently asked questions
When you implement these on day one of your customer’s life with you, you stand a much better chance of retaining the customer without the need for constant manual intervention.
Optimizing the SaaS Sales Process
Identify Key SaaS Sales Metrics
When you’re closing deals and busy helping onboard customers, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.
No single customer should be bigger than the whole of your business. That’s why SaaS sales metrics are crucial for an at-distance view of what’s happening in your sales function.
SaaS sales metrics, like the following, all help measure your sales effectiveness:
- Monthly recurring revenue (MRR)
- Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
- Customer retention rate
- Annual contract value (ACV)
- Annual recurring revenue (ARR)
Monitoring sales pipeline progression and deal closure rate alongside these key metrics ensures you’re always working with the highest possible sales efficiency.
If you start dedicating too much time to prospects who aren’t converting, metrics won’t hide this for you.
But they will prompt you to focus attention on the clients who make you the most money and at the lowest cost of acquisition.
Having an easy-to-use, made-for-sales CRM is an important technology decision when optimizing your SaaS sales process.
Use your CRM for Sales Metrics Tracking
Your CRM will house all customer information and transactions. But it will also track and measure your sales metrics.
Identifying potential bottlenecks in the sales process using a CRM like Salesforce, Pipedrive, or Zoho makes your life easier and your sales process more efficient.
Assuming you enter the correct information from day one and integrate everything you need (marketing software, website analytics, payment processor), your CRM will look after the rest of your sales metrics tracking.
Like in the screenshot above, you can leverage CRM data for sales team performance analysis.
You get an at-a-glance, dashboard-level view with every sales CRM. You can drill down further into specific metrics and customers simply by clicking through.
All these sales metrics, and the automation behind them, will help you ensure you’re always optimizing your SaaS sales process.
Conduct Regular Sales Process Audits
When a metric drops, it’s time to make a change to your process.
To get ahead of the curve, you could even conduct regular audits. If you beat the drop, you’re ensuring you always have high sales efficiency and high close rates.
By adopting a mantra of continuous evaluation, you also get continuous improvement.
No SaaS sales process is bulletproof. Every SaaS sales process is open to adjustments.
In your first evaluation, start by identifying and addressing weak points.
These might be:
- Increasing customer acquisition costs
- Poor SQL conversion rates
- Long time to signature
- High customer churn
Whatever the metric that gets flagged or the inefficiency that gets spotted, implementing change and measuring the impact of that change is critical.
Make sure you check back in with your key sales metrics a month after making the changes. If it’s a small tweak, you might want to check back earlier. Likewise, for large changes, you may need to be patient to obtain more data.
Importance of Continuous Training for SaaS Sales Teams
Like continuous evaluation for metrics and processes, continuous training is imperative to the success of a salesperson or sales team.
In modern-day SaaS sales, technology is an ever evolving beast and so is the sales process.
What works effectively today might be replaced by a self-service model tomorrow.
A sales manager must enable continuous learning for SaaS sales reps and teams to avoid falling behind the competition and stay in touch with SaaS industry trends and topics.
You also empower sales reps to develop their career further. Real-world experience is so important. But so is learning from others outside your niche bubble.
When sales teams are empowered by personal development, they will perform better.
In traditional sales environments, it’s been viewed as a weakness to need training. The inherited culture that someone who needs training isn’t as good as another is something sales managers must remove from their business.
A culture of personal development and continuous learning leads to highly successful sales teams, long careers, and job satisfaction.
Leverage Pclub for Effective Sales Training and Coaching in B2B SaaS Sales
Understanding the Pclub Platform
Pclub is the #1 place for tech sales training.
Subscribers get access to online courses created by the top 0.01% of sales practitioners on the planet.
pclub grants personal or team access to the sales techniques used by SaaS companies like LinkedIn, HubSpot, and Gong.
Rather than sending your sales teams to expensive off-sites or trusting they will read a book cover to cover, opt for actionable, self-paced courses that salespeople can start using right away.
Training new sales staff used to be a large upfront investment with a long time to see any return on investment.
Virtual sales coaching is now the preferred option for getting new (and existing) salespeople up to speed and singing from the same hymn sheet.
Pclub for Individual Salespeople
When you onboard a new salesperson, weave a relevant pclub course into your training and development process.
Say a new salesperson joins, walks through your HR demonstration, spends time with the product team, then it’s time to sell.
Sure, you hired them because of their sales skills and experience.
But wouldn’t you rather they benefited from $30,000 worth of tech sales success courses for only $997 per year?
Pclub specifically focuses on SaaS sales training programs and courses so there’s nothing that’s going to go to waste.
Pclub for SaaS Sales Teams
If you introduce a new team to sell a new product, pclub enhances sales team training with a range of learning modules and templates.
Our customizable business plan allows you to create customized skill paths that take your sales team to the next level, with professional services to guarantee successful program design, rollout, and reinforcement.
Use pclub's resources for mastering every element of the SaaS sales process: prospecting, qualifying, presenting, negotiating, closing, and nurturing.
The Bottom Line: SaaS Sales is a Rewarding Grind
Getting the SaaS sales process right is hard. But it sure is rewarding when you get it right.
Getting from A to Z (or prospecting to nurturing) takes commitment, refinement, and training.
A SaaS sales process is only as good as each element inside it.
Through qualifying, presenting the sales demo, negotiation, and closing, there are moving parts that can always be improved.
At every stage, the importance of continuous learning and adaptation is of paramount importance.
Sales teams who stand still lose out.
Don’t be one of them.