The ultimate SaaS sales guide: 31 things you need to know about selling SaaS

by Steli Efti

ultimate_saas_guide-featured-image.jpg

SaaS is a billion-dollar industry. And it’s only going to get bigger. According to TechCrunch, the SaaS industry is at the same stage as “the PC market in 1983, [the] smartphone market in 2003, or the search market in 1998.”

There is no better time than now to be in SaaS. But more opportunities means more competition. If you want to lead the pack, you need to how to sell SaaS.

That’s why we collected 31 of our best tips to help you master SaaS sales. They’re divided into eight categories for you to read in order or skip to the section most relevant to you:

  • Understand the foundations of SaaS sales
  • Self-service SaaS or high-touch sales?
  • Hire and pay sales reps
  • Find the right customers
  • Handle objections like a pro
  • Give effective demos and trials
  • Make your customers successful
  • Know how to lose or fire customers the right way

Ready to become a SaaS selling ninja? Let’s get to it!

Hiten Shah and I are creating an actionable guide to growing your B2B SaaS startup from 0 to 1,000+ customers. Claim your copy now and be among the first to get it for free!

Starting with the right foundation: General tips and myth-busting you need for SaaS success

1. Your product doesn't sell itself

SaaS doesn’t sell itself. [Tweet this!] Having a great SaaS product is just the first step out of many to creating a successful startup. If you want to sell SaaS successfully, stop selling features. Focus on creating a desire for your product and delivering value.

2. 5 myths about SaaS sales you probably believe

You can’t sell until your product is perfect. Or can you? (The answer: You absolutely can, and should, sell your product early.) Discover what the other four myths are and how to prevent them from hindering your success in SaaS sales.  

3. 5 pieces of wisdom that will change how you sell your SaaS

We gathered insights from five of the best sales and SaaS experts to help you drive sales for your SaaS product. Millions of people ask for, and listen to, their advice because they’re at the top of their game—CEOs, founders, venture partners. Now, their top five sales tips are in one place for easy access.  

4. Hard or soft selling: What works best for SaaS sales reps?

If the Wolf of Wall Street is your model of an ideal salesperson, you’re doing it wrong. When it comes to SaaS sales, people think you should either be super aggressive or very passive. Neither approach is right for winning the trust and business of prospects. Here’s why (and how you should sell instead).

5. How to sell SaaS: 9 tips for startup sales success

Most startups fail. If you don’t want to be in that camp, there are certain things you need to do when it comes to selling SaaS.  After working with and watching thousands of startups succeed or fail, we’ve condensed what works and doesn’t work into nine tips. These tips are the cornerstones of SaaS sales.

Self-service SaaS or high-touch sales?

6. Should you move from self-serve to sales-supported SaaS?

For many founders, self-serve SaaS is the dream. Leads come through your funnel, sign up for a trial, and upgrade—without you having to lift a finger. If you want to ramp up growth even faster, however, hiring sales reps will help you move upmarket into the enterprise.

But how do you know when you should move to sales-supported SaaS? Wait too long and your competitors will snatch those lucrative enterprise deals away. Hire too fast and it could kill your startup’s momentum. To figure out when you should build a sales team, here’s a decision framework.     

7. Optimize self-service SaaS models ... with sales reps

The effectiveness of your sales team is only limited by your imagination. For instance, there’s a very successful SaaS company that boasts they don’t have salespeople. Founders hear about this company and assume that they don’t need a sales team either. Yet, the truth is they do have a sales team!

While they’re not using salespeople to directly grow revenue, they do use their sales team to establish benchmarks against which they measure their self-service funnel. This is how you can use sales reps to optimize your own self-service funnel.

Hiring and paying SaaS sales reps

8. The ultimate sales hiring guide for B2B startup founders

Everything you ever wanted to know about building a sales team. From when to hire your first few reps to a VP of Sales, it’s here. (There’s even a free sales hiring checklist to help you hire faster and smarter.)

9. Why you need to hire hustlers, not sales veterans, for your startup

LinkedIn. Craigslist. Job boards. These are all places 90% of founders search when they’re trying to hire SaaS sales reps. But you’re looking in the wrong places for one single reason: good salespeople are too busy selling to be out of work.

Instead, you’re much more likely to hire bad salespeople, a mistake early-stage startups can’t afford to make. If you want to know where the good salespeople are at and how to recruit them, follow these steps.

10. How to design a winning sales commission structure

Need to design an effective commission plan for your first SaaS sales hires? Most founders overcomplicate this. The best way to get started is to create a very simple first version. Learn about two methods for designing a winning sales commission structure to help your sales hires get started selling SaaS immediately!

Finding the right B2B SaaS customers

11. Create your ideal customer profile for B2B SaaS leads

An ideal customer profile is a description of an organization (company, government agency, non-profit organization, etc.) which gets significant value from using your product/service and also provides significant value to your company.

It’s a simple concept. Yet, many startups struggle to hit their sales goals because they don’t know who to sell to. This is how you create an ideal customer profile to attract high-quality sales leads. To get even more customers, download your free copy of our soon-to-be-released guide on scaling B2B SaaS startups!

12. B2B lead generation basics for startups

What’s the best way to gain B2B SaaS leads? Here’s a breakdown of four ways to source leads, ranging from the highest quantity, lowest quality leads to the lowest quantity, highest quality leads.

13. How do you sell your SaaS product to enterprise customers?

You’re killing it in the SMB market and now you’re ready to move to the enterprise. Or maybe you want to jump over SMBs and go after the biggest deals first.

Regardless of your approach, with great reward comes great difficulty. These are the three things you absolutely need to know before you sell to enterprise.

14. B2G sales: How to sell SaaS to governments

In the startup world, governments aren’t sexy. Rather than deal with a seemingly impenetrable bureaucracy, most startups steer clear of selling to governments. However, this unchartered territory also means more opportunity.

This is the story of how one startup found its niche by selling to governments, as well as the four steps you need to take if you want to start selling to governments too.

Handling common objections like a SaaS sales pro

15. How to handle the 2 most common objections in SaaS sales

SaaS sales ain’t easy. There’s big money, multiple stakeholders, and complex value propositions involved in each deal. However, the ability to navigate that added friction is also what makes SaaS sales reps so valuable and well-paid.

If you want to succeed in SaaS sales, there are two common objections you need to be able to handle. Learn how to overcome them to close more deals.  

16. How to charge money for things that don't exist yet

Getting interest from businesses and getting customers are not the same thing. [Tweet this!] Before you invest time and money into build a SaaS product, you need to know if potential customers have real buying intent.

But how do you do that when key features they need are missing or the product doesn’t exist yet? Simple. Sell first, build second. Here’s how.

17. Engineers vs salespeople: How to respond when you lack a feature the prospect requests   

When faced with a prospect who requests a feature their product lacks, most salespeople overpromise and underdeliver. Engineers, however, typically have a different approach that’s utterly brilliant at seeking out and solving the underlying issue. Once you see how simple it is, you’ll be using it immediately.

18. What to do when your prospect doesn't want to switch software?

Your software is clearly superior to your competitors in terms of meeting your prospect’s needs, whether that means increasing their revenue or helping them hit an important goal. So why won’t your prospect switch?

Here’s the number one reason why they won’t switch and a method to persuade them to choose your software.

19. How to sell an upfront fee

If your product has a deposit or setup fee, it can be difficult to sell it to prospects. For them, that fee simply means more money coming out of their pocket. However, if you know how to sell the fee as an added value or investment in their success, they’ll want to buy it. Here’s how.

Giving demos and trials that sell

20. How to give product demos that sell  

Most product demos are a snoozefest. Salespeople oversell features, don’t ask for the close, and wonder why prospects don’t buy. This is the blueprint that shows you how to give product demos that actually turn prospects into buyers.

21. Why your SaaS trials are way too long

Your free trials should be short. Shorter than what they probably are right now. If you want to know the ideal trial length as well as the three reasons why short trials are great for your bottom line, keep reading.

22. Why you need to call every trial signup user within 5 minutes

Call every trial signup user within 5 minutes. That’s all you have to do if you want to see a simple, yet huge, improvement in your reach rates. Yet, too many people underestimate the difference five minutes can make. Here’s research on how speed to call dramatically impacts your reach rate that’ll have you calling trial signups in five minutes or less.

23. 3 ways to nurse lost trial leads into activation   

Free trial users invested time into signing up for and using your product. Some will become customers, but most won’t. However, you shouldn’t turn your back on the unconverted just because the trial’s over. These are three simple tips to get unconverted users back into your funnel and recover those lost opportunities.

Making your customers successful

24. Make customers buy and use your product

Have you ever bought a gym membership but let it gather dust, despite the monthly fee? The same can happen in SaaS: customers buy your product but never, or hardly, use it. Here’s why you need to prioritize making your customers use your product over gaining new customers.

25. Know the difference between happy vs successful customers

A happy customer likes your product. A successful customer receives value from your product. Find out why successful customers are more important than happy ones and how to get more successful customers in three steps.

26. Why startups need to visit their customers

At Close.io, it took us over a year to visit our first customer! While there are many reasons why startups put off customer visits, none of those excuses outweigh the benefits of visiting your customers in person. Here are seven benefits of visiting customers and tips on how to get the most value out of those visits.

27. Turn outages into opportunities

Crises are a given in business. You can let them damage your relationship with your customers or turn them into win-wins. This is the step-by-step guide of how we turned a big outage at Close.io into an opportunity to provide value for our customers and convert several monthly customers into annual customers.

28. Upselling 101

If you want more sales, look no further than your current customers. Yet, too many founders and salespeople overlook upselling either because they don’t realize how much of an opportunity it is or out of fear. Discover how to overcome those limiting beliefs and five ways to upsell current customers.

Losing (or firing) B2B customers the right way

29. The no-BS guide to understanding SaaS churn

When you say churn, do you mean customer churn? Net churn? Monthly subscription churn? In its simplest definition, churn measures how many customers leave your business. However, there are many different ways to calculate SaaS churn, each method telling a different story about your business.

Here are the three key questions every SaaS founder needs to answer about how they calculate their SaaS churn rate.

30. Why you need to call your churning customers (and how to do it right)

A customer has churned. You can stick your head in the sand, avoiding criticism at all cost. Or you can call them and learn from your failure. The second route is harder but it will make you and your startup better and stronger. This is how you start a conversation with a former customer in order to learn why they left.

31. When and how to fire your SaaS customers

Sometimes, they gotta go. A customer can start off a great fit but if their needs and your ability or willingness to meet those needs diverge over time, you might have to fire them. There are two ways to go about it and still leave your reputation (and morals) intact.

The truth about SaaS sales

It’s hard. You can’t sell a customer once and go on to the next deal. You have to keep selling your customers on the value of your product, month after month, year after year.

Some of them will churn. Others will have to be fired. That’s why success starts with picking the right customer, providing them with value, and understanding your metrics like the back of your hand.

However, if you get it right, there’s no better feeling. People will turn to your product to achieve their business goals, increase revenue, save time, or meet other critical needs. Focus on making your customers successful and success will follow. [Tweet this!]

Want to pick the brains of 2 successful startup CEOs? Hiten Shah and I created the ultimate guide to growing your B2B SaaS startup from 0 to 1,000+ customers—and we’re giving it away for free! We’ve grown several successful startups from zero and are going to show you how to do the same, no matter what stage you’re at.

get-more-b2b-saas-customers.png

Recommended reading:

Clouded judgment: Convince your sales team to move from on-premise software to SaaS
SaaS is the future—but your sales team still insists on selling license-based software. These are the 3 things you need to do to sell them on SaaS.

How to get the first 10 customers for your B2B SaaS startup
In the early stages of your startup and want to get your first 10 customers? Start here.

How to create winning sales documentation
Good sales documentation can dramatically reduce the ramp up time of your new SaaS sales team. Here’s what it takes to create and incorporate effective sales scripts.