Selling a SaaS product to business customers isn’t quite the same as selling other types of B2B products. You aren’t trying to meet a one-off need — you’re convincing your prospect to continue investing in your product, ideally for a lifetime.
That calls for educating the prospect about how your product works, the results it brings over time, and how it fits into their existing tech stack and internal processes. What’s more, you’ll have to do this for multiple stakeholders at the prospect’s company, each of whom will have their own questions and counterpoints.
This can be laborious, time-consuming, and often disheartening when things don’t work out as planned. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
We’ve put together an actionable guide on how to craft a B2B SaaS sales process that consistently drives conversions and brings customers on for the long haul.
What makes for an effective B2B SaaS sales process?
SaaS sales cycles are long: 84 days, on average. You’ll need an ironclad strategy to keep your prospects engaged all the way to the finish line — and beyond.
That doesn’t just refer to the steps of the sales process itself (although we cover that later on too). There are several factors that, on coming together in just the right combination, make the difference between a SaaS sales process that’s okay and one that’s great. Let’s talk about some of those factors.
Well-defined ideal customer profile (ICP)
Having an ICP makes the SaaS outreach process more streamlined and less like a hunt-the-thimble game.
You can’t waste your team’s time on prospects who don’t have the budget or the business need for your product. You’d want a clear set of criteria defining whom you want to sell to so your sales reps know whom to focus on — and so you can hyper-tailor your strategy to delight those specific prospects.
The correct SaaS sales model
Your sales model provides the overarching framework within which your SaaS sales cycle operates.
Selling SaaS isn’t just about pitching your product and negotiating a price. You need to meet your customer where they are and give them the help they need, when they need it. This typically involves a mix of personalized customer support and self-service resources. The ratio of this mix depends on the complexity of your product and the expectations your ICP has.
Accordingly, there are three main SaaS sales models to pick from — self-service, transactional, and enterprise.
First — the self-service model. This is ideal for SaaS products with low price points and an easy onboarding process. In self-service, the focus is more on driving marketing efforts to generate awareness about the product and share useful “how-to” content. You typically won’t need a full-fledged SaaS sales team here. However, it’s advisable to have a customer success department to answer any questions and possibly upsell the customer to a premium product version later on. It’s also important to invest in a well-designed lead generation funnel to maximize the percentage of those who encounter your product and are interested in knowing more.
For SaaS products with a relatively low price point (but higher than for self-service products) and a not-too-steep learning curve, most companies opt for a transactional model. Here, you explain the product to your prospect in person over the phone or in a Zoom meeting. Combined with content assets like case studies, that’s usually enough to seal the deal. Your sales team provides onboarding assistance and helps with any upgrades or customizations later on. Lead scoring is an important component of this model, as it’s essential to assign priorities to each lead depending on how much personal attention they’ll require from your sales team.
And finally, a more complex SaaS product needs more handholding from your end. You’re typically targeting enterprise-grade clients who are investing more money upfront and want to be extra certain that your product is the one for them. Thus, the enterprise model. It involves more meetings, more demos/trials, more deep dives, and more one-on-one time with SMEs from your team as well as theirs.
Case in point: Watch our speech at Founder500 to know how Belkins pitched Folderly to existing clients even when it wasn’t 100% ready, using their feedback to iterate and sell an updated version.
The fact that you need to track how well your SaaS sales cycle is doing is a no-brainer (at least, it should be).
The SaaS sales cycle is a long one, as we mentioned. If you wait until the end of the cycle to see what worked, you’ll miss critical opportunities to observe any gaps and course-correct to fix those gaps. For instance, if you only measure the number of deals closed at the end of the cycle against the number of leads that entered the cycle, you’ll miss out on a critical metric — how many leads dropped off during the cycle, and at what stage — which could have helped you increase the number of closed deals!
Well-planned trials and demos
Both free trials and demos have the same core purpose: to give the customer a taste of what your SaaS product is like and how it can address their pain points. The difference lies in which “need for knowledge” they fulfill.
A free trial allows the customer to explore the product firsthand at their own pace, and then convert to the paid plan of their choice. If your SaaS product is more or less intuitive, a demo may be overkill as the customer might just want to get up and running as soon as they can.
But for more complex products, a free trial may end up overwhelming the customer. They’ll need a personalized walkthrough of how they can use the product to meet their needs. This is especially true for enterprise customers who need high degrees of customization. Your sales team needs to show them personally what customizations are possible and how those customizations take them closer to their goals. Done right, B2B SaaS demos can achieve a close rate of 20–50%!
A good SaaS sales team doesn’t just know the product — they speak the language of the stakeholder they’re selling the product to. And in a B2B SaaS sales cycle, there are a lot of people you’ll need to convince.
For the tech head, you want someone who can explain the back end of the SaaS product and how it integrates with their existing tech stack.
For the head of marketing, you want someone who can demonstrate with numbers and examples how the product helps them meet their marketing goals more effectively.
And for the people who’ll be using the product on a daily basis, you want customer success specialists who can walk them through the learning curve and get them starting strong.
In other words? Your team needs to know who to sell to, and how.
Salespeople don’t have the time to reinvent the wheel every time a prospect comes along. With clear processes in place, they can immediately classify the prospect according to ICP, assign priorities to them, initiate a conversation, and so on. It’s no surprise that 90% of all companies that use formal processes were ranked as top performers.
And yes, the individual touch matters. But contrary to what you might think, regulated processes actually encourage individual contributions. With the core selling cycle and conversation templates in place, salespeople don’t have to waste time on the basics. Instead, they can invest in relationship-building through active listening, friendly conversations, and follow-ups.
How to build a winning B2B SaaS sales process (step by step)
To win at B2B SaaS sales, you need complete alignment within your sales team on which customers to target, how to address their pain points, how to convert each conversation into a signed deal, and what success metrics to watch out for. This calls for a concrete, proven process that leaves as little up to chance as possible.
Here are our recommendations.
Understand your customer
The first part of understanding your customer involves knowing who they are. Who is the ideal company your SaaS sales team should be targeting in order to maximize conversions and keep the sales cycle as short as possible?
The second part of understanding your customer involves knowing what they need. Questions to think about at this stage include:
What problems are they facing?
What is the trigger that motivates them to find a solution?
What are the specific problems that your solution can solve for them?
How soon do they want to implement a solution?
How much are they willing to spend on a solution?
How much customization are they looking for in a solution?
The best way to answer these questions? Talk to your existing customers. Schedule a call and ask them how, why, and when they decided to become your customers, including any “aha” moments that pushed them toward a final decision.
If you don’t have enough customers yet, conduct market research, including competitor analysis and surveys of target leads who fit the “what” part of understanding your customer. It can be a good idea to outsource this research to an experienced agency that knows exactly what to look for.
How much time do they take on average to onboard a new SaaS solution?
You’ll also want to consider the nature of the product itself. Things to think about include:
How complex and/or niche your core product is
How many features, plans, and upgrades you offer
How much one-on-one education the product needs versus “self-education” through content assets
How much you’re charging upfront
How long your onboarding process is
Based on these factors, you can pick one of the three SaaS sales models we chalked out earlier. And remember: as your SaaS product evolves, you may need to switch to one that suits your present needs better.
Chances are, you’re already tracking some or all of these. But there are lesser-known metrics that might give you extra perspective on what’s working in your SaaS sales cycle (and what isn’t).
For instance, calculating a win rate shows you the percentage of leads your sales team closes during a specific period.
There’s also a net promoter score. This involves surveying your customers by asking them how likely they are to recommend your B2B SaaS product to a friend. Plus, they’re invited to offer feedback, which is a great source of data on how to sell better to your less-than-satisfied customers.
Another important SaaS metric is the frequency of new opportunities added. This refers to the rate and number of new leads getting added to the pipeline. Dips in this could indicate potential issues in your marketing and outreach programs. By tracking it, you can take corrective action sooner rather than later.
Design trials and demos with care
The sole focus of a SaaS product trial or demo should be to have your customer using the product as quickly as possible.
For a free trial, keep the registration process simple — an email address, a name, and a password. That’s all. After that, have periodic check-ins as the customer explores the product to answer any questions. You can have automated prompts built into the product, or ask your sales team to reach out directly.
Monday.com, for instance, allows users to try out all its premium plans for free in addition to offering a basic plan that’s free for life. Free trials have been a big part of its growth strategy as a starting point for more upsells and conversions. And in 2021 it was one of the fastest-growing SaaS companies with 75% YoY growth.
For a demo, the first step is the request the customer puts in on your product website. According to your SaaS lead qualification approach, you need to develop a list of inputs that will help you filter out disqualified leads.
For example, the BANT methodology implies qualifying leads who book a demo according to their budget, decision-making authority, need for a product, and time they are ready to make the decision. Apart from name and email, you’d want prospects to input some of these fields:
Their monthly budget for certain operations or expected ROI
The period when they expect to transit to a new service
The features they’re looking for in the service
But the forms can be even more complex. Our fellow team at Folderly developed a more sophisticated form to sort out registrants and customize the demo call to their pain points. It includes finding out about the prospect’s tech stack, email marketing approach, the number of emails sent monthly, and the reason spam and deliverability issues become critical for them.
Once the demo is confirmed, plan and customize it to the company’s specific pain points. Do not make the demo a laundry list of all the features your product has. Think about:
The ICP the company fits into
Any questions they may have raised during the free trial
Any details they provided when requesting the demo if they reached out through your website or social page
The preliminary conversation they had with your sales team
Success stories with similar companies and/or situations that you can use to drive your point home
An underrated tip: Use these points to make your “request a demo” page enticing to your ICP.
Schedule a meeting with Belkins today to start your demo-boosting journey!
For instance, OptinMonster lays out exactly what to expect in their customer demos. They specify the length of the demo (30 minutes), list out the four ways they can help the customer transform their business, and mention that they’ll include a tour of OptinMonster’s drag-and-drop builder.
At this point, you might be asking: “Do I offer a free trial, a demo, or both?” Our answer: Even if your product is simple enough for a free trial to suffice, keeping a live demo option is always a good idea.
ActiveCampaign does a great job of this. Its email automation solution is user-friendly enough for most customers to figure out on their own, so a free trial usually does the trick.
But for enterprise-grade customers, there’s a “Request a demo” option that gives them a personalized walkthrough. Why does this matter? Because often, the end user isn’t the same as the enterprise lead scouting the platform. With a demo, the end user and any other relevant stakeholders can all take part and ask questions in real time.
Design a sales team with multiple competencies
Each stage of the SaaS sales process requires its own skillset. Your sales team should ideally include a mix of competencies, with some all-around salespeople as well as certain specialists.
A good place to start is by using individual KPI data to understand where each member excels. For instance, if one salesperson has an exceptionally high deal closure rate for leads in the final stage of the SaaS sales cycle, they might specialize as the “negotiator” of the team. Another salesperson with a strong technical understanding of the product might specialize in conducting demos and interacting with the client’s IT division to explain how your product fits in with their tech stack.
The composition of your SaaS sales team will also depend on the sales model you have chosen.
If you’re using the self-service model, a large fraction of your efforts will go into generating awareness among your target audience. Accordingly, you’ll need marketing experts who can craft compelling and value-packed content that speaks to your target audience’s needs and drives traffic to your website.
If you’re using the transactional model, you’ll need salespeople who can quickly qualify leads, assign them scores, and tailor personal interactions with their representatives.
And if you’re using the enterprise model, you need expert communicators and negotiators who can conduct product deep-dives and granular one-on-one sessions to convince the client to invest in your SaaS product for the long haul.
Finally, remember that collaboration is key to effective sales. Invite your sales team to share their experiences and encourage them to conduct knowledge-sharing sessions of their own. This will enhance your team’s overall competency and help the sales cycle run more efficiently.
Create processes based on the best approaches
Good sales processes are built on practices that have consistently brought in results. As those practices evolve, your process needs to evolve too.
The best place to begin this process is in the salesroom. Ask your sales reps questions at each stage of the journey about:
The outline the conversation took
What questions the customer asked
What documents/resources came in handy
What case studies and social proofs were used
The “aha” moment that motivated the customer to move to the next stage
Then, record this interview (or a transcript of it) and share it with the rest of your team. As you collect more data on the approaches your salespeople take, you’ll observe patterns that you can then convert into established processes.
For instance, you can have scripts and conversation templates for your sales team to follow when talking to prospects. The scripts can be tailored to different ICPs, with cues on which specific features to talk about, when to offer a demo, and when to nudge the customer toward making a decision. Similarly, in the follow-up stage, you can have a clear roadmap with strategically timed check-ins for general queries, offers of specific assistance, and nudges toward a product cross-sell or upsell.
At the same time, make sure your salespeople aren’t just reading a script out loud. Encourage them to humanize the experience by being friendly, adapting the script to suit evolving needs, and using their best judgment wherever they feel they have to. In fact, a big part of converting a “best approach” to a “best practice” involves customizing it based on real-time inputs about what’s working and what isn’t — we’ll elaborate on this in the next point.
Keep testing and iterating
Keep evaluating what the data tells you before, during, and after the sales cycle. KPIs are a part of this — but it’s also about observing patterns and testing possible solutions.
Let’s say you observe that you’re getting a lot of requests for a demo at the first checkpoint in your free trial. Could this mean that your product is too complex for customers to figure out on their own? If so, you might decide to test the option where you scrap the trial altogether and jump straight to the demo. Or could it mean that the product itself isn’t complex, but the person reaching out isn’t the actual end user? In that case, you could offer different versions of the free trial based on whether they’re end users, decision-makers, or just initial leads with a self-selection option on the trial sign-up page.
Here again, your salespeople will be of immense help. As your “boots on the ground”, they can tell you right away what’s working and what isn’t. Have regular check-ins with them so you can immediately stop and pivot in case something needs to change, especially during the decision-making stages. This, as we mentioned above, is what leads to the creation of best practices, and systems based on the real-world application of sales techniques and approaches, tested in multiple contexts over time.
With B2B SaaS sales, it’s as much about research and preparation as it is about the ability to convince and negotiate. You need to know what matters most to your qualified leads and how and when to give them exactly that.
At Belkins, we offer data-driven appointment setting services to get your sales team in contact with prospects who best fit your ICP. You’ll get a guaranteed number of pre-qualified warm leads every month — and in a sales cycle where every day saved counts, you don’t need us to tell you what a boon this can be. When you couple that with a rock-solid process like the one we’ve outlined here, your SaaS sales team will soon become a force to reckon with.
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Co-founder and Managing Partner at Belkins
Michael is the Co-founder of Belkins, serial entrepreneur, and investor. With a decade of experience in B2B Sales and Marketing, he has a passion for building world-class teams and implementing efficient processes to drive the success of his ventures and clients.
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