Over the past few years, we’ve helped over 300 SaaS companies optimize their sales processes and scale up their outbound. We’ve had in-depth discussions with countless SaaS founders in just about every vertical, which puts us in a unique position to understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to selling SaaS.
Here are 8 strategies we’ve seen unsuccessful founders use again and again, whereas successful founders tend to do the opposite.
Mistake 1: Forcing every prospect to talk to your sales team
Sales reps are necessary for outbound, but if you have inbound leads expressing interest in your product, give them a buying path where they can trial your product on their own, without forcing them to speak to a sales rep.
Sure, sales reps can help close a deal that’s on the fence, but they can also be a roadblock for those prospects who refuse to talk to a sales rep no matter what — and there are many!
So show pricing upfront, make it easy for customers to onboard themselves, and allow them to upgrade/downgrade in the simplest way possible. Give them the option to talk to a rep, but don’t force them to.
Mistake 2: Not sending enough onboarding emails to trial users
If you forget to email your prospects after they sign up for your trial, many of them will simply forget to use your product.
Think about it. When you sign up for a SaaS trial, you’re expecting some kind of onboarding sequence, right? You don’t always have time to figure out how the product works at that moment, so you’d prefer that information drip-fed to you over the next few days.
Your educational onboarding sequence should make your product feel easy to get started with. You never want the prospect to feel overwhelmed or confused, so send automated emails that are triggered when they perform certain activities, to help them with the next step.
Triggers might include signing up, closing a task without completing it, or an upcoming trial deadline.
Mistake 3: Not getting enough feedback from trial users
I’ll never understand how so many businesses make critical product decisions without ever actually speaking with their users.
You need to understand the way your customers experience your product, and you can’t do that without having a real back-and-forth conversation.
The earlier you reach out to them, the better. If they’re trialing your product and there’s something about it they don’t like, there are two possibilities.
- If they’re not already in conversation with you, they’ll probably just stop using your product and you’ll never know why.
- If they are already in conversation with you, you can help them solve their problem, potentially win them as a customer, and identify product issues so that future customers don’t run into them as well.
Mistake 4: Treating product demos as training sessions
If someone is thinking about buying your product, they don’t want to sit through a 30-minute walkthrough that explains in-detail every button they need to click to complete whatever the task is.
They don’t need to see every little feature and setting because it isn’t a training session, it’s a demo.
The purpose of a demo should be to show the prospect just enough (within 15-20 minutes) to spark their interest and convince them that your product will help them achieve their goals.
Show them how it’s going to benefit them. Show them the fireworks.
Mistake 5: Ignoring key decision-makers
When you’re arranging a demo, ask for the email addresses of anyone else who will be on the call — and if no one else is joining, ask for key decision-makers to be invited — because it gives you a way to contact them directly if the deal falls through with the person you’re already in contact with.
Instead of always dealing only with the person who requested the demo in the first place (often a lower-level manager) it’s good to make a habit of inviting key decision-makers to calls so you have more contacts on each account.
Mistake 6: Selling to any company who’s willing to buy
All customers are not created equal. Bad-fit customers will complain much more than the average customer and drain a lot of time from your support team. Even worse than that, they’ll leave bad reviews that could permanently destroy your reputation and maybe even your business.
A lot of the time, it’s possible to know who the bad-fit customers are going to be before they buy. They’re the ones who don’t quite fit your ideal customer profile. They have needs that your product almost meets, but not quite.
If you’re unsure about whether you’ll be able to fulfill a potential customer’s needs, it’s often better to err on the side of caution and recommend they try one of your competitors instead. It’s a tough decision to make, but ultimately these bad-fit customers can be a huge liability.
Side note: make sure you always qualify leads before giving them a demo, so you don’t waste your sales reps’ time.
Mistake 7: Offering discounts like candy to attract new customers
The trouble with offering discounts for no reason is that your customers get used to paying the discounted price, which lowers the perceived value of your product.
Not only that, but some people will buy your product just because they don’t want to miss your discount, and not because they NEED your product — which means the quality of your customer base will decrease (see Mistake 6 above).
If a sales rep has a discount in their back pocket, they’re very likely to take the easy road and offer that discount, rather than trying to convince prospects that your product is worth the asking price.
Instead of competing on price, focus your efforts on communicating the value of your product better. It’ll have a hugely positive effect on your revenue in the long run.
Mistake 8: Not offering annual plans
Okay, so this is the exception to the “no discounts” rule above because you’ll be offering this discount in exchange for a long-term commitment rather than for no reason at all.
Discounted annual plans are a great way to boost cash flow and improve your long-term customer retention.
If your customers are paying on a month-to-month basis and your product runs into significant issues in a given month, there’s a good chance that you’ll see a sharp spike in churn for that month.
Whereas if your customers are on an annual contract, they’re more likely to stick around after you sort out the issue.
Take some time to make these changes in your sales process
Selling SaaS products can be like banging your head against a brick wall if you don’t know what you’re doing.
The tips above may not be one-size-fits-all, but use them as guidelines and consider whether they make sense for your business.
Some of them are quick fixes that you can try out today to see how much of an impact they have.