How to be Effective at Marketing and Sales for SaaS Companies

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Answered by: Milton, An Expert in the Marketing and Sales Category
Marketing and Sales for SaaS companies vs Traditional Businesses

Traditional business are known for long, tedious processes. These are complex transactions with several stakeholders. The CEO, legal department and others all need to provide their final sign off. Sales cycles can last up to 12 months. Sales reps nurture relationships with clients so deals advance accordingly. The cliche tricks are utilized: expensive dinners, events, gifts, etc.



For SaaS companies, complex sales cycles are a death wish. The SaaS buying cycle is short and quick. A prospect may watch a demo, sign up for a trial and convert to a paying customer without sales rep interaction. Customers are given monthly, multi-month or annual contracts since software changes frequently. Companies must demonstrate the value of their product consistently to earn renewals.

The New School of Marketing: Inbound



Before software began to “eat the world,” marketing was mostly outbound techniques. Customers were found through mailing lists, cold calls and advertising. These methods were appropriate before the internet age. Now, it’s imperative to focus on inbound marketing.

A basic inbound marketing strategy includes:

Social Media - Social media can be used to promote content, answer customer questions or concerns, build brand awareness, promote special offers and provide company updates.

Content Marketing - Content creation and distribution helps SaaS companies explain the value of their product without a sales call. Companies create blog posts, whitepapers and case studies to show how a product works. Even if content doesn’t provide conversions, it builds their industry authority.

Website Design and Strategy - Websites are a senior piece of the marketing toolset, but their importance has never been greater. SaaS websites often include demo environments where users can experiment with the software. Or carefully crafted landing pages that are optimized with A/B testing.

Sales in the SaaS World

The misconception about selling SaaS products and services is that the approach needs to be one of two extremes: passive (self-serve) or aggressive. The self-serve refers to a model where customers test a product and buy it without talking to sales. The other extreme refers to high-touch sales where the product is positioned as a solution to a specific problem or as an upgrade to an existing tool.

The correct approach is a combination of both, where sales reps have the flexibility to personalize their approach based on each customer. Additionally, there are unique components to the art of selling SaaS.

Trials - SaaS vendors use temporary subscriptions so customers can get hands-on experience with a product (without spending any budget). Trial periods often last 14 or 30 days. Prompts, call-to-actions and other communication is used to encourage customers to upgrade during or after their trial. Other companies use freemium business models. This format lets customers use a free version of the software, but encourages them to upgrade to the paid version for more features, better support, etc.

Content - Presentations, decks, brochures and more have always been in the sales playbook. The growth of content marketing opened up the door for more specialized content such as whitepapers, case studies and infographics. This content is shared by sales reps depending on where customers are at in the buying cycle.

Customer Success - The biggest difference between traditional sales and SaaS is the importance of post-sale retention. This was first discovered by Salesforce who were tremendously successful in customer acquisition, but saw their overall growth declining due a percentage of their customers leaving each month (referred to as churn). This was the genesis for customer success which is a departmental, philosophical and organizational focus on customer retention. This responsibility usually falls outside of sales, but it’s essential to a company’s growth. Therefore, salespeople are urged to bring on customers who fit. Customers who have long-term potential to use the software without obvious red flags.

Takeaway: Don’t Be a One-Trick Pony

We’ve analyzed the distinct differences between marketing and sales of the past vs. marketing and sales for SaaS companies. Consider how much these departments have to collaborate. Sales teams need strong inbound marketing so they get qualified leads. Marketing needs sales to comprehend their material and present it to prospects properly. Furthermore, customer success is now in the picture and they rely on cooperation from both departments.

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