3 Ways the SaaS Sales Process Is Unique (Plus Key Sales Metrics)

SaaS products require a longer sales process, greater focus on customer relationships, and a true understanding of what they need.

Daniel Ternyak
January 29, 2023

When you're using a digital product or subscription business model, winning a purchase is rarely as simple as a quick transaction. Naturally, the SaaS sales cycle — which includes all of the tools and techniques you use to drive a sale — requires a unique approach.

This blog post will introduce you to what makes SaaS sales different, then take you through a typical SaaS sales process. We'll also explain three key metrics that will help you evaluate your sales team's success.

3 Characteristics That Make SaaS Sales Unique

The nature of SaaS products requires sales reps to move away from a fast-paced and product-focused transactional selling methodology. Effective SaaS sales models must take into account these three traits that make these sales different:

1. Extended Sales Process

If there's anything SaaS salespeople need, it's patience. The average SaaS business spends up to six months (and at least a couple weeks) engaging with leads before closing. This is on par with most B2B sales cycles, which last at least four months.

So why does SaaS sales take so long? Shoppers in the industry often spend more time researching, negotiating, and comparing brands. When SaaS selling involves high-ticket sales and more stakeholders or decision-makers, your leads want to make sure they're getting the best value for long-term success.

The exact length of your sales process will depend on various factors, like the price of your product and the length of your free trial. But don't expect clients to make spur-of-the-moment decisions.

2. Long-Term Relationships

Successful SaaS sales reps must focus on strong, ongoing relationships with leads and existing customers. While retail stores may touch base with clients somewhat sporadically, SaaS companies thrive on continued customer engagement. For example, leads are most likely to buy if they're getting value from a free trial every day. Current clients will only stay with you if you keep them engaged with your platform.

Your sales process must reflect the need for trust, rapport, and long-term engagement.

3. Customer Focus

SaaS sales: two happy people shaking hands

SaaS sales is a customer-centric process. SaaS product features are always changing and monthly pricing can be easy to beat, but when your sales representatives are focused on customer success, your leads and client base will value your brand above the rest. During the sales process, many SaaS teams use the consultative selling model, which is all about getting to know clients first, so they can best cater to their needs.

6 Stages of a SaaS Sales Cycle

The right sales cycle can effectively drive leads through the SaaS sales funnel, in which leads move from an initial state of awareness to brand loyalty. While your exact sales techniques may vary (and change over time), a typical SaaS sales process includes six key stages, which we'll define below.

1. Prospecting

The first stage in the SaaS sales process requires you to identify your potential customers and create your first touchpoints. Your primary goal is to catch your ideal client's attention and capture their contact information, if you don't have it already.

Many SaaS sales teams use inbound marketing techniques in this stage. For example, you can create high-quality blog posts, webinars, or social media posts. Inbound marketing is a passive approach that allows you to reach your audience on the right channels with the information they need — no direct contact needed. However, you can take a more direct approach to prospecting by making phone calls, sending direct emails, or showing up at trade shows.

No matter what approach to prospecting you use, you and your prospects should be well-aware of each other by the end of this stage.

2. Qualifying

Since the SaaS sales cycle takes a significant amount of time, you don't want to waste your efforts on shoppers who aren't likely to buy. Just because someone visits your site or signs up for a free trial doesn't mean they'll follow through. This is why it's crucial to include a qualifying stage, in which you determine how good of a fit your prospects are for your SaaS product.

Sales CRMs can make this easy. Many of these sales tools include a lead scoring feature, which uses data to rank prospects based on their estimated value. With this automation, you can quickly identify the best opportunities.

Alternatively, you can follow up with leads via phone call or email to chat with them about their needs and pain points. A quick conversation can help you spot the best fits and most interested shoppers.

3. Presenting

The next stage in the SaaS sales process involves giving your qualified leads more insight into the value your product can provide. Your goal is to persuade leads that you're worth their time and nudge them toward a meeting with a dedicated sales professional. If you offer a free trial, this stage will likely occur when your prospect's free trial is about to end and you need to upsell to keep them around.

For SaaS sales teams, presenting often means creating a drip email campaign that keeps leads engaged with your brand and free trial or freemium product. For example, you can send individual emails about new features they can try or link to blog posts on your site.

By the end of this stage, you should have leads who intend to buy or at least have a meeting with you.

4. Overcoming Objections

SaaS sales: two people discussing in front of a laptop

While we'd all love for our leads to be as gung-ho about our products as we are, many will have questions or concerns after your "presentation." The more your product costs, the more they'll want a perfect solution. You need to know how to alleviate your leads' concerns as you dive into a one-on-one conversation.

Whether you're meeting in-person or over a video call, your role in this stage is to highlight the value of your product for your client's specific situation. Based on the pain points you identified in past stages, you can emphasize how your software meets their unique needs — even if a feature they wanted is missing or it doesn't seem like the perfect price. This is especially the case if customization is possible.

By the end of this stage, leads should be confident in the value your product will bring them.

5. Closing

Closing can be simple. Your sales rep might send a final proposal, and your lead may instantly accept. Other times, you may have a few last-minute negotiations. For example, a lead might request an adjustment to annual contract terms.

Some compromise is often expected during negotiations. But in SaaS sales (and high ticket closing in general), it's important to avoid giving unplanned discounts on pricing just to land a new customer. The best sales leads see the value in your product. If price is a big deterrent, this might be a sign that they'll expect price cuts in the future and walk away from any upsell.

6. Nurturing

The SaaS sales process doesn't end at the close. The subscription business model depends on customer retention for recurring revenue, so ensuring a great customer experience is a must.

Immediately after your sale, you can encourage clients to take part in an onboarding process in which you can teach them how to use your product, so they can maximize the value they get from it. A live video chat pop-up like ServiceBell can make one-on-one onboarding as convenient for your clients as possible. When they have time, clients can easily tap a widget on your site to jump on a live onboarding call.

Continue nurturing clients over time by keeping them updated on features, actively offering customer support, or asking them for feedback on your software. Over time, you can steadily upsell customers and turn your best clients into advocates by asking for reviews.

3 SaaS Sales Metrics to Measure Your Success

Tracking the right SaaS sales metrics is essential for improving your sales process over time. When you keep an eye on your performance with these objective measurements, you can reshape your sales strategy when you're not meeting your expectations.

1. Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)

MRR is the total revenue you expect to earn each month, based on the amount of active subscriptions you currently have. To calculate this, all you need to do is add all the monthly fees your clients are paying. MRR helps you understand if your sales are rising, staying stagnant, or dropping.

2. Churn Rate

Churn rate is the percentage of clients who cancel their subscriptions over a period of time. To calculate this metric, identify the total number of customers you had during your selected time frame. Divide that number by the amount of customers who left in the same time frame, then multiply by 100. Reducing your churn rate is key to achieving continuous, rapid growth.

3. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

SaaS sales reps invest a lot of time and money on every lead. Reducing CAC, which is the average amount of money you spend to win one customer, is crucial for business growth. To calculate this metric, total all your sales and marketing expenses from a selected time frame. Divide this number by the total number of customers you gained within that same time frame.

Improve Your SaaS Sales Process

SaaS sales is a unique process that involves a long sales cycle and a strong customer focus. Once you've identified the best sales prospects, the sales process is all about proving your software's value in relation to your customer's unique needs. But the sales process isn't over when you land a new sale. To achieve ongoing growth, your sales team must actively engage with clients, track metrics, and offer support — starting with an onboarding session. Sign up for ServiceBell for free to start offering convenient, live onboarding sessions and boost your client retention.