Selling in the market of B2B SaaS is no easy feat. With large price tags, high expectations of thought leadership, and what can be painfully long sales cycles, sales teams must be prepared with a different set of tools and methods than their B2C and non-SaaS counterparts.
Considering the large variety of steps and important elements which go into the sales process of any given B2B SaaS sales transaction, it can be easy to skip important ones, leaving you scratching your head on why those sales calls just aren’t working out. Having your reporting in order from the start, coordinating with your marketing team, and constantly optimizing your sales process is crucial for making sure you’re communicating the right message to the right leads at the right point in time.
The three steps: Analyze, categorize, and prioritize
We all know keeping your contacts in a Rolodex is out-of-date, but running an Excel spreadsheet isn’t as far behind it as many would think. Manually entering and sorting through errors puts the quality of your data at the risk of human error and is difficult, if not impossible to scale as your business grows.
Having automation in place and a good, reliable data system is important for any successful sales team. Setting up these systems is not always easy and the learning curve can be a steep one, but when they are up and running you’ll save time and have a set of data you can trust. Once you have that data, make use of it! Recognizing patterns in your contacts and optimizing to address them is the best way to make active, continual improvements to your sales method.
A good reporting foundation starts with good reporting software. The first step here is to select the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system you’ll be using. Systems like Salesforce, Freshworks, and Zoho all have their merits, particularly when integrated with the rest of your tech stack, while systems like HubSpot aggregate your CRM onto the same platform as your Content Management System (CMS) and other reporting tools.
Once you’ve found the CRM that’s right for your businesses, establish it in your day-to-day reporting as soon as possible. The sooner you begin aggregating your data, the more historical data you will have to look back on and the stronger your conclusions will be.
Now that you are tracking important data, you’ll need to start checking in on it on a regular basis. Set aside some time each week to review your performance: Where do you stand against your goals? What weak areas stand out to you? What can you do to improve them?
Checking in on the same metrics week over the week will allow you to closely follow any trends you see arising and adapt to them as needed. Here are some key metrics to watch for:
- Time spent in each stage - How long are contacts spending in each stage of your funnel? Where are they being slowed down and how can you reduce friction in these areas?
- Stage-to-stage conversion rates - During which stage of the sales process are you losing most of your prospects? If you see a steep and sudden drop-off in your funnel, think of ways you can mitigate this. Also consider that it may simply mean that you are receiving a high percentage of poor-fit leads, in which case a conversation with your marketing team may be in order.
- Reasons for lost deals - Record your reasons for lost deals with the precision and specificity you’ll want to see when you are later analyzing your results. If you are seeing a lot of contacts lost because of poor fit, try addressing your positioning in messaging. If more of them are dropping off because they found solutions elsewhere or disinterest in your service, it may be time to reconsider your pitch and, in more extreme cases, your offering.
- Percentage of leads within your ICP - Before you even sit down to talk with incoming leads, think about whether these are the kind of prospects you are optimistic about talking to. In other words: are they a good fit for your service?
- Percentage of “successful” calls - Of all the meetings and calls with leads that you have in a given week, month, or year, how many are “successful?” Define “successful” however you’d like in this case, but think about how often leads down the funnel from this first meeting and how often they become customers.
Your CRM’s up and running and you’re checking in on your key metrics regularly to track your performance. Now it’s time to put your organizational skills to good use and break down your contacts into categories.
While a CRM makes a lot of your job in sales easier, keeping track of your communications, contacts’ info, etc., the ultimate benefit of a well-managed CRM will be pattern-finding. What kind of person is moving through your funnel? Who’s getting stuck? What makes them different? Who else looks like them?
Breaking down your contacts into broad categories, like personas, is a great place to start. Once you’ve established these categories, you’ll be able to quickly segment your audience and take note of which characteristics are common among those who have become customers and those who have not.
Avoiding survivorship bias
An important thing to remember when reflecting on the patterns you find in your CRM is the impact of survivorship bias. If you see one type of contact making it through your funnel time and time again your first inclination may be to assume that this is simply your ideal lead, and in many cases, it may well be. Unfortunately, what you aren’t seeing there is all of the people who did not make it all the way through your funnel but might have if you were to tweak something.
Perhaps a high-friction form is preventing a large portion of busy professionals from scheduling a meeting, perhaps your email outreach is effective in gaining interest in one industry but phone calls would be needed to succeed within another. Looking at who has made it to the bottom of your funnel is a great way to learn what audiences you are attracting, however, if you only pay attention to this end of the funnel you’ll end up missing out on a huge scope of other audiences.
With the weak points of your funnel identified and your best and worst-performing personae sorted out, it’s time to start optimizing your funnel. So, where to begin?
One approach is to go back to your marketing team with a new mission and a wanted poster of your ideal personae, “Bring me this lead!” Your marketers snap into action, honing their content, tweaking their ads, generating lists for ABM, and, hopefully, you start having meetings with your favorite kind of lead.
Great. But what if the problem isn’t with the variety of leads your marketing team is bringing in but with the methods you use to sell to them? Perhaps instead of narrowing the top of your funnel, you try to open up the bottom. What pains aren’t you addressing? What case studies are you missing?
In truth, there’s no right answer—the best solution probably lies somewhere in the middle—but this is the kind of prioritization that you’ll need to undertake.
Try tweaking your sales pitch to match each of your personae. Refresh your deck, make small changes to your language, anything you can do to make sure you are presenting your solution as one designed specifically for them. Not their boss, not their direct reports, but precisely them.
If, despite your best efforts, you are unable to convert the kind of leads you are receiving, it’s likely time to reestablish your priorities with your marketing team. Make sure they’re aware of precisely the kind of person you’re looking for, why they are a good fit for your services, and share with them the pains that this kind of lead expresses to you.
You have the unique benefit of interfacing with leads and hearing their hopes and fears firsthand, whereas many marketers will only understand the people they are speaking to in the abstract. Take any opportunity you can to impart this knowledge upon them!
Keeping your funnel up-to-date
There’re only so many hours in the day, and there’s no such thing as a perfect funnel. But, properly maintaining your funnel analysis and being able to spot where your—and your marketing team’s—efforts will go a long way to making it more reliable.
To learn more about your sales funnel, check out these other helpful resources: