Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has been an incredibly lucrative business model in recent years. However, the SaaS sales process can involve longer buying cycles and significant investments. What’s a SaaS company to do in the aftermath of a pandemic that has purse-holders spooked and brands of all stripes reluctant to commit? Use these five strategies to help your SaaS sales team — and your brand — get back on track.
The initial chaos and confusion around COVID-19 may have passed, but the ongoing safety measures and long-term impact of the virus will not subside anytime soon. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) has had the good fortune to enter the “shift everything online” crisis with a digital-first business model. However, this doesn’t mean your SaaS brand experienced no repercussions
A rapid shift to 100% remote work would be challenging in any centralized office, for sure. But the larger issue for SaaS sales has been the reticence of clients to purchase in this kind of market. The B2B sales process, especially, has suffered from clients cutting back expenses and hot leads rapidly cooling to hunker down and wait this out. It’s not easy to sell to prospects who want to conserve cash and punt their purchase for indefinite periods of time, even if your product lives online.
Now that state and local economies are starting to reopen, it’s time to adjust your SaaS sales process to the new normal. Companies and individuals are starting to buy again — but recovery won’t happen on its own. The six SaaS strategies below will help your brand reconnect with hesitant customers and become more resilient in the face of an uncertain future.
Six Post-COVID Adjustments for the SaaS Sales Process
1. Keep Your Message Timely — It’s Not Over Yet
Messaging must continue to adapt. Business-as-usual talking points would still sound tone deaf or blind to the realities of the post-COVID market. Try to speak to the pain points or struggles that are top of mind for buyers in the same position as you — focused on safety, stability, and recovery.
Many businesses are leery about new investments as they slowly open their shells, for instance. Rather than talking about your service's total value, can you show how an investment now will ‘stop the bleeding’ and help with long-term savings? Could the technology contribute to (or improve upon) the ongoing needs of a remote office? Will it provide relief in some area of the business that’s been particularly stressed or stretched thin from the pandemic?
It’s also critical to ease off any kind of hard-selling and, instead, embrace empathy in your sales process. Don’t push; be conscientious and focus your messaging on your brand’s desire to do whatever you can to help, and be okay with “maybe later.” This is a great time for collecting future leads and nurturing relationships, so allow your tone and approach to respect a resource-drained environment. Try to be encouraging, sympathetic, and have a genuine interest in helping prospects, whether or not they’re ready to buy.
2. Allow Shorter, “Bite Size” SaaS Contracts
Sometimes waiting won’t work. By the end of the coronavirus, many businesses will feel incredible pressure to generate new revenue quickly.
Do anything you can to avoid cutting rates to compete in a cash-poor market. Lowering that bar sets you up for losses that will last long beyond the recovery process — you’ve essentially set a precedent that new clients will not want to see disrupted.
The better approach is to cut the scope of your deliverables. In other words, trim the time you require new clients to lock in and lower the number of services you include in a package. It’s wise to offer low-commitment packages that will attract hesitant buyers. Folks will be more willing to try out a bite-sized service as they test the waters of the economic recovery.
Used to working in annual or 90-day increments? Try offering a special COVID-conscious month-to-month package. Accustomed to selling a full software suite with a robust service, training, and implementation package? See if any of it could be parceled out for a more “a la carte” offering at a lower rate.
These enticing samples will get feet in the door because they don’t require high commitment. But as the economy recovers, more commitment may very well be the end result.
3. Re-engagement Campaigns
Many of your hot-and-ready prospects from January will have gone cold due to the coronavirus. Once the worst of it is behind us, it’s time to reconnect. There are all sorts of great ways to re-engage with lost or cold leads.
Of course, leads go cold for many reasons, and plenty of things will have changed during the pandemic. There’s no guarantee the lead will be interested in reconnecting at all. But you miss every opportunity you don’t go for. You might try:
- A survey to directly ask about their interest in re-engaging
- A curiosity-stoking 9-word email
- Trigger events related to their recovery from COVID-19 (monitor their social channels for signals)
- Fresh incentives to re-engage
Whatever you do, the well of lost leads is one of the first places to return as your SaaS brand moves into the recovery stage.
4. Expand Customer Success and Inside Sales Teams
In their article on adapting to the crisis, HBR reported that the growth in inside sales and among customer success managers (CSMs) has “far outpaced growth in jobs for field salespeople.” If nothing else, the coronavirus has been a clear sign that this trend will (and should) continue.
The precise impact the pandemic will have on post-COVID buyer behavior remains to be seen. However, there’s sure to be some degree of a lasting difference in the way customers want to buy. Safety, consistency, and loyalty are more important than ever to both sellers and buyers. CSMs encourage brand loyalty and client retention by helping your partners realize your ongoing value. Inside sales teams align nicely with the ever-more-tech-savvy and well-informed buyer—in addition to saving on operational costs associated with field salespeople.
SaaS is a complex offering with a longer than average sales cycle. Embrace digital sales and prioritize retention to succeed in the recovering economy. Every account you retain is one you won’t need to replace. Make sure CSMs don’t lead by upselling — rather, inquire about the client’s current struggles, engage in active listening, and ask what your company can do to help.
5. Operational Changes
Our world is headed into a more virtual work environment. The shift towards remote work and expansion of eCommerce started as a solution for social distancing, but the side effect will be — to some extent — that these changes stick.
Your SaaS offering already lives online, so it makes sense to build for resiliency and retain some of your temporary SaaS sales process changes from the pandemic. Detailed, accountable work-from-home policies are a start. Familiarity with hiring and supervising remote workers (whether for necessity or strategic advantage) is even better. Also, keep SaaS sales reps equipped with robust tools for virtual meetings with clients and the ability to send helpful videos.
For example, HubSpot Sales uses a Vidyard integration to enable your sales team to camera record or screen record and then email short, easy-to-play video messages. These could be powerful tools for creating demos, sending customized tutorial videos, answering FAQs, and building a comprehensive help portal video database.
Of course, a virtual workplace comes with challenges, too. Apex COO Jim Harenberg says, “Many companies already have high numbers of remote- or home-based workers and experience the challenge of creating connectedness between employees and the company.” Part of building out digital resilience strategies will be figuring out a solution to the associated obstacles for office and company culture.
A Golden Opportunity For the SaaS Sales Process
Your company won’t be alone in retaining some of the habits of the pandemic period after it’s over. Customers in all industries will be relying more on virtual space to satisfy their needs. That means the need for IT help and support services will become more necessary than ever. Be prepared and keep this opportunity in mind while adjusting your SaaS sales process for the post-pandemic environment.
Much of your revenue already comes in through ongoing support and service—continue to make it a differentiator that sets your brand apart from the pack. Top-notch service is a strong indicator of future growth.