How to Overcome the Three Most Common SaaS Sales Challenges
The three most common SaaS sales challenges can be overcome and lead to breakthrough levels of success
by Boris Zecevic
Anyone who’s been in sales will tell you: The job comes with some unique challenges. And any number of those challenges has likely contributed to the findings by The Sales Management Association that only 51% of salespeople across all industries made quota in 2017.
Salespeople who are working with Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions often struggle with three challenges in particular that can keep them from hitting their numbers and reaching their full performance potential. As part of their sales training development, if they don’t develop the skills and mindset to overcome these issues, the organization’s growth strategy will be at risk, no matter how “next-level” the software might be.
Here’s a closer look at these common roadblocks for SaaS salespeople, along with some tips for addressing them as part of your sales training development strategies.
- Selling Software vs. Business Value
This is a trap that even experienced technology salespeople can fall into because of how crowded and competitive the SaaS market is. Showing off that unique button their current provider doesn’t have is a great differentiator, right? Wrong.
Although customers care about features, that’s not what convinces them to buy. Unless they learn how to change the value equation, your organization will be yet another in a long line of vendors. If the client does end up signing with you, the risk of churn increases.
The problem is, it’s both easy and tempting to talk about features. Reports, syncing and dashboards are all tangible and potentially useful features that are easy to explain and demo. But an emphasis on features often leads the customer to treat your solution as a commodity.
The point of software is to help clients be more efficient and make their lives easier. Every client has unique needs and expectations they’re trying to address with the software, however. You won’t know which ones specifically matter the most until you know what value looks like to that particular client.
To truly differentiate, salespeople need to ask questions about the client’s current situation and challenges and then connect those to what they want to change. For example, is there something that takes them hours, days or weeks to do that your software can do in minutes? Ask them how putting X number of hours back into their work week would impact overall performance. Will this help relieve stress or allow them to focus on other critical projects? The bottom line: Think less about the feature and more about the personal and business impact for the customer.
- Getting into a Pricing Conversation Too Early
Here’s a scenario that’s all-too-familiar to SaaS salespeople: You’re in a first meeting that you’ve worked really hard to secure. Things are going well, and then, the person you’re talking to — who may not even be the only decision-maker — says those dreaded five words: “How much will this cost?”
One reason this question is so prevalent in SaaS sales is that people tend to think of technology as “the bleeding edge,” so they assume it comes with a premium price tag. The prospect may also be asking because they’re doing some comparison shopping. Salespeople need to be sensitive when confronted with this question, but they should also be curious and try to understand the why behind it.
If they don’t think it is in the best interest of the customer to talk about price, they need to express it. A good rule of thumb is to analyze where the deal is in the sales process. Does the client clearly understand the problems that this software will solve? Are they experiencing these problems and grasp the costs of not addressing them? Do they have a vision for the benefits they will receive from solving the problem or realizing new business opportunities? Have you identified the other players in the decision-making process? This isn’t about dodging the price question; it’s about making sure the customer has a solid understanding of the value that the salesperson and the product will bring them.
Getting into a pricing conversation at inappropriate times can kill the deal before any value can be created. Effective salespeople learn how to preempt the discussion or handle it properly in the moment so they can refocus the conversation back to value.
- Having Nonproductive Conversations with Themselves
On an average day, how many conversations will your salespeople have with customers? Five? Ten?
How many conversations will they have with themselves?
This is one of the most overlooked conversations every salesperson has, even though they may have hundreds of them a day. In the highly competitive SaaS sales environment, where sales reps need to perform at a high level to reach quota and there is always something new to learn, these conversations they have with themselves are pivotal to their success.
According to LinkedIn data, computer software industries has the highest turnover rates of any industry. There are many external factors for this, but a salesperson’s inner talk can have a huge impact on their performance and how long they stay with a company. For example, salespeople who tell themselves they’re not really good at what they’re doing might be hesitant to make calls and less committed to doing the activities that would make them more successful. As such, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that leads to their exit.
Another factor is the coaching sales reps get around their beliefs and self-talk. Many sales managers aren’t equipped with the coaching skills to address these kinds of inner barriers that can limit a salesperson’s potential. And plenty of sales managers aren’t doing much coaching at all. The majority of SaaS reps are millennials who value coaching. If they don’t receive it, they won’t feel like they’re getting the sales training development they crave, and this can lead to dissatisfaction with their job and themselves.
Improving this conversation can take some time, but it’s important to invest in it. It can be something as simple as having the salesperson write down their goals and make sure they align with their values. Working with them to understand where they might be out of congruence can also be helpful. The attitudinal side to sales is an important factor in selling success, and it’s something that can be developed.
Compounding the challenge: Any or all of these issues can come up within one sale. But here’s the good news for SaaS salespeople and their firms: With effective sales training development and coaching support, salespeople can do more than overcome their current barriers; they can continually break through to new levels of success, feeding an ongoing cycle of increased confidence, job satisfaction and the drive to achieve. And when salespeople are engaged and confident, they’ll be motivated to rise to any challenge.