1. SaaS Sales Training: Before you Start
How do you grow SaaS sales? How do you grow sales in your software or technology business?
Sadly most companies are doing the same generic marketing and getting the same generic results.
Growing monthly and annual recurring revenues isn’t easy for any organisation.
Behind every overnight success there is nearly always years of hardwork and maybe even some failures from which they learn and move forward.
B2B SaaS sales training can differ depending on the stage of the startup. The strategy and skills required in stage 1 Product/market fit, will vary from stage 3 Scaling.
Many companies make the mistake of jumping to stage 3 immediately and this can kill their growth. If you try and ramp up sales before you have a firm grip on the systems and processes that drive profitability, every customer you add will drive you further away from your profits.
Related content on SaaS sales:
HOW TO TAKE THE GUESS WORK OUT OF GROWING YOUR ARR
Before starting any SaaS or software sales training here are a few boxes we suggest you tick so that you get the most from your investment in sales training. Sales Training can differ hugely depending on the stage of the startup.
The strategy and skills required in stage 1 Product/market fit will vary from stage 3 Scaling. Many companies make the mistake of jumping to stage 3 immediately and this can kill their growth.
Stage 1 – Ensure you have a proven product/market fit.
Many start-ups rush to employ salespeople and try to scale up before they have proven their product/markit fit.
Product/market fit is simply the process have taking your value proposition and proving you can sell it to someone. As you would expec,t one sale doesn’t mean you have a viable business model,but it’s a starting point.
Many B2B start ups aren’t sure how to prove their product market fit so here are some questions you should ask your team:
1a. Do we have repeat business? Although they have value one off sales don’t actually prove much becasue they won’t help you grow recurring revenues. Locking clients into an annual contract of 12 monthly payments doesn’t equal 12 sets of repeat business.
It’s not until the annual contract renews that you can get a feel for how valuable they see your product.
1b. Are your customers in the same verticals? It’s usually a good sign if you are having repeat success within the same vertical.
That’s not to say that selling across different industries is a bad thing far from it, but in the early days it’s easier when you can be hyperfocussed and branch out as part of your growth strategy.
1c. Is you product solving the same problem? Again it’s not a bad thing if your product solves multiple problems, it’s just in the early stages this can lead to generic marketing and confused sales messaging.
1d. Are you receiving a regular flow of referrals? Most people will happily recommend a product or service if they feel it will of benefit. Whilst a lack of referrals may simply be because you haven’t asked – in this case what is your Net Promoter Score? Improving both of these before you start to scale your business will only make selling easier.
Product/market fit is a journey, not one single event and takes time, customer feedback and usually many iterations from the initial concept. Each iteration should be defined, measured and tested by the user base before being accepted.
1e. Lastly, you should never under estimated the feedback loop from your early adopters. This isn’t just about changing your MVP, it’s about listening and understanding the problems from the prospects perspective.
Seemingly small changes in the sales messaging and sales process based on feedback can have a huge impact in the results you will achieve.
The same feedback loop is invaluable for tech based businesses as they can use this to develop the product roadmap post MVP.
Stage 2 – Systemise Sales
Once Product/market fit is achieved the next stage for Startups is to systemise sales. This can vary greatly, however, the general rules of thumb are, higher prices will mean more man hours are required to sell, and the larger the target customer the less automated the sales process.
Lower priced solutions targeting SME’s is more likely to be a marketing led sale and higher priced solutions to Enterprise organisations are predominantly sales led.
Systemising your B2B sales includes six main areas as follows:
- creating a measurable and repeatable sales process
- using automation technology where appropriate
- segmenting markets and accounts
- turning proven sales plays into repeatable sales process
- Volume on-boarding process for new hires
- gathering relevant KPI’s and metrics – closing ratios, pipeline coverage, average deal size, cost of customer acquisition, customer lifetime value and Sales Rep scorecards
Without these metrics you should not move to the next stage. The metrics should form a solid business case to investors and if they don’t you simply need to make some changes before moving forward.
Having one loss making sales rep and then adding 10 more as you scale, all the time hoping you will turn the corner of profitability isn’t recommended. Sales performance is therefore an important part of stage 2, both in terms of how you will measure it and how you will manage it.
Stage 3 – Scaling Sales
The last and final stage is scaling sales. In many cases start-ups rush to this stage due to pressure from investors or they are running out of cash. The reality is that the more time and effort you put into stages 1 and 2, makes stage 3 so much easier.
When you are ready we recommend you read “How to Build a SaaS Sales Funnel”.
Stage 3 creates huge changes in the business as you move from a small, mostly development based team, to hiring multiple sales, marketing, operations and HR staff.
Costs are huge however it shouldn’t be a concern because you have a proven product/market fit (stage 1) and the right systems & processes in place that are following proven KPI’s (stage 2).
Another challenge here is the mindset of the leadership team. In most cases they have gone for years focussing on saving money, and now they need to start spending money on more sales and marketing hires.
Often this rapid growth can decrease profitability even further as new customers are onboarded.
Moving from a mindset of survival to one of growth shouldn’t be underestimated.
2. Going Outbound
Starting any Outbound sales campaign is a dangerous thing, because when Outbound is done badly it leaves a scorched earth behind.
A scorched earth approach will not only limit future growth, it will dramatically increase the churn in your sales team.
Salespeople like winning and when they aren’t winning and earning commission they will quickly look elsewhere.
This will add cost to your recruitment, management and training budgets, in addition to the missed market opportunities.
Going Outbound is difficult and most businesses make the mistake of simply sending a generic email (including a first name and the company name is no longer classed as personalising) and following up with a nuisance cold call.
This approach will get you some sales, but you will be leaving thousands on the table. The best outbound strategies are one to few, not one to many and they are highly coordinated campaigns that deliver higher opportunity creation rates.
This involves sales and marketing working together to come up with the right target audience, the right sales messaging, the right initial approach and the right sales plays. All of which needs to be supported by content, collateral and campaign material.
There are two primary drivers for B2B success as follows that you should be aware of:
1. The initial approach from the sales development reps need to provide a “gift”. No one likes receiving cold calls and most sales people don’t like making them. What gift can you provide that delivers value to the user that will encourage the salespeople to pick up the phone?
What is of high value to the user, but low value/cost for you to deliver?
2. The faster the user receives value from the product/service, then the more likely they are to use the service, stay engaged and complete the on boarding process.
Instant gratification motivates users so use this to your advantage. Invest heavily in your on boarding and customer success programmes, because this will reduce your churn down the line.
3. Understanding Sales Training: The Basics
To train your B2B sales team to be the best that they can and bring in the most sales that they can, you have to use the science of learning. Just like students in a classroom, your sales team is going to study and work hard to try to bring about the best results.
For any student, whether they’re in a traditional classroom or not, there is a general 70:20:10 rule of learning. This is a widely-adopted rule that applies to nearly all scenarios of teaching and learning.
To train your sales team to their maximum level of efficiency, follow this:
70% on-the-job training
20% coaching based on performance
10% in-classroom learning
If you follow this basic guideline, you’ll see that your sales team will respond better to training and be able to do more with what they’ve learned from their time in training.
Another rule that you should pay attention to in regards to training your team is the idea of repetition. You can’t expect that every member of your team remember every rule, procedure, and policy that you’ve told them for the rest of their lives.
In fact, most people can only retain about 20% of what they’ve learned over a month. To reduce the amount of information forgotten (and ensure that your team is up to speed), you have to train everyone on your team continually.
In terms of sales training content, whilst every business is different we would advise you include topics like how to engage buyers, selling skills, building a sales pipeline, consultative selling skills, reducing sales cycles and account growth.
This means that you need to train even the most senior employees of your team continuously.
TREATING YOUR SALES TEAM AS STUDENTS
Whether you’re training a new group of salespeople, or repeating an old lesson to a group of executives, you should keep a classroom-like state in mind. All of your sales representatives are students when they’re in training. Therefore, you have to act like a teacher to perform effective sales coaching.
Think about some of the best strategies that teachers in traditional classrooms use. For example: “See. Do. Teach.” This is a phrase that’s widely adopted by teachers who are looking to make effective students.
What this means is that if you want your salespeople to be as effective as possible, you have to show them what to do, ask them to do it, and then require that they teach someone else how to do it. Not only is this repetitive. It also requires your team to show their skills in three different ways.
After a student (or salesperson) achieves this line of practice, they are said to have mastered the material. However, we all know that one listen-in and two practice calls aren’t enough to make effective salespeople.
REACTING TO PROGRESS MADE AS A COACH
When you’re teaching a new or old group of salespeople, you should see the act more as a way of coaching them, rather than training them. We’re sure you know, your role as a coach for the sales team is to give individuals feedback based on what they do.
Rather than dictating how they should conduct sales calls, you should give the salesperson feedback based on what they could improve on. Don’t forget to highlight things they’ve done correctly as this will enforce them to do those things correctly again.
As you’re acting as a coach, it’s also essential to focus on one performance indicator at a time. Think about the one quality that you think would send this salesperson above and beyond as they’re conducting sales calls and conferences.
Don’t overwhelm your sales team by picking too many areas of focus at once. Let them ease their way into making sales by fixing one attribute at a time. You’ll also find that coaching and teaching them this way is more manageable as their focus remains on one thing rather than several things.
Often the most neglected but important role in sales is that of sales managers and sales leaders. These are the people who set the bar for sales performance and what is acceptable or not. In many cases sales managers were either the top sales rep or simply a manager with little or no sales experience.
Whether you buy in experienced sales managers or develop your own sales leaders this investment in talent will repay itself many times over.
It’s worthwhile noting that Sales Coaching and Sales Management are very different skills but both play an important part in building and increasing sales performance. Where possible you should separate the roles as a coach cannot make a coachee do anything where as Sales Managers can.
Your SaaS team will inevitably need resources to help them make sales. These resources will range from research tools, to prospecting tools, through to klozing tools like online presentation and digital sign off tools.
Other than mentioning Microsoft which everybody has anyway, we deliberately don’t provide a list of resources in order that this blog can remain vendor neutral, however, we’re more than happy to talk through the resources that we have found to work best.
When you’re training salespeople most companies default to the traditional model whereby they hire a trainer for a day or two days in house training. This may work for some but from experience we have found that at least one member of your sales team will leave. It then becomes financially impossible to have a trainer return to train the one new hire.
We recommend documenting all the training in an electronic B2B Sales Playbook which is living, working document that can be updated and refined as your sales team matures.
Our Playbooks provide a single point of reference and storage for everything a sales person would need in order to be successful selling tech based solutions.
The Playbooks are built in Microsoft OneNote and work across both Windows and Mac devices.
WORKING TOWARDS LONG-TERM SUCCESS
Don’t assume that your sales force can be taught in just a week or even a couple of weeks. The coaching process should be viewed as a multi-year process that is made to bring salespeople from amateurs to coaches themselves.
As you’re conducting your sales coaching program, you should never assume that someone doesn’t need training. No matter how much previous training and experience they have, you should be prepared to put them through a sales program. Even with these ‘experts,’ you should work to build their strengths.
While your sales representatives are succeeding and learning more about their role in the sales process, you should note how they could fill higher positions in the future. For example, you may have a sales representative who is showing great promise for a leadership role. Take note of this and encourage the representative to work towards a higher position like this.
Working towards long-term success means that you should consistently be working to better your sales representatives so that they can bring more business to your company.
ONLINE SALES COACHING
Traditional tech based sales training focuses on what we call the tactical part of sales training. Whilst this is hugely important, there is an inevitable ceiling that is created once you have optimised this part of you sales.
Klozers will work with your leadership team and ensure we deliver a holistic solution that maximises the market opportunity.
If you’re looking for a program to complement your on-the-job SaaS sales training, look no further than our online sales coaching. Our sales experts will coach your sales team to be the best they can be by highlighting strengths and building upon any perceived weak points.
We know that you’re looking for a strong sales force. The only way to get this is to invest in quality tech focused sales coaching like ours.
Contact us today to get started on giving your sales force the best coaching there is. We can discuss what you’re looking for in a coaching program and make a plan to get your sales team on the track to success.