sales strategies SaaStock Sanj Bhayro Intercom

Batting above your average: Optimizing your sales strategy for SaaS

Earlier this week, the Intercom team visited SaaStock Dublin for three days of incredible talks and informative workshops with the most exciting new SaaS companies in the industry. 

On October 19th, the final day of the event, I appeared on the Growth stage for a fantastic conversation with Mark Organ, Categorynauts CEO, and Founder and CEO of Influitive and Eloqua, discussing how companies can build winning sales strategies as they continue to evolve. In this discussion, Mark and I drew from our experience across tech companies large and small, and shared some of our learnings.

Sanj Bhayro SaaStock Intercom

Sanj Bhayro, VP Sales at Intercom, in conversation with Mark Organ, CEO of Categorynauts, at SaaStock Dublin 2022

4 top tips for optimizing your sales strategy

1. Create a strong champion

No matter what segment you’re targeting, you’ll need a strong champion who will act as an advocate for your solution. Typically your champion will have a very clear problem they want to solve and they will want to work in partnership with you. A strong champion will do the internal selling with you if you build trust.

Remember that your advocate is putting their time and trust in you – it’s up to you to reciprocate by providing value, being reliable and credible, and focusing on the small things – even gestures like sending swag or connecting them with other customers will go a long way towards building a great relationship that will last for years. You’ll need your champion to help you navigate the business and help get that order over the line, and they’ll need you most when they need to drive adoption, value, and ROI.

“Your first deal may be small, but you now have an opportunity to expand across the account”

2. Don’t be afraid to start small

Typically in a land and expand sales motion, your solution is solving a specific problem for a particular line of business or function. Your first deal may be small, but you now have an opportunity to expand across the account. For that first land, it is important that you show success quickly – typically that means driving adoption or usage, and fast time to value.

If you can demonstrate that your solution is providing value in one part of the business, you have a great platform to expand deeper into the account.

So how do you align your sales team to focus on customer success? One way is to incentivise your sales team on customer success metrics or the renewal. It’s also important not to create a fragmented customer journey across your departments as you move from signing the deal, to onboarding, to adoption, to renewal. The more you invest in refining your customer journey, the bigger opportunity you have to grow the account.

“One the biggest mistakes I see is SAAS companies adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach”

3. Different company, different sales motion

One the biggest mistakes I see is SAAS companies adopting a “one size fits all” approach to sales, regardless of segment. Enterprise and SMB companies typically purchase in different ways and require different levels of support. For example, within Enterprise companies there are, on average, eight people involved in the buying cycle – while for SMB it is usually one or two.

In Enterprise, if you are selling at the account level, you will need to work with different personas with different needs. You will almost always be put through a formal evaluation which will include technical validation, alignment with business priorities, and vendor onboarding.

“Which sales motion best supports your GTM?”

There are also different approaches to selling your product: product-led growth, sales-assisted, and sales-led growth. On top of those, you have different sales motions: land and expand versus upfront commitment. Self-service approaches can work well with Enterprise accounts as a bottoms up, user- or team-led entry point – but to grow that account you will need to go beyond that user or team and expand further into the organisation.

To help understand which approach best suits you, consider your GTM and plan for the next three years. Which segments do you want to win in? Are you more focused on winning the user and team or the account? Which sales motion best supports your GTM?

“Executive-to-executive engagement is crucial to building trust and alignment”

4. Get other executives involved in the sales process 

The VP Sales should not be the only executive involved in the deal. Executive-to-executive engagement is crucial to building trust and alignment, and can be a major competitive differentiator – ultimately contributing to a longer-term partnership approach that goes beyond that first deal.

Exec-to-exec alignment also helps you multi-thread an account and can open doors that broaden the opportunity. Think about connecting your product execs, support exec or CFO with the relevant team’s in your buyer’s company.

Formal initiatives like account sponsorship programs, customer advisory boards and CXO forum not only help create tight alignment at the C-level, but are also valuable feedback loops for your company. Remember there is always an Executive involved somewhere – they just might not be involved yet. It is always better to create that relationship proactively and upfront, rather than after the problem has arisen!

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