All that I Learnt from my 3 Months Experience of Selling a SaaS Product
To start off, I am not a sales pro or a sales rockstar. I didn’t even choose to do sales for the product (PushCrew — the sexy new way to communicate with your audience via push notifications on browsers) I am currently working on. And neither did I realise when and how I actually started selling!
But I got my first successful sale — a three digit dollar value — in less than 1 month of launching the product.
So if I could do it, anyone with decent smarts can! :) Here’s all that I learnt in the past 3 months crunched in 5 simple points.
<This post is mostly about inbound / inside sales. I will be covering outbound sales in a different post>
- If you know how to organise your list, 70% of your work is done.
Typically, while you’re doing inside sales, you might be required to talk to 10s of different prospects simultaneously, every day. It can get overwhelming, difficult and frustrating at times. The key is to know how you want to manage your prospects. Since PushCrew started off as an experimental project, I didn’t have a sophisticated CRM to track my sales activity. All the emails were landing in my Gmail inbox itself. To manage the magnitude of emails, I simply started adding labels to each email. Typically, one single email in my inbox would have at least 3 tags. Here’s a screenshot of one of my emails.
(yes, I use the subject line ‘Hi’. And it works! More on this in my next post on outbound sales.)
I use labels for everything — if I have to follow-up with someone internally, I have a tag with their name, if I think someone is a potential customer, I have a tag for that, if somebody wants to cancel, I put a label on that.
Adding labels on your Gmail emails is very simple. Check out this link to see how to do it.
Apart from that I maintain a ton of Google sheets adding different prospects in different lists based on when and how I want to follow up, which stages of prospecting they are on, and the priority in which I have to talk to them (last bit is most important, check out a later point dedicated solely to this).
Again, I didn’t start doing it this smartly. In my initial few days, I was mostly lost, overwhelmed and not able to manage my inbox at all (and my temper was on peak high). But after a while, I started organising my list better and was able to get more done. And smartly!
2. Follow-up. Follow-up again. And follow-up one more time. (And just don’t stop).
People are busy. Their lives, their dogs, their nagging girlfriends, their work, and absolutely everything else is more important than your product. They don’t have a ton of time to invest on you or your product. And neither are they obliged to answer your emails.
So accept the fact, that most of your emails will go un-replied. (Your favourite prospects will even choose to stop replying when you have already told the entire organisation that they have agreed to pay.)
What to do in this case? The answer is simple — ask them. Instead of guessing, creating stories in your head or waiting (the worst thing to do), just go AND ASK. If the follow-up email also goes unanswered, write another, and then another and one more — till the time you get a yes or a no (trust me, a ‘no’ is way better than no answer).
I have seen people answering back even in my 5th or 6th follow up. So you can choose to stop at the second email or the third, or send that one extra email that can really make a difference. I relate this to one quote that I read long back on HONY,
As long as you can take that one extra step, take it.
So the rule of thumb is, get a response — no matter if it is a yes, or no.
<If you’re new to sales, have been in sales for years, or are a sales rockstar, and haven’t read Steli’s blog already, you MUST leave this post right here and head over to his blog right now.
All that I have learnt about sales has come from just two things: 1) My experience in sales and 2) Reading Steli’s blog posts and hearing his podcasts.>
3. The Pareto Principle of 80–20 is true for sales as well.
Pareto Principle says that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. If you relate that to a SaaS business, roughly 80% of your revenue will come from just 20% of your prospect list.
It’s very easy to get a kick from the 100s of people who reach out to you saying that they want to try out your product. And feel all wow about it. But fact of matter is, hardly 10% of them will really add cash in your bank.
The important thing is recognising who these 10% are and then choosing to spend 80% of your work time on them.
For SaaS businesses, serious buyers will give you signals. And all of them will start to fit in a pattern in some time. For PushCrew, these signals were:
- adding code on website
- getting a developer involved from the prospect’s end (clearly telling that it’s important for them and that’s why they added an extra resource of the organisation in the conversation)
- asking for a free trial explicitly rather than choosing the free account (we do have a free account as well)
- asking for a product deck or some literature on product & its use-cases. Initially I found this very irritating. Especially after I had already spent so much time explaining the product to them. Here the logic is simple — they want to go back and discuss it with their team. So if you can help make that simple, go ahead and do it. Take it as a positive signal and spend some time writing a ‘long email’ to your prospects soon after the call, just revisiting all that you discussed and taking up all questions that you couldn’t answer over the call.
In summary, know the signals, and know which of your prospects have a tendency to buy and thus who are the ones you want to spend most time on.
4. Move fast and don’t let rejections lose your heart.
When I started selling PushCrew, each time a conversation would go in limbo or someone would suggest that they would pick up the conversation again few months later (a courteous way of saying that they are not interested) or they simply said ‘No’ — I used to get disheartened. My morale would go down and I would start telling myself, ‘this is not happening. I need to tell my manager to get experienced sales people. Or let me just run away. :D’
In such cases, Breathe In, Breathe Out and RELAX. Like I stated above, not all of your prospects are going to buy. And the hard truth of selling is that when people say it’s a job full of instant gratitude — that’s just 10% of the times. The rest 90% is rejection. A lot of rejection.
I learnt how to deal with rejections the hard way during these 3 months of selling.
The lesson here is that don’t let rejections demotivate you. And never let the outcome of a previous sales call, affect the next. Each new call with a prospect is an opportunity, and when it’s show time — be your best!
In the same point when I say move fast, I mean get them to pay or get that rejection fast. Really fast. You cannot spend days or months on a single prospect. Get a closure and move on. Again, Closure = Both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
This is not really a point in which I share any sales related insights. This is something I stick to for learning any new skill. We are living in interesting times and we don’t need to get a degree or pay hefty sums of money getting into schools to acquire a new skill. Everything is available online. So read and get smarter.
When I started selling, I signed up for all available courses on B2B sales. I also specifically looked for posts related to inbound/outbound sales on GrowthHackers, and Hacker News, read up 100s of answers on Quora related to SaaS selling and went through all articles on sales that I could get my hands on.
Two blogs that I would strongly suggest are:
- Close.io blog (This is gold)
- Pipetop blog (I absolutely loved one article on their blog that I just can’t find now. Will update soon as I get it)
If you read a lot, you are bound to excel in absolutely any role. So whenever you need a break, just open GH or HN, and read!
This is it. Hope I was able to share some insights. Before ending the post, I would like to share one secret, here it goes:
For my first sales call, my manager (also the CEO of the organisation) said he wanted to sit with me for the demo. (Disclaimer — he’s super sweet! And his intentions were absolutely not to judge me but help answer any questions that I might not be able to.) I absolutely did NOT want him to. Reason — I was about to read my first sales demo from a pre-written script! :D (with things such as — pause here, ask a question, say ummm to make it sound natural — explicitly written).
But I managed to reach this far. And if I could, anyone can, and so can you! :)
And no! Paras, the CEO, was super busy, so he didn’t attend that call. And my job was saved!