The New Rules of SaaS: 5 Tips for 2017

Now more than ever, success stories across the SaaS community have inspired the next generation of SaaS startups across the world. But with new players and ever-changing expectations, entrepreneurs now have to follow the new rules of SaaS, and must find new ways to win both the hearts potential investors and customers.

To kick off 2017, we brought together SaaS experts across the the Salesforce ecosystem to share their best practices for succeeding in the new world of SaaS.

  • Jason Lemkin: 2x founder, 1x VC, and non-stop SaaS enthusiast. Before his days of SaaStr and venture capital, Jason was CEO and co-founder of EchoSign (acquired by Adobe).
  • Leyla Seka: leads the Salesforce AppExchange and has continually worked to help SaaS startups grow with the help of Salesforce throughout her eight years with the company.
  • Gadi Shamia: 3x founder with experience across product and operations at both early-stage and large companies.
  • Tiffani Bova: formerly an analyst at Gartner, who recently joined Salesforce to help our customers re-imagine growth through innovative business models and technology.

So, how exactly can you succeed as a SaaS startup in 2017? Here are five tips from our expert panel.

#1 Understand the new pace of innovation

“If you assume your brand and business processes will carry 10 years, you are at risk.”
Jason Lemkin, Founder, SaaStr

Understand that anything in your blind spot is changing at an unprecedented rate and you need to stay on top of it. Know what’s happening in your industry, current trends in funding, your technology and everything else that impacts your business, so you can prepare and adjust accordingly.

#2 Make sure everyone’s in sales mode

Whether you’re the founder, the genius engineer behind the product or the company’s first sales person, everyone in your company must be able to:

As competitive noise intensifies and attention span decreases to below goldfish-average, your ability to succinctly pitch your business value to prospective customers and showcase customer success can make the difference in landing your next big deal.

#3 Be tenacious and embrace it

“In SaaS, you can do it through hard work because you are going to learn the market and get better at it.”
Gadi Shamia, COO, Talkdesk

Iterate. Gain customers. Lose customers. Repeat. This should be today’s SaaS mindset. “No Software” is not enough, signing a contract with a big company is not enough, even having a good product won’t take you there. The key to success is out-hustling everyone else and going the extra mile to do the one thing that makes your company special 10x better than everybody else. Give yourself enough time and embrace it.

#4 Do what your customers want, not what they ask

Take the time to listen to your customers and really understand the underlying problem they are trying to solve. Sometimes customers may ask for a feature that might not be the answer to their issue, so it’s important to anticipate customer needs before they can articulate them. Always prioritize customer needs in your processes.

#5 Identify role models

Don’t start everything from scratch. Salesforce paved the way for a lot of SaaS companies — use the Salesforce playbook to accelerate your growth.


For more hands-on advice from SaaS leaders, read Volume 2 of The SaaS Startup Founder’s Guide, which gives you:

  • Frameworks to assess and solve business challenges unique to the SaaS industry
  • Tips and insights for better understanding your customers
  • Key sales and marketing strategies to help you grow