Definitive Guide to SaaS Sales (With Types and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 21, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Software as a service (SaaS) has become a popular choice for accessible software that businesses can use online to fulfil specific needs. Many businesses use SaaS applications to manage budgets and finances, customer relations, projects, and databases. Understanding the types of sales models used for SaaS businesses can help you develop your technology sales career in this market. In this article, we explain what SaaS sales are, list the types of sales models used by SaaS representatives, and outline the essential skills for professionals selling these services.

What is SaaS sales?

SaaS sales focuses on the selling of web-based software that organizations access and use entirely online. These sales involve the promotion of the programs to clients, commonly through a single provider that hosts, secures, and services the online software applications. SaaS companies engineer, maintain, and support the applications they offer businesses in exchange for subscription fees or other methods of payment. These cloud-based programs typically result in higher revenues for SaaS products than traditional software programs with longer sales processes for acquiring clients and, commonly, a onetime fee for its use.

When selling SaaS products, sales representatives communicate the benefits of the solutions over the features of the product. For example, a bookkeeping software might boast its ability to input expense information from images of receipts to streamline record-keeping, rather than share the details of the image capture technology. Sales professionals who represent SaaS applications typically have strong communication and storytelling skills that they use to relate to prospects and explain the benefits of the software. They are knowledgeable in the software and can offer troubleshooting or customer service to prospective customers to enhance their experience with the product.

Related: What Is the SAAS Industry? (With Benefits and Types)

Types of sales models for SaaS applications

Providers that sell SaaS products often employ specific sales models to attract potential clients, meet with customers, and continue to provide support. Here are some sales models SaaS representatives might use when prospecting:

Customer self-service

Self-service SaaS models are sales processes that software companies automate for business clients who want to browse and select SaaS products based on their unique needs. In this type of sales model, the provider uses various marketing activities to attract target customers. SaaS companies achieve this by identifying target markets who might benefit from their offerings and developing content that showcases the benefits of the software for these individuals or businesses. These efforts typically bring prospects back to an informational web page with an automated process to facilitate the client's registration and purchase.

These types of self-service models often require strategic marketing efforts to promote the service and explain its uses and benefits effectively to the customer. The transaction typically occurs on the provider's website, where the customers service and manage their purchases on their own. Developing helpful and descriptive content is essential for securing a sale with this method, with websites typically featuring an FAQ page, video descriptions of the service, and client testimonials. These SaaS products are typically a set service with minimal customization options apart from various paid or free versions.

Related: SAAS Marketing (Definition, Advantages, and Key Elements)

Transactional sales

A transactional sales model uses internal sales teams that promote and sell their company's SaaS product. This often requires the sales representatives to build relationships with potential clients, providing education and information on the product benefits to convert them to paying customers. Customers rely on the representatives to guide them through the transaction process when registering and paying for the service. Companies may use this model for more niche SaaS products that require customization of the offerings and a more personalized sales approach. They often offer a tiered pricing model with discounts, time-sensitive promotions, and knowledgeable sales support.

Related: Outbound Sales vs. Inbound Sales (With Definition and Steps)

Enterprise sales

The enterprise sales method requires continuous sales operations to identify, build, and foster business relationships with both new and existing clients. This option offers prospects with the most customized sales support from representatives, typically involving a longer sales process. Large enterprise companies may follow this model for selling SaaS products, which requires multiple teams to support the overall marketing and selling processes.

This model is ideal for SaaS solutions that offer highly customized or specialized products to large organizations that typically require multi-level decision-making to convert prospects to clients. The products often have a higher price, as they are more complex to explain to prospects, have a longer onboarding process, and offer comprehensive training options, requiring highly skilled representatives.

Related: The 4 Sales Funnel Stages (Definition and Benefits)

Trial periods

Trial period models are extremely effective in attracting new clients and supporting existing accounts. Many companies that offer a trial period to their prospects rely on the usefulness and value of their products to make the sale. The model depends on customers experiencing the superior functionality of the product during the trial to compel them to sign up for a paid version of the software.

At the end of the trial, customers have the option to purchase the product, sign up for a recurring subscription to the service, or continue to use a free version. For example, a SaaS project management company may offer a 14-day trial period to engage potential long-term customers and allow them to test out the product. At the end of the trial period, the customer can purchase the program or lose access to their account and information.

Related: The Benefits of Using Lead Management Software in Sales

Annual plans

In a SaaS annual plan model, companies typically offer customers the opportunity to pay a pre-determined monthly rate or save on costs by purchasing an annual plan. This is an effective way to increase annual sales and commit clients to a longer service period. The offer of a discount can appeal to many customers, making this a successful marketing strategy. Annual plans are often more difficult to cancel and may come with additional cancellation fees to deter customers from ending their subscriptions prematurely.

Essential skills for SaaS sales representatives

Sales representatives working in SaaS use a variety of both hard and soft skills to engage customers, build business relationships, and sell SaaS products. If you're interested in pursuing a career in software sales, here are some skills you can develop to help you find success in this role:

Communication skills

Developing strong and persuasive communication skills is essential for developing a role in sales. From meeting with potential business clients to helping current customers navigate the system and solve technical issues, your ability to listen actively and offer support is crucial for success. Being able to listen to a prospect's needs and offer solutions to meet their needs can help you develop strong client relationships. Further, if you're part of the sales team developing website content for customer self-service sales, it's important to have strong written communication skills to promote sales.

Related: Sales Tips to Help You Progress in Your Career in Sales

Technical knowledge

Having in-depth technical knowledge about the SaaS products you sell can help you guide clients through the sales, onboarding, and setup processes after they purchase SaaS software. Your ability to troubleshoot common customer issues is necessary for providing superior customer service and ensuring client satisfaction. During the sales process, having the technical knowledge to answer questions confidently and quickly can also help you establish yourself and the product as reliable and trustworthy.

Customer service skills

As these sales typically occur in a business-to-business environment, it's beneficial to develop your customer service and support techniques for business clients. For example, unlike individual customers, business clients may have complex business needs and multiple users to support. Developing your customer service skills can help you establish a positive, lasting relationship with business clients to meet their needs and secure their long-term loyalty.

Read more: Relationship and Effect of Customer Service in Sales

Interpersonal skills

Empathy, compassion, patience, and understanding are all essential interpersonal skills of a software sales representative. Being able to understand your client's perspective, business goals, and software needs can help you offer solutions that benefit all involved. These skills can help foster lasting relationships with clients, which can be especially beneficial in SaaS enterprise sales, as they require careful attention to secure business and increase revenue.

Attention to detail

Software sales representatives rely on their strong attention to detail to manage, track, and document transactions and client account information. To build relationships with clients and demonstrate their attentiveness to their needs, representatives might also take notes on preferences, the number of accounts required, and desired functionalities to reference later. This can help improve the customer experience and build a strong rapport with the client, enabling you to convert prospects into paying customers.

Related: A Guide to Managing Sales (With Tips for Sales Managers)

Networking skills

Sales representatives apply numerous networking strategies to help them attract and retain clients, promote their products, and educate potential businesses on the benefits of their SaaS offerings. Sales representatives rely on their networking skills to connect with other businesses, find prospects, and support relationships with existing clients. Events, seminars, and industry trade shows offer opportunities to network with businesses and identify potential customers.

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