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  • Mercer Smith-Looper

The nuances of selling software: how SaaS is different

I have worked in software for over a decade, and still, every time I try to describe what I do to my father, he asks, “Is that something that you do with the TV?” Unlike tangible products, software can be challenging to explain. 

Many SaaS products can feel like a far off concept since many involve cloud services or new application interfaces. How do you sell something that people can’t hold? Selling software-as-a-service products is different than any other type of sales role, so there are a few tactics to remember if you want to be successful.

6 Tactics for excelling at selling software

Focus on value

Traditionally, when doing demos, the emphasis is on training the prospect on how to use your product. With SaaS, the strategy needs to shift. People don’t care to see everything your product can do; they want to know how it will help them. 

Spend your time in demos and calls understanding your prospect’s challenges so you can speak to specific ways your product can help and make their lives better. When selling physical items, the products can speak for themselves. When selling software, which can be nuanced, you need to empower your customers to understand your product at a deeper level.

Rather than explaining how it works, explain what it will do for them. Theoretically, your product may be something that they don’t have in place and have never used before; explain to them why they need it, rather than walking through your UI.

Understand your competitive placement

With software, differences between competitors are much more impactful than they would be with hardware. Consider, for instance, selling a chair. In this example, how different would the features of two chairs be? Perhaps one has better lumbar support; maybe one is made of wood instead of plastic. In the long run, that is dependent on the chair rather than the company producing it. The opposite is true with software.

The differences between you and your competitors and, more specifically, the value that you offer via your product can be one of the most massive selling points for your customers. It’s more critical in SaaS sales than any other kind of sales to speak to what you offer over your competitors.

Be upfront with what your product does differently from the rest of the products in your competitive market. Know where your strengths and weaknesses are so that you can position them appropriately based on your prospects’ needs.

Build relationships, inspire your prospects

Even more so than in non-software sales, SaaS salespeople need to focus on building relationships. Without something physical to sell, you aren’t just selling the software for most of the sales process, but the aftercare, support, and ongoing benefits of your specific product. A lot of that is about the relationship and the trust that you build with your prospects.

How are they supposed to believe that they’ll have an excellent post-sales experience if the sales experience itself is less than stellar? During the sales process, put in the time to get to know your prospect, show them that you care, and put on a good face of customer focus for your brand. They need to trust you and have faith in the relationship; otherwise, they may go with another seller who has taken the time to create something meaningful with them.

Content is much more important

With physical products, the items can speak for themselves. But with intangible products like SaaS, you need to build brand awareness through content. Work with your marketing team to create meaningful content that addresses specific buyer personas. 

If your prospects see that you already have content speaking directly to their needs and pain points during the sales process, they already feel supported and seen. Beyond building a trusting relationship, a great content strategy helps to position you as a thought leader—a way to distinguish yourself against your competitors in the sales cycle.

Brainstorm frequently asked questions or the primary needs of your most common sales prospects. Also, work to create evergreen content that you can use to support the sales process.

Trials are meaningful

While there are some physical product companies, like Warby Parker, that do a trial period with their products, trials are much more common in the SaaS industry. Freemium or free trial models are becoming an increasingly popular way to give your prospects a taste for your software before having to shell out money. 

Beyond being a better experience for your customer, trials are also a godsend for your sales team. Trials help your team identify which prospects are interested in your solution by seeing who signs up for them and how significantly they are using your tool. 

For instance, if someone signs up for a trial and then never does anything with it, they might not have been a significant lead. Use a “trial started” trigger or notification to alert your sales team when to give someone a call or trigger an automated email sequence without having to go in cold.

Localization is more important

Physical products don’t need to transcend language barriers. Whether someone speaks French, Mandarin, or Elvish, they will know it’s a cup when they look at a cup. Software, unfortunately, more often than not, requires instructions and onboarding to be meaningful, especially with so many new and exciting technologies becoming available.

Similarly, software is much easier to distribute globally. No need to worry about shipping costs or international product regulations. Given that, reaching a global audience and communicating in a way that is effective and meaningful to them is much more critical.

Depending on how large your team is or how popular your software is in countries outside of your own, try to find automated ways to localize and support multiple languages.

It’s different, but similar

For the most part, sales are sales. You have to find your leads, build relationships with them, and help them understand how your product can fit into their lives. With SaaS, there’s an emphasis on different parts of the sales process. 

Instead of showing your prospect how to use your product, show them what value they can expect to receive. You need to build deeper, more lasting relationships when selling SaaS so that you can understand your prospect’s needs and desires and speak to them throughout the process. 

Like with physical products that can be touched and held, free trials help your customer visualize how they could work your product into their day-to-day, give your sales team more information, and provide a warm reach out opportunity.

Lastly, because software is so much easier to sell globally than a physical product, finding ways to localize your product to your different markets is significantly more critical than it is with a physical product that usually doesn’t need to be translated. SaaS is nuanced but isn’t that far from the sales process scope that you are already great at right now.

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