• Mike Poledna

How to Fix Your SaaS Sales Challenges: The Six Components that Drive Growth

Updated: Jan 13

Do you want to grow your sales again? If the answer is yes, you need to identify and fix the broken components in your SaaS sales strategy. If you're scratching your head right now trying to figure out what the six critical components are, don't sweat it. We're here to help. The six critical components that make up a cohesive sales strategy are:

  1. Ideal Customer Profiles

  2. Buyer Personas

  3. Marketing & Sales Messaging

  4. Customer-Centric Sales Process

  5. Sales Growth Metrics

  6. Recruiting & Hiring

Over the past seven years, I have worked with dozens of SaaS companies spanning startup, early, and growth-stage, and I can tell you that without these elements in place (and working correctly), B2B SaaS companies will struggle with their growth for years.

Read on to learn about each of the required components of a successful SaaS sales strategy and how to identify problems in your current sales strategy so that you can get back on track!

Ideal Customer Profiles

Too often, companies try to cast a wide net and appeal to as many customers as possible. This shotgun approach may work in the short term, but it's not sustainable in the long run. A better strategy is to focus on attracting your ideal customers, who are a perfect match for your product and have the most significant potential for rapid growth.

A review of your current ideal customer profiles will tell you if you were accurate in your initial assumptions or if the market (or even your product) has changed to the point where you are now forced to adjust your ICP. If you're unsure where to begin, you can start by considering your initial top customers and comparing them to your newly acquired customers and their success stories.

From there, you can ask questions such as: ?

  • Did they share a similar industry?

  • Size of company?

  • Do they share the same problems that drove them to sign up for your product in the first place?

  • If you find it's time to redraw your ICPs, use this insight to create new ideal customer profiles.

Buyer Personas

Who is buying your product? SaaS companies often find it challenging to answer this question because they think about sales in terms of the individual rep who closed a deal or specific campaigns. While this information is essential, it's not enough to paint a complete picture of your ideal customer. You need to go beyond the basics and create detailed personas representing your target buyers. Personas should include demographic data (age, gender, income), psychographic data (interests, values), and behavioral data (where they look for SaaS solutions, how they make purchasing decisions).

In most cases, when sales results are below expectations, it is not due to changing buyer personas. It is often due to marketing and sales messaging having slowly veered off course. This is an excellent opportunity for sales and marketing to get together and review the original buyer personas to determine if anything has changed. Once you have reviewed your personas, compare the information to your marketing and sales messaging over the past 90 to 180 days depending upon your cell cycle length. As human beings, our actions often carry biases. For example, suppose a recently acquired customer articulated their problem in a way that is different than the majority of personas. In that case, it can cause us to feel as though we were wrong in our assumptions and therefore adjust our messaging going forward. The result can mean you are now further away from the original (and correct) messaging that worked for the majority of your personas versus what worked in a current situation.

Marketing & Sales Messaging

Your marketing and sales messaging should integrate seamlessly to create a cohesive narrative for your company. Unfortunately, many SaaS companies send mixed messages about what exactly their product does. They might talk about the technical benefits of the software (its scalability) in one message but then focus on the features in another. This inconsistency can be confusing for buyers and lead to stalled deals. The key is to find a single message that resonates with your target buyer and stick with it.

As mentioned above, marketing and sales messaging can unintentionally change over time. This change often happens due to a recent success (or failure) to close a sales opportunity. Another indication your sales messaging is becoming less effective is you are struggling to attract and engage personas within your ideal customer profile. The low engagement indicates it is time to review your marketing and sales messaging to ensure alignment with your personas. You must demonstrate your understanding of the challenges and issues they face and can articulate how your product or solution can help them solve those challenges and problems.

Customer-Centric Sales Process

Too often, sales teams are focused on making their number rather than helping customers. This results in rushed deals that don't consider the buyer's needs or long-term goals. To fix this, you need to shift your sales process from product-centered (sell features) to customer-centric (solve problems). This means aligning your reps with the common company and buyer goals instead of commission metrics.

A proper customer-centric sales process will include phases that align with the buyer's journey. Each of these phases will consist of specific activities that likely occur on the buyer side and particular actions that must occur on the seller side. When your sales results are flat or even declining, you will be able to identify specific symptoms. For example, your sales cycle length will get longer, or your ACV will shrink. This data is not often tracked well for many startups and early-stage SaaS companies. But if you do have the data, you can go back and see when the trend began and potentially identify which phase of the sales process has become less effective in helping move the deals forward.

Sales Growth Metrics

SaaS companies need to establish and track metrics relevant to their business model. For example, monthly recurring revenue (MRR) is an essential metric for SaaS businesses because it shows how much money they make every month. Similarly, customer acquisition cost (CAC) demonstrates the investment required to acquire new customers. Without tracking these metrics, it's difficult to determine whether your sales strategy is working or not.

So how can you use sales growth metrics to identify what is impacting your poor sales result? There are a couple of places you can look. The first one we talked about above and is the sales cycle length. Is your sales cycle length increasing, decreasing, or staying the same? Is the ACV of your sales opportunities increasing, decreasing, or staying the same? Are there specific phases within your sales process in which prospective customers spend more time? Customer acquisition cost is another metric companies will use to manage sales results. Increasing customer acquisition costs can be indicators of many challenges, both current and those to come. The good news is, a shrinking customer acquisition cost is a positive sign because it indicates the health of your sales efficiency.

While many companies will look at these metrics and say they are less effective because they are lagging indicators, the best SaaS sales organizations monitor their metrics regularly to identify when new trends are emerging. By continually monitoring your metrics, you can diagnose and fix sales challenges before they do too much damage to your sales results.

Recruiting & Hiring

Selling is one of the most challenging roles in a company, and it can be tough to find the right people for the job. That's why it's essential to have a well-defined recruiting and hiring process in place. Increase your chances of success by focusing on candidate experience, assessing cultural fit throughout the interview process, and offering competitive compensation packages to ensure you attract top talent.

You can have the best strategy in the world, but if you don't have the right people in the right seats capable of executing against your strategy, you won't hit your number. In my opinion, one of the most under-appreciated aspects of selling is that it requires tremendous skill in navigating the prospect's buying process and the company as a whole. Sales rep behaviors support these skills, and natural characteristics support sales rep behaviors. That is why most Enterprise sales reps fail in startup and early-stage environments and vice versa. While both sales reps can and should be called sales professionals, their natural characteristics likely support success in one setting and not so much in the other.

So how can you use this information to determine if your recruiting and hiring process is working? Review your current sales environment and compare that to the account executives and SDRs you have on the team. Utilize my sales-specific personality assessment to help you identify natural characteristics that will support skill development for your sales reps. As with all SAS companies, the sales environment will change over time, thus requiring you to make adjustments in your recruiting and hiring strategy. If you are a startup or an early-stage company, it is unlikely that your environment has changed significantly. Still, instead, you hired salespeople who like the natural characteristics and skill set to perform at the highest levels for where your company is today.

Let's Wrap This Up and Get to Work

If any of the six critical components are broken or missing, it can impact your SaaS sales performance. However, if you identify these problems early enough, you can get back on track. Follow these steps to fix your sales strategy and start seeing results again:

Review each component and ask yourself the following:

  • Is each component documented?

  • Does leadership agree with the documented components still?

  • Are our initial assumptions still correct?

  • Has the market changed impacting our success?

  • Have we changed our product and solutions and therefore need to re-write our strategy?

  • Have competitive forces changed our market?

  • What adjustments are required within each component?

  • Do we have the right account executives and SDRs to execute our strategy?

The above list of questions is intended to be a launching point for reviewing your SaaS sales strategy. There are many more questions you can and should ask yourself. Finally, let me know if you feel like having a third-party opinion to help diagnose and fix your sales performance issue. I welcome the opportunity to partner up and help you back to producing consistent and predictable sales results.

Building a successful SaaS company is hard. The odds of failing are high and it creates a lot of pressure on CEOs who know they need to grow sales quickly. But how? To address this question I've written, Sales Growth Simplified, a step-by-step guide for how to build and implement a SaaS sales growth strategy in days, not months. You can check it out here.

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