There’s Only One SAAS Sales Strategy You Really Need

For the founding team of a startup, launch day can feel like the end. However, in reality, it is the beginning. Launch is when the real work starts, and it’s when you need a sales strategy. Do you have one?

The funny thing about selling is that it always makes us a bit nervous. Founders go into business because they like to build great products, not sell them. But what if you didn’t have to sell anything to be successful? What if the only strategy you needed was to make your customer as successful as possible?

In this day and age, that may be all you do need to do. Great products, with a strong team behind them, sell themselves. The reason the products are considered great is that they focus on making their customers successful. After all, you can’t trick someone into buying what you’re selling. Success speaks louder than words.

To understand this better, let’s look at how some of the most successful SaaS providers have helped their customers succeed. There are untold numbers of things we can learn.

Provide Great Customer Support (with Random Acts of Cake)

One business known for its customer support is FreshBooks.com. This online invoicing and accounting service has been around for awhile and certainly knows how to take good care of its users. They were made famous by their random acts of cake.

Yes, cake.

freshbooks

Back up your customers with great customer service.

FreshBooks is known for sending cakes at random to new users and birthday cakes to long-time customers. What a great way to make a personal connection!

bake em a cake

FreshBooks Cake! Source Solarmax.

Now, while cake itself does not make their customers more successful, their commitment to customer service does. Unlike many SaaS providers, FreshBooks makes phone support available to all of its customers. They also have an extensive FAQ section and help guide.

Providing great customer service is a no-brainer, but we often don’t see it as a part of the sales process. It is! When your customers pay month-to-month, everyone is a part of the sales team. Great customer support is essential to the long-term success of your startup.

Offer a Great Onboarding Experience

Onboarding refers to the process of helping your newly signed-on customers succeed with your product. It’s what happens right after someone new signs up for your software. Usually, there are a few steps that new users need to complete in order to be successful with your product.

offer a great onboarding process

While this may sound simple, it is vital that each user makes it through these steps.

Zendesk, a customer service software company, has made the onboarding process an art form. Due to the nature of their application, their users have quite a large number of steps to complete before they can be considered “onboarded.” For example, they must set up their email address, invite other users, and understand how the new ticketing system works. Without completing each of these steps, a customer will never be successful with the product, and Zendesk will never make a sale.

zendesk

Zendesk walks its new users though a step-by-step setup process.

To help alleviate this problem, Zendesk has developed a great “Getting Started” screen that shows up when a user first signs in to the application. This panel walks the user through the first crucial steps one-by-one, with videos and useful tips along the way.

An even more aggressive onboarding method is employed by hosting provider, Media Temple. They actually do the onboarding for their customers.

Media Temple

Because the cost to switch web hosting providers is so high, premium hosting provider, Media Temple, actually will move websites for users interested in switching. This may sound like hand-holding, but for the customer, it is a huge value. Anything you can do to make it easier for your customer to get started with your product, the better.

Provide Free Guides

mailchimp guides

Ongoing training is a huge value for users. MailChimp, an email marketing provider, has a large number of free eBooks available to all of its users. And these books do a lot more than just tell the users how to use the product. They also cover many of the best practices and tips for sending bulk email. MailChimp knows that making their users smarter and more successful is good for the bottom line.

KISSmetrics also makes useful resources available to its customers through their free marketing guides.

Offer a Video Library

Salesforce Youtube Channel

One of the earliest SaaS providers, Salesforce.com, uses a successful customer training method. Every year, they host dozens of user conferences throughout the world that provide training and build community around their products. Even better, they make the videos from these conferences available for free online. For Salesforce.com users, there literally are hundreds of free training sessions to choose from online. Each one is designed to make the users more successful.

Host Training Webinars

Raven Webinars

Another simple example of outstanding customer training is from Raven Tools. This all-in-one online marketing suite is very powerful, but also very complicated. To account for this, Raven has made weekly webinars available to all of its free and paid users. These walkthroughs are designed to help users get the most out of their software. The investment for Raven and for the customer is small, so this is a great way to provide value.

Write a Helpful Blog

The Moz Blog

Moz.com is another business that has done an excellent job of educating customers. Their blog is a gold standard in the SEO industry. Everyone follows it. They regularly post about SEO best practices and include videos on how to get the most from search. This service not only gives them a great avenue for inbound traffic, it also serves to train the users they already have. SEO is a complicated process, and Moz’s software is a powerful tool. As they convert casual users into experts, they are guaranteeing themselves future sales.

Build a Platform

Can your SaaS app be used as a platform? Apps like Salesforce.com and music provider Spotify have been successful in providing a way for other developers to build on top of their application. This adds value to their own app and delivers additional benefit to their customers. Now, their customers can get more value from a single source. These types of integrations serve to make users more successful than ever before.

build a platform

Another way to do this is through key integrations. Apps like Bidsketch and Basecamp allow you to connect your accounts from other applications, simplifying the task of managing multiple apps. These integrations can be time-consuming to develop, but they are often crucial for your users. They add value and help your customers succeed.

basecamp integrations apps

Integrations extend your app, increasing your customers’ chances of success.

Get More Human

Tools like Intercom are revolutionizing how SaaS apps talk with their customers. This app allows you to send pre-scheduled messages to your users. Not only can those messages be sent based on the amount of time (or lack thereof) users have spent inside your application, but with the right configuration, you can track specific events.

Intercom

Tools like Intercom allow you to communicate with users based on their activity.

As we feed Intercom more data, it becomes more powerful. For example, it can target users that have failed to complete a certain onboarding step and remind them of the need to do so. We have seen immediate conversions with these messages, making users who were previously unsuccessful with a prior step suddenly more successful.

Monitor What Customers Do

Of course, it is imperative that you utilize a tool like KISSmetrics to monitor what your users are doing. If set up correctly, you should be able to get a good idea of where your customers are succeeding and failing within your application. This type of tracking is an invaluable tool for software providers because it allows you to address key problems without waiting for the customer to complain or get frustrated.

kissmetrics funnel report

Conclusion

It can be easy to think of SaaS sales as the worst part of the job, but when our number one goal is to help our customers succeed, we may have already designed all of the sales strategy we really need.

About the Author: Garrett Moon is a founder and designer at Todaymade, makers of CoSchedule, a content marketing editorial calendar that integrates with social media and WordPress. Follow Garrett Moon on Google+.

  1. SASS customer service is just something we are starting to develop now that we are launching College Gym Tracker. Good to know that our hard work on writing free guides is a good place to put our resources. Wonderful read!

  2. Excellent article, and there are some excellent tools showcased here. Nothing beats a great quality product that provides an awesome user experience, coupled with lots of hand-holding and support…”just in case.”

  3. If you believe that only providing a product to your customer is enough, you are completely wrong. If you want to have good reputation in the market, after-sales-service is one of the aspects you should concentrate on. Let me give an example to elucidate:

    Couple of months back I was inquiring on laptops. When I went through the reviews, asked my friends, and also the networks, What found out that there has been a tie between Dell and HP. However, one interesting point is that even those people having HP laptops said that they are happy with their product but Dell is more hardy and is of beter quality. To thuis I asked them, why are they still stiking to HP then? They replied in unison – it is the better after-sales-service of HP.

    Therefore, it can be easily said that great customer service will not only increase your rputation in the market but also increase your sales, and ultimately your bottomline.

  4. Hi Garrett, Casey from FreshBooks here.

    Just wanted to say thanks for the mention. Sending cakes to people not only makes our users happy (because – cake!), it also just feels good to do. I’d advise anyone to think of areas of their business where doing something good for your customers also feels really good to you. That’s where the magic happens.

    Casey
    Head of Product, FreshBooks

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  6. Liilia MacCannell Mar 24, 2014 at 3:15 am

    Great points on online SaaS sales strategies! As a founder of startup I think that some part of work in sales and marketing should be outsourced. You can make a smaller investment to building your marketing plan until your growth provides the cash flow needed to hire more permanent staffing. Also, you often need the expertise of more knowledgeable professionals providing strategic growth plans and your budget doesn’t not allow for that level of investment for the long term. I was working Ignite http://ignitecloudware.com It seems to be reliable and competent company.

  7. Great article and great list of tools used here. One thing that has helped our company is to integrate and market with our SAAS companies. You also have to have a great product and give excellent support.

  8. I have to say I’m a bit skeptic about the whole “don’t need no sales when your customer service is outstanding” approach. While I agree %200 that customer service will make or break a SaaS launch (and, indeed, the rest of its short or long life) – pro-active, assertive saleswomanship is an essential part of putting one’s service out there. Especially where services are concerned (they are generally harder to explain and market than products).

    That said, those are some fantastic onboarding examples for some awesome services. Thanks!

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