A Comprehensive Guide to SaaS Sales Stages

SaaS sales stages

In the past few decades, SaaS companies have been on an upward trajectory. The industry grew 500% over seven years ago and continues to grow today with new innovations that are changing how people manage their businesses from anywhere at any time of day or night. However, not all are good news. In fact, about 92% of SaaS startups fail within the first three years despite the industry’s growth and funding. Why is that?

Sales in a SaaS company is all about momentum. You need to constantly be acquiring new customers and keep current ones renewing their subscriptions or you’ll quickly fall behind. 

The cost of customer acquisition for SaaS companies is high ($205 on average) and it takes time for a new customer to start generating revenue. So if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

So where do you start when addressing this issue? And how do you know when you’re making progress? Let’s try to see if we can find the answer in the SaaS sales stages, and perhaps we might discover or learn something new.

In this guide, we’ll outline the key stages of the SaaS sales process and explain what you need to do to maximize the potential of each stage. Let’s get started.

What Is the SaaS Sales Process?


The SaaS sales process is the series of steps you take when selling a SaaS product to potential customers. It starts with lead generation and ends when the customer finally subscribes to your SaaS product. The goal at each stage is to move prospects closer to becoming customers.


Stage One: Lead Generation


Lead generation is the process of identifying potential customers and getting them interested in your product. This stage can be divided into two sections

1. Attracting Prospects—This involves creating content that appeals to your target audience, engaging on social media, and optimizing SEO to bring traffic to your website.

2. Qualifying Prospects—Once you’ve brought prospects onto your website, you need to figure out who is the most likely to subscribe by using a lead scoring system or other methods of qualification.


Stage Two: Lead Nurturing


Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with potential customers through targeted communications such as email campaigns and webinars. You want to provide helpful information about your product without being too pushy or salesy.

You do this by creating content that educates prospects on the problem your SaaS product solves, giving potential customers a chance to get to know you and your brand, and providing personalized follow-up.

Nurturing your leads takes time, but it helps to build trust and make prospects more likely to convert.


Stage Three: Demonstration


The demonstration stage is when you actually show the customer how your product works by offering them a free trial or demo version of your SaaS product. This is where they get to interact with it first-hand and truly understand what it can do for them

At this stage, it’s important to make sure the customer has an easy way to contact you if they have questions or need help. You should also be prepared to answer any objections they may have about subscribing.

To be successful at this stage, you’ll want to set up a landing page that explains how your product works and allows customers to easily sign up for the trial or demo. Then you may follow up with personalized emails to answer any additional questions they have.


Stage Four: Closing the Deal


The closing phase is where you make the sale. At this point, it’s important to understand any objections or hesitations the customer may have and address them directly.

You can use a variety of tactics to close the deal such as free trials, discounts, and payment plans. Also, don’t forget to thank your customer for their interest and follow up after the sale to make sure they’re satisfied.


Stage Five: Onboarding


New customers/subscribers are a great opportunity to deepen relationships and build loyalty. This is why onboarding is so important. It’s the process of helping customers get familiar with your SaaS product and understand how they can use it to achieve their desired goals

The onboarding process should include a welcome email, tutorials, webinars, online conferences and any other materials that help the customer get comfortable with using your product.

This stage of the SaaS sales process is the most critical for increasing customer retention and loyalty. If done properly, customers will have a positive experience with your SaaS product from the start, which can lead to more sales down the line.


SaaS Sales VS. Traditional Sales

The SaaS sales generally follow a similar process to other types of traditional software sales, but there are some key differences that need to be taken into account.

  • First, SaaS products are typically subscription-based, which means that customers pay a recurring fee to use the software.
  • The recurring revenue model presents a unique challenge for SaaS sales teams, who must focus on not only acquiring new customers but also retaining existing ones.
  • SaaS products are often sold on a per-user basis, which means that it is important for sales teams to understand the customer’s needs in order to determine the optimal pricing plan.
  • SaaS products are typically delivered online, which requires sales teams to be comfortable with digital tools and channels.

3 Most Common SaaS Sales Models

1. The Self-Service Model

In the self-service model, customers sign up for and use the software without the need for direct interaction with a sales representative. This model is typically used for SaaS products that are relatively simple to use and do not require a lot of customization. In short, customers can usually figure out how to use the product without any help from a sales rep.

The main advantage of the self-service model is that it reduces the need for a sales team and allows customers to get started quickly. This can lead to lower customer acquisition costs and faster growth for the SaaS company. It’s a straightforward process for both sides, but it does require the SaaS product to be intuitive and easy to use.

However, the self-service model also has some disadvantages.

  • It can be difficult to upsell customers on additional features or products if they are not actively engaged with a sales representative.
  • Customers may be more likely to churn if they encounter problems using the software, as they will not have anyone to contact for help. To mitigate this, SaaS companies can add additional customer support resources such as online FAQs, video tutorials and live chat to keep customers engaged.


2. Transactional Model

In this sales model, the SaaS company sells access to its software on a per-transaction basis. This means that the SaaS company only charges customers for the software when they use it.

For example, if a customer only uses the software for one month, they would only be charged for that one month of use. This type of pricing model is attractive to customers because it allows them to pay for only what they use.

It also allows SaaS companies to generate more revenue from customers who use their software more often.

The transactional SaaS sales model also come with disadvantages. Consider the following:

  • This type of pricing model can be difficult to predict and forecast, as it is based on customer usage
  • SaaS companies may have difficulty generating enough revenue to cover their costs if customers do not use the software frequently. In order to avoid this, SaaS companies need to have a good understanding of their customer’s usage patterns and then create a pricing strategy that accounts for those trends.

Now, if your SaaS company is going to use this type of sales model, then it is important to ensure that you have a plan in place for upselling customers on additional features or services. This will help ensure that your company is generating enough revenue to cover its costs and keep the lights on.

3. The Enterprise Model

The SaaS enterprise sales model generally follow a standard process: market analysis, target market identification, account research, objection handling, and close.

In the enterprise model, the SaaS company sells access to its software to large organizations, hence the term “enterprise”. The sales process is often more complex, as the SaaS company will typically need to negotiate large contracts with customers and provide ongoing support.

The enterprise model can be effective for SaaS companies looking to generate large amounts of revenue from a few customers. However, this type of sales model requires a significant amount of resources and can be more time-consuming than other models.

For example, you definitely need an expert sales rep who are well-versed in enterprise sales, and you also need to have a reliable customer support system in place. Additionally, the process of negotiating with large organizations can be very lengthy.

So despite it being truly rewarding when it works, the enterprise model is not for everyone. It’s best to carefully consider whether this type of sales model aligns with your SaaS company’s goals before taking it on. Consider the following potential downsides of this model:

  • Enterprise sales can be time-consuming, as SaaS companies must establish relationships with decision-makers within large organizations
  • The enterprise model generally requires a higher level of customer service, as enterprise customers typically have more complex needs
  • The enterprise model also requires a larger upfront investment from SaaS companies, as it often involves negotiating large contracts and providing additional marketing, sales and customer support resources

Therefore, before venturing into the enterprise sales model, it is important to understand your company’s capabilities and be sure that you are able to commit the necessary resources and time for success.

SaaS enterprise sales is a high-pressure, fast-paced environment, and successful SaaS enterprise salespeople must be able to think on their feet and adapt to change quickly. They must be prepared to handle objections and have a deep understanding of the customer’s needs.

SaaS enterprise sales teams are typically composed of account executives, account managers, and sales engineers. They are typically quota-carrying, and their compensation is usually heavily weighted toward commissions.

How Long Is the SaaS Sales Cycle?


As we’ve learned in the previous sections, the SaaS sales cycle can vary greatly depending on the sales model and the customer’s needs.

Generally speaking, though, it takes longer to close an enterprise sale than a consumer sale (say if you’re using the self-service or transactional model) – customers may take several weeks or months to evaluate their options and make a purchase decision.

The length of the SaaS sales cycle also depends on the complexity of your SaaS product and pricing model. Customers are more likely to take longer if they need more information or require more customization options.

Overall, it’s important to understand that the SaaS sales cycle can be long and unpredictable – so you should always plan ahead, be prepared to adjust your strategies accordingly, and make sure you have the resources available to provide excellent customer service throughout the sales process.


Optimizing Each SaaS Sale Stage


Understanding the SaaS sales cycle is the first step in optimizing your SaaS sales process. Once you know what steps are involved in each stage of the sale, you can start to look for ways to optimize each step and make the process easier and more effective.

But in order to truly optimize each stage of the SaaS sales cycle, you need to understand your customers, their needs, and the type of sales model you’re using. That way, you can focus on the individual steps that are most important for your particular sales strategy.

For example, if you’re using an enterprise sales model, then it’s important to focus on building relationships with decision-makers and negotiating large contracts. This would fall under the lead nurturing and sales closing stages.

If you’re using a self-service or transactional sales model, then focusing on providing an intuitive and frictionless checkout process is key. This would fall under the sales closing stage as well.

The bottom line is that understanding the SaaS sales cycle, and optimizing each stage for your particular sales strategy, will help ensure success for your SaaS company. With careful planning and the right resources in place, you’ll be well positioned to close more deals and grow your customer base. So with that said, we’ll share some few tips that can apply to whatever sales strategy and model you’re using to help you optimize each of the SaaS sales stages.


Maintain communication with customers throughout the cycle


One of the most important things you can do to optimize your SaaS sales process is to make sure that you’re maintaining regular communication with customers throughout the entire sales cycle. This means keeping them up-to-date on new product features, responding quickly and helpfully to inquiries, and keeping them informed about their purchase decisions.

It doesn’t matter if they’re a new lead or a long-term customer, maintaining communication is essential in keeping customers engaged throughout the entire sales cycle. It makes them feel like they’re part of the process, and helps build trust and loyalty.


Be flexible in your pricing models


Another way to optimize your SaaS sales process is to offer customers a range of pricing models.

This will give them more flexibility when it comes to subscribing to y our SaaS product, and will also allow you to capture more of the market

You can offer discounts for longer-term contracts, or let customers pay as they go with a subscription model. You could also offer add-ons to give customers more customization options.

Whatever you choose, offering different pricing models will make it easier for customers and increase your chances of closing each sale.


Upsell to existing customers

The idea behind upselling is simple as it offers existing customers additional features that complement their current subscription.

For example, a SaaS company that offers a project management tool might upsell customers on a premium subscription that includes additional features like team collaboration and real-time alerts.

By upselling to existing customers, SaaS businesses can not only boost revenue but also expand their customer base and build loyalty.

Collect feedback through satisfaction surveys

Customer satisfaction surveys can be used to assess customer satisfaction with the product or service, identify areas for improvement, and make changes to the product or service based on customer feedback.

Satisfaction surveys can be sent out via email, social media, or in-app messages. They can also be included as part of the customer onboarding process.

Use paid trials

SaaS businesses often use paid trials as a way to increase conversions and reduce churn. Paid trials can be an effective tool in the SaaS sales cycle, but they need to be used carefully as it can turn off potential customers if it’s too expensive or restrictive.

It’s important to offer customers a generous trial period and make sure that they have access to all features during the trial period. This will give them a chance to experience your SaaSproduct before committing to a purchase decision.p[\;’

Another way to maximize the effectiveness of paid trials is by using discounts or incentives to encourage customers to commit to a purchase. This could be in the form of a money-back guarantee, discounted subscription prices for first-time customers, or any other offer that will make it easier for customers to sign up for your product.

By optimizing each stage of the SaaS sales cycle, you can make sure that it’s as efficient and profitable as possible. Leverage the strategies outlined above to ensure that you’re making the most of every opportunity to maximize your SaaS sales.

When done correctly, optimizing your SaaS sales process can significantly increase customer satisfaction, revenue and retention – all vital components for businesses seeking sustained growth in a competitive market.

Final Thoughts


We’ve discussed a lot about the SaaS sales stages, and how to optimize each one. As a SaaS business, it’s important that you focus on each stage of the sales cycle and make sure that your process is as effective as possible.

But let’s go back to the original question that we had from the start. Does a deeper understanding of the SaaS sales stages help you lower customer acquisition cost and help you monitor your SaaS companies’ growth?

The answer is a definite yes! By understanding the sales process, you can create a more efficient and cost-effective sales process that is tailored to your customer needs and budget. You can also identify areas where improvements could be made and make sure that your product or service meets the needs of customers more effectively.

As a result, you’ll be able to maximize revenue and increase customer satisfaction, resulting in sustained growth for your SaaS business. With the right SaaS sales model and strategy in place, you can maximize ROI while simultaneously providing customers with an optimal experience with your SaaS product.

Every SaaS business is different though, and you may need to adjust the strategies outlined here to fit your specific needs. However, by following the steps outlined here and optimizing each stage of the sales cycle, you can ensure that your SaaS business is successful and sustainable in the long-term.

If you’re looking for more tips on growing your SaaS startup, be sure to visit our blog.


Final Thoughts


The iceberg model in business helps you solve not just minor issues, but their very source. It’s not just a change in external behavior, but an internal transformation.

Dealing with problems at their core will take time, effort, resources, and a whole lot of leadership. Since you’re dealing with mental models and probably applying a system change, it won’t happen immediately.

You can fix a few bugs overnight. But changing mindsets and organizational culture takes a whole lot more.

Yes, it may take a lot of effort. But when done right, you won’t need to deal with those problems again.

For more strategies to help your SaaS business, check out our blog here.


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Ken Moo