Sharing successful SaaS sales cycle shortening secrets

At our BLN Cloud SaaS discussion dinner conversation inevitably got round to reducing sales cycle time, increasing revenues and customer retention rates.

Perhaps most interestingly, very few people find security or SLAs are the principle issues that prospects want to discuss. SaaS sales are now being made to the business people in an organisation rather than a centralised IT department and this creates a different set of challenges for sales teams.

Our dinners are run under the Chatham House Rule so no attributions but here are some of the collected thoughts of some of the industry’s leaders on some tactics to help grow SaaS sales.

Please feel free to offer your own thoughts and tips.

  • Make products incredibly well designed. Obvious really but everything start here. You are not dealing with tech literate IT departments, you are dealing with business people with problems they want solved.
  • Lead generation is web-based. People with problems go to Google first. Check out Jeff Jarvis’s excellent, What Would Google Do?. Make sure you have plenty of ‘Googlejuice’.
  • Blogs, Twitter etc. All help to help Google find you. One participant in the round table discussion, with >£20 million annual sales, told me over dinner that he gets more converted leads from his blog activity than trade shows and advertising combined. Needless to say he is saving more money on his marketing now!
  • Free Trials vs Free Added time. ‘Free’ can be a good idea but making a ‘free trial’ contingent on making a longer term commitment often, and counter intuitively, gets much higher return.
    1. Offering 1,000 people a 3 month free trial may get you 100 trialists but at the end of the trial you may end up with just 5 paid conversions. Often, the trialists will not even use your product but will remember the ‘free trial’ that went nowhere when you target them again.
    2. Offering 1,000 people 3 months free use on top of a 12 month contract may seem harder, but your conversion rate could be higher. e.g. 1,000 offers for 3 months free on 12 month contract leads to 20 conversions. You are guaranteed 20x customers for 12 months and if the service is valuable, you will retain the majority of those customers into second year.
  • Easy In, Easy Out. Many SaaS companies make the assumption that a trial is a good way to get people hooked in. So do customers. By showing how easy it is to get your data out at the end of a trial or use period, you reassure customers that they will not be tied to you. Far more important than keeping customers tied to you is getting them using you in the first place with real data.
  • Get real customer data. An insight into a world-leading SaaS play relates to their 30 day trial.
    1. Prospects that upload their own data into the system in a 30 day trial have an 85% or higher likelihood of becoming full paid customers at the end of 30 days.
    2. Of prospects that do not upload their own data into the system in a 30 day trial, <5% are customers within 12 months.

I would be interested in hearing and sharing any other thoughts, strategies and tactics on marketing and selling SaaS.