Last week on the Bowery Capital Startup Sales Podcast, we hosted Matt Bellows, Founder and CEO at Yesware. With Matt, we explored the topic of “Turning Sales Failure into Sales Success”. Yesware is an all-in-one solution that accelerates sales by improving the prospecting and tracking capabilities of salespeople. In this episode of the podcast, Matt reveals how he and his team tackled the challenge of turning around stagnant sales. He speaks on the meaning of failure and success in sales, what steps a founder can take to evaluate their progress, and how to ultimately adapt and improve while rallying your sales team behind you. We’ve taken Matt’s 5 primary techniques for improving sales and summarized them below.
5 techniques for improving sales in SaaS:
(1) Know the definition of sales failure and sales success. Matt began our discussion by diving into the idea that, in the long-term, sales success can be defined as, “How well does your solution help your customer reach success?” The extent to which you can verify that you are selling the right solution to the right audience can determine whether or not your sales team has been successful. It can also help you reposition and reevaluate leads. This means your team will only pursue targets to whom you provide strong value. For a broader, near-term metric of sales success the Yesware team monitors churn. Are people continuing to pay, and if so are they upgrading? Has your team been able to cross-sell where possible? These churn and conversion metrics are useful across most SaaS platforms for building a clearer definition of sales effectiveness.
(2) Trial and error is pivotal. A company’s sales process is a constantly developing entity. There is no successful sales team that uses a “set it and forget it” approach to sales. You should always be improving sales and adapt to shatter your previous best. Matt believes that there really is no such a thing as failure in sales as long as you are always learning. It’s the job of a good sales manager to always be iterating and trying new things. This is easy when sales are poor and a need for change is apparent and necessary. Matt stresses, however, the importance of asking “what’s next” even when things are going well. The desire for continued improvement in your company culture when sales are medium or high will help you overcome difficulties you may encounter further down the road.
(3) Research and metrics are your best friend. Conducting market research and surveys will help you determine how competitors are solving their problems, and how you might better engage your users. Yesware was originally founded on a Freemium model. However, extensive research eventually led Matt and his team to shift their model to paid subscription only. When Yesware made this decision they were a well established company with an impressive user base. Making such a drastic change so far along in a company’s development risked many things, and undoubtedly took tremendous courage of conviction on the part of the Yesware team. While difficult, this change achieved its desired results. The free users generally understood the reasons for the decision. Many even converted to paid accounts. Matt is now of the opinion that B2B SaaS platforms should stay away from Freemium models. He believes that Freemium is something best reserved for B2C.
(4) Be biased when it comes to your leads. Define what a good lead is for your company and set it in stone. Matt told us that he regrets not being more deterministic when it came to qualifying his leads in the early days. He believes that it’s easy to procrastinate as founders often prefer to wait until they have solid metrics before discriminating when it comes to leads. The problem with this, however, is that running A/B testing in sales is excruciating even once you are well established. You likely will never have enough data to make a fool-proof decision, and it’s important to set a definition, see how it works and track your results. Make sure marketing and sales adhere strictly to the prescribed buyer personas. This will help focus your entire team on one line of business, whether it be by geography, industry, or some other characteristic.
(5) Rally your team around data that backs up your decisions. Every salesperson is inclined to believe they have the winning formula. It is much easier to get enthusiastic pursuit of your company’s common goal when you are able to demonstrate the data you used to determine the best path. As always, research and surveys are key here. It is important to look at a large amount of data in a structured way. There will be times when a young company may have to make a best guess as they will likely have fewer data-resources early on. For a young team, having the right people in this situation is essential to getting it right.
If you found Matt’s 5 techniques on improving sales in SaaS helpful, listen to the full episode with Matt here and subscribe to get a new episode of the Bowery Capital Startup Sales Podcast every week.
Special thanks to Ray Thek for his contributions to this post.