In a perfect world, a prospect would come to your website, see how great your product is and rush to sign up for your most expensive plan right away!
Yet, SaaS sales is not all rainbows and unicorns. It might take some pushing and pulling to seal the deal. Apart from intricate nurturing sequences and follow-ups, there are many situations when you need to jump in and close the sale personally.
Working in SaaS sales for over 4 years (and 9 years in software sales in general), George Vitko, Sales Executive at Reply, had his share of objections and tough customers. But he has managed to close a ton of deals too and learned a lesson or two along the way.
In this article, he is sharing some proven tactics that can help you close more deals.
How does sales closing work in SaaS?
There is one thing that makes SaaS sales different (and, as some might think, easier) — free trial or the freemium option.
Sure, getting a prospect to sign up for a trial or a freemium plan is relatively easy — after all, it’s free! Yet, it’s not the conversion you’re looking for. You need loyal, paying customers and not one-off users.
You also can’t expect the product to “sell itself” once the lead is in for a test drive. There simply might not be enough time or available features for them to see the full potential of your product.
It takes a lot of work to make prospects stay with you after the trial ends and actually pay for your product. You should be ready to send multiple follow-ups at different stages of the sales cycle and jump on more than one call.
And yet, when it comes to closing a sale, you might find yourself frustrated and not knowing how to seal the deal. That is where the tactics we will talk about below come in handy.
Closing a SaaS sale: 7 techniques that work (and 3 tactics that don’t)
Closing more deals is rightfully the top sales priority for most companies, according to the State of Inbound report.
It’s also one of the most challenging parts of a sales process, stumping 28% of sales reps. Which comes as no surprise — after all, people don’t let go of their hard-earned money so easily.
And when it comes to SaaS sales, the buying decision might be even harder to make because it means a long-term commitment, not a one-time purchase.
For those of you who’ve been struggling to close their sales, here are some of the proven tactics that help me win more deals, faster.
Important: Before you proceed with any of the listed techniques, make sure it’s the actual decision-maker that you’re talking to and that they are at the right stage of their buying process (know enough about your product, have had a demo, etc.) to close.
#1 Get face to face
Just like a picture is worth a thousand words, one call can make up for a dozen emails. One-on-one calls, especially video calls, help you build trust and close more deals. It’s also the easiest way to reach your prospects (especially the ones who have been ignoring your messages). And it is definitely one of the most effective sales channels so far according to 41.2% of salespeople.
However, it’s also important to have a legitimate reason to call, not just “to circle back”. For example, you can address their recent activity with your product, share updates on the features they’ve shown interest in or provide additional information regarding the topics you’ve discussed earlier.
Pro tip: While on the call, try to avoid the words that can harm your close rate, including “competitor”, “contract”, and — surprisingly enough — “discount”!
#2 Listen before you talk
A good tactic for any sales call is to follow the 70/30 Rule, i.e. let the prospect do 70% of all the talking while you do the remaining 30%. And the best way to spend that 30% is to ask the right questions to help the prospects get candid about their pain points and priorities.
When leading the conversation with the right questions, you help the prospects visualize the desired outcomes. Once they get the taste of those benefits and clearly see how your product can help, they won’t be able to resist your offer.
Pro tip: Asking too many questions might make your call seem more like an interrogation. There are some tactics to get your prospects talking, e.g. “emotional labeling” or allowing for some “socially awkward pauses”.
© Warner Brothers Animation
When trying to close a deal, the worst thing you can do is use a canned sales script. Use the information you’ve collected at the discovery stage as well as all the details you learn during the call (see the previous tactic) to make your offer relevant and appealing to the specific prospect.
Don’t go through a dog-and-pony show but rather focus on their specific pain points and immediate needs. Only sell what’s important to the customer, don’t waste time on features they may consider insignificant. After all, you can speak about how great your product is for hours and all the prospects will want to hear is how exactly it can be useful to them.
Pro tip: It also helps to be aware of the prospect’s engagement. For example, when trying to close your trial customers, take a look at their metrics and activity with the product or any support queries they’ve had.
#4 Aim to win trust
In SaaS, as in any service industry, your sales strategy should revolve around establishing a personal relationship with the prospect. After all, 80% of your future revenue will come from 20% of your existing customers.
The thing is, people buy when they trust. So, before you move forward with the sale, take some time to build rapport with your prospects and win their trust first.
In this case, being honest and straightforward is the best tactic to win the prospect’s trust. For example, you can use phrases like “I want to be respectful of your time and will be the first one to tell you if we are not a good fit for you” to show the prospect you genuinely want to help.
Pro tip: the least you can do to win the prospect’s trust is stand by your words, i.e. call when you say you will call and show up when you say you will show up. While it sounds like a no-brainer, many salespeople actually fail to do that.
#5 Keep your eyes on the ball
Have you ever left a call with the prospect believing that the deal is already in your pocket just to get an email from them telling you that it’s a no-deal an hour later? The chances are, that decision has already been made while on the call but the prospect chose not to tell you about it for some reason.
To avoid this, don’t leave your leads alone with their doubts. Ask for feedback often, especially when conducting a demo. If there’s any concern, make them voice it before they hang up. It is much easier to deal with the objections while on the call than try to change the prospect’s mind later.
Pro tip: Never leave a call without agreeing on how you move forward. Before you hang up, make them verbally commit to the next steps by asking “what does your timeline look like?” or “what needs to be done to move this forward?”
#6 Never forget to follow up
The not-so-fun fact: 65% of opportunities are lost due to indifference and not mistakes. This means that keeping in touch with the prospects throughout their journey is vital. And the closer you get to sealing the deal, the more attention you should pay to your follow-ups.
Also, when shopping around for a solution, your prospects might be negotiating with several providers at the same time. So, the more often you catch their eye, the higher the chance they will choose you.
Pro tip: There are dozens of different follow-up strategies and templates that you can try. In my experience, emails that include meaningful, valuable content work best because they don’t just help you stay top of mind but also win your prospects’ favor.
#7 Offer choice
Trying to push through your most expensive plan isn’t really the best closing tactic. A far better idea would be to offer two to three pricing options that best fit your prospect’s needs (and are still acceptable for you). As a result, instead of asking the prospects to say “yes” or “no” to your product, they get to choose between the two options, both of which are basically “yes”.
This tactic, often referred to as the Option Close, is based on a simple trick that having a choice makes the prospect feel in control. Plus, it’s also much easier to choose a preferred option than decide whether you should make a purchase at all.
Pro tip: If you can’t offer alternative pricing options, come up with a few variables, e.g. more seats, higher capacity, premium support, you can add to the standard plan as an additional incentive. In this case, the prospect will focus on choosing the bonus they want with their plan and not the plan itself which also makes closing a sale easier.
Just like the listed techniques can help you close more deals, there are certain sales mistakes that can easily derail all your previous efforts.
For example, here are 3 things you should never do when trying to close a sale:
- Don’t underprice. Sure, a generous discount or bonus can help you close a deal even with the toughest customer. Yet, this can also devalue your product and show the prospects that they can easily push you around.If necessary, offer several discount options with transparent structure and clear reasoning behind every option so that it doesn’t sound like it comes off the top of your head.
- Don’t push. Long gone are the days of the door to door sales and cold calling. This means some of the common closing tactics used then are now obsolete. These include the so-called “hard sells.”Being too aggressive or pushy when trying to close a deal can only scare some of your leads away or simply make you seem desperate. On the other hand, some prospects might become more invested in the purchase once you tell that your product might not be a good fit for them after all.
- Don’t lie. Creating a sense of urgency to speed up the decision-making process might be a good tactic in some cases. However, lying to your lead, for example, about the upcoming increase in pricing is simply disrespectful. Similarly, you shouldn’t promise your leads the features they need if you are not really planning to add them soon.Your end goal is to build lasting relationships with your customers, not to make a one-time sale. So, be honest with your prospects — this will help you build trust.
One more thing
As you talk to different prospects, you might come up with your own closing tactics. And that is great — after all, we are all human beings with different backgrounds, principles, and pains. So, a method that works for one person might not be as effective for others. It is important to stay flexible and listen to your gut.
Yet, there’s one thing you should keep in mind: never close a bad deal.
If you see that a prospect is a bad fit for your business, if you can’t live up to their expectations, or if they’re too rude or disrespectful, you can also say “no” and move on to more promising opportunities. Trying to close a sale at any cost will only get you so far.