Strategy & Best Practices

How to Sell B2B SaaS: 10 Strategies for Success

By Ideas @ AppDirect / May 16, 2023

AD Sell Saa S Blog

UPDATED MAY 16, 2023

Cloud commerce has completely transformed the way people buy and sell almost everything. For businesses, the change has been dramatic, particularly when it comes to software. Procurement processes that used to take months can now be completed within minutes using a credit card and just a few clicks.

It may be easier than ever for companies to buy software, but that doesn't guarantee success for providers. In today's digital economy, software is sold, not bought, meaning providers must take an active role in educating, engaging, and supporting buyers.

Best practices for how to sell B2B SaaS effectively—especially in digital marketplaces—can be hard to come by. That’s why we collected 10 strategies that are being used by some of the world's most successful providers. Each strategy below contains important advice and tips, and taken as a whole, our 10 keys to selling B2B SaaS provide a practical roadmap to help you succeed.

Contents: From Lead to Close: 10 Powerful B2B SaaS Sales Strategies

  1. Curate a small, highly targeted app portfolio
  2. Build a compelling value proposition & apply lessons from top sellers
  3. Use “pull marketing” to generate leads
  4. Bundle apps with core services, not other apps
  5. Lean on technology advisors to reach customers and sell more SaaS
  6. Don’t just sell features; sell holistic, customer-centric solutions
  7. Future-proof your business, especially in an evolving channel market
  8. Make onboarding a top priority
  9. Keep your free trials simple
  10. Keep SaaS sales out of internal silos
  11. Final thoughts

1. Curate a small, highly targeted app portfolio

When you walk into a store and see the shelves stocked with products, it may seem like you’ve hit the jackpot; after all, the store is almost certain to have what you’re looking for. That experience for B2B SaaS buyers, on the other hand, is completely different. When there are too many apps in a digital marketplace, buyers will quickly become overwhelmed.

That’s why you need to start small with software that is highly targeted to your potential customers. By curating the choices that your buyers have, you are acting as an expert advisor, steering them to the solutions that will most effectively address their pain points.

Here’s the full approach—land, engage, expand—that you should take when building out your catalog of applications:

  • Land: Start with two or three cloud services that are close to your core business, such as productivity suites or security apps. By sticking to these “anchor apps,” at least at first, you will be able to keep the value proposition simple. This makes it easy for everyone, both internal stakeholders and buyers alike, to understand your offerings and see their value.
  • Engage: After you see initial sales, you need to create stickiness by driving customer onboarding and engagement. Keep your customers informed with webcasts, tutorials, and access to a knowledge center where they can go to learn more about their solutions.
  • Expand: Once you see that your buyers are comfortable with the apps you offer, you can expand your catalog to include adjacent and / or specialized applications. For example, if you offer Microsoft Office 365, then adding a Symantec security solution for office productivity is a smart move.

Unlock new routes to market

If you're looking to expand your business's reach, there are various options. One way is by distributing your products and services through a partner ecosystem of platform customers or a network of advisors. Why take this approach? Doing so can help you reach new audiences and generate leads. By showcasing your partner ecosystem and streamlining lead and opportunity management, you’ll continue to maximize sales opportunities.

By monetizing your partner ecosystem with a marketplace, providers can also create new revenue streams and expand business offerings. When looking for a platform provider, it's important to find one that takes an agnostic approach to marketplace management and allows MSPs to list and sell first-party and third-party services.

To optimize SaaS sales, the platform should enable you to showcase your products and services from providers outside of your catalog. With these new paths to monetization, you can help position your business for long-term growth and success.

As you evolve your software ecosystem with services that are targeted to different buyer segments, you can significantly increase the revenue generated by your marketplace.

 2. Build a compelling value proposition & apply lessons from top sellers

Customers will understand the value of your B2B SaaS offerings when you clearly communicate why they are relevant to them and why they are different from competitive offerings. McKinsey & Company outlined five proven strategies from the world’s sales leaders in a recent report and number one one their list is to put the customer at the heart of growth. “B2B companies need to adopt a customer-first approach and create personalized, intuitive buying journeys that attract, excite, convert, and keep customers loyal.”

Other deal breakers are to build simpler, omnichannel engagements following these best practices:

  • Know my needs—High-performing companies use predictive and prescriptive analytics to successfully build 360-views on new and existing customers, including behavior and intent.

  • Personalize for me—B2B companies are hyper-personalizing marketing across touchpoints to connect with the right person at the right time.

  • Wow me—With customers using ten plus channels, they want seamless buying experiences. The more fragmented the marketing and sales experience, the higher the risk of losing the customer.

 How Swisscom Built a Successful Value Proposition

Swisscom offers a SaaS solution, HomepageTool, that allows customers to create a professional website that is as user-friendly on mobile devices as it is on a computer. Swisscom was able to successfully market and sell this product for several key reasons:

  • HomepageTool is relatively inexpensive, especially compared to a web design agency, so the use case, benefits, and value were clear. The offer resonates.
  • Swisscom developed HomepageTool in house, which means the product is exclusive to Swisscom customers. The differentiation of the offer is clear.
  • Swisscom first gave customers a four-month trial with a bonus of 24/7 support, making it a risk-free offer. The company substantiated its offer with a promise to help customers use it.

Learn more about how Swisscom works with AppDirect.

3. Use “pull marketing” to generate leads

There are two basic ways to generate leads for your digital marketplace: push information to buyers and hope they visit, or offer information that will pull them in. Let’s look at these two approaches more closely.

“Push marketing" is essentially advertising. As it grows more sophisticated, push marketing may achieve its core objective—awareness—but it can also generate leads for competitors almost as effectively as for the company that’s footing the bill for the cost of advertising.

There are two basic ways to generate leads for your digital marketplace: push information to buyers and hope they visit, or offer information that will pull them in.

Given this, it’s not surprising that many companies have begun to try “pull marketing.” This method gives you the opportunity to pull buyers to your website or social presence by offering content— such as eBooks, white papers, blog posts, and other content—about the topic they want to know more about.

There are pros and cons to each approach, but generally speaking “pull marketing” is more impactful and cost-effective when it comes to attracting prospects in the early buying stage. It can also deliver a higher level of engagement because the prospect shows an interest and takes action without prompting from you.

4. Bundle apps with core services, not other apps

Buyers love a good deal, which is why bundles are always popular. When it comes to B2B SaaS, however, multi-app bundles often complicate both the sales message and the sales cycle.

Instead of bundling apps together, a better approach is to package apps with your core services. For example, a telecom provider packaged a mobile broadband subscription—a core service—with a tablet device and Microsoft Office 365. This bundle generated 1,500 active users in only a few months.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, another large telecom provider offered a package that included several apps—including Office 365, Symantec, Teamlike, and Teamdisk—with its onboarding services. However, the bundle attempted to solve too many challenges simultaneously, making the offer too complex and the business use unclear.

As a result, many customers asked the telecom company if they could “unbundle” because they already had some of the apps offered in the package. When you leave your plan open to negotiation, it creates a complex, inefficient sales process.

"Instead of bundling apps together, a better approach is to package apps with your core services." 

5. Lean on technology advisors to reach customers and sell more SaaS

We have been programmed by consumer devices to believe that apps will sell themselves. When it comes to B2B SaaS, however, it’s simply not true. Buyers need human assistance. Even when a digital marketplace offers a small, targeted app portfolio, more than 90 percent of first-time sales occur through offline channels, like call centers and field sales.

AppDirect Small Business Software Trends Report 2021 an increasing number of SMBs, almost 48 percent, are turning to outside professionals, including technology advisors—such as consultants, channel partners, and telecom agents—and ISP / telecom services providers.

48% of SMBs are turning to technology advisors to get more ROI for technology purchases - The AppDirect Small Business Software Trends Report 2021

    The truth is technology advisors are increasingly at the center of SMBs’ buying decisions. As business buyers struggle to make the best technology choices in a complex and crowded technology environment, many of them believe they can achieve better ROI from their technology choices if they work with an advisor. At the same time, a growing number of business buyers are looking to purchase their tech solutions from a marketplace where they can single-source all of the products they need.

    > Are you a technology advisor who wants to sell SaaS? Check out how AppDirect can help you drive revenue with our multi-category catalog.

    A cloud marketplace is still essential, however. These online stores can drive qualified leads to your sales team. Moreover, many customers will make additional self-service purchases once they feel comfortable using a marketplace, making the combination of online and offline channels a way to establish a solid foundation for organic up- and cross-sell opportunities.

    6. Don’t just sell features; sell holistic, customer-centric solutions

    When a customer understands the value that they are getting from their applications, a salesperson becomes a trusted advisor, a key factor in reducing customer churn, and driving future up- and cross-sell opportunities.

    To sell SaaS effectively, it is crucial to:

    • Listen first. You need a thorough understanding of who the customer is, what their business is about, and what their business pain points are. This will help you find the right solution to fit the right business challenge.

    • Communicate clear return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO) savings of your B2B SaaS solutions

    • Become an expert at handling objections that are unique to SaaS, including concerns related to security, data ownership, etc.

    7. Future-proof your business, especially in an evolving channel market

    To sell SaaS effectively and stay ahead in a changing market, there are several steps you can take:

    • Use the right technology to improve efficiencies and expand into new markets

    • Dial in the right channel mix. Do this by making more products available through your SaaS marketplace and third-party marketplaces. This will put your products in the hands of new customers who were previously difficult to reach

    • Lean into your partner ecosystems. Sarah Marsh, Director, Partner Channels at Workday, believes in a shifting market, ecosystem players should focus on expanding their channel businesses. At Workday her team does this by helping technology advisors accelerate their revenue potential by empowering them with new skills and insights

    Taking these steps helps establish a 'win-win' approach that can unlock new revenue streams for and drive growth for your channel business.

    8. Make onboarding a top priority

    Onboarding is helping your customers activate, configure, and potentially migrate information to their new SaaS applications. It is also essential to a successful SaaS sales practice.

    In addition to driving retention, successful onboarding also establishes trust with your customers and provides opportunities for up-selling and cross-selling. Onboarding is so valuable that approximately three-quarters of businesses need this service, and are willing to pay for it.

    9. Keep your free trials simple

    A simple three-step activation that requires light registration (an email address and a password) is significantly more inviting to potential customers when selling B2B SaaS. You can keep the momentum going by setting up a series of communications to engage with your customers as the trial progresses. This can drive anywhere from a 20 to 40 percent conversion rate from free to paid.

    10. Keep SaaS sales out of internal silos

    We are more than two decades into the SaaS revolution, but selling SaaS does not come naturally to most companies. Many must undergo a digital transformation to align their teams and implement the technology and processes they need to make selling SaaS seamless, easy, and profitable.

    A large majority of companies are now using B2B SaaS, but an increasing number are realizing that they need help to be truly successful. With these key strategies, you can not only sell more SaaS, but also help your organization become trusted technology advisors and the go-to source for the solutions that your customers need to thrive.

    Final thoughts—How can you succeed selling SaaS?

    To create a sales strategy in SaaS, providers should consider building their own custom SaaS marketplaces and ecosystems to sell first-party and third-party products. You can also boost channel sales by working with advisors to sell products to new markets that were previously difficult to reach. Taking this approach can help you find new paths to monetization all while minimizing customer acquisition costs.

    Ready to launch your own software marketplace? Start your free trial now. Or are you an advisor looking to sell SaaS? Start here.