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Did SaaS Poison the Well?

Software as a Service (SaaS) now constitutes a mere 2% of all sales roles globally. Yet, despite its relatively small footprint, the SaaS sales model is increasingly being touted as the gold standard for how all sales functions should operate. This trend is both surprising and concerning, as there is a strong argument that SaaS has ‘poisoned the well’ and created a bit of a monster, with the biggest loser being the prospect or potential customer.

For those on the receiving end of the SaaS sales funnel, the experience often follows a predictable and frustrating pattern:

  1. Inundation with Calls and Emails: Prospects are bombarded with countless calls and emails from Sales Development Representatives (SDRs), pushing them to engage.
  2. Agreeing to a Meeting: After relentless pursuit, the prospect eventually agrees to a meeting.
  3. Company and CEO Promotion: The prospect is then regaled with tales of the company’s greatness, the inspiration of its CEO, and the impressive funding they’ve acquired.
  4. Hand-Off to Another Representative: Once the prospect agrees to a demo, they are handed over to another representative.
  5. Probing for Problems: This new representative demands to know what the prospect’s problems are.
  6. Feature Bombardment: The prospect is then overwhelmed with information about features, functions, and “unique value” propositions.
  7. High-Pressure Sales Tactics: Finally, the prospect is pressured to make an immediate purchase with threats of significant price increases if they don’t sign on the dotted line today.

There is a strong argument that the financial or funding model of Saas has in some way created this problem and there is a lot of truth in that. However, it is clear to see that this process is a far cry from customer-centricity, where the needs and experiences of the customer should be at the forefront of the sales process.

A Call for Change: Returning to Traditional 360 Selling

While it’s important to note that not all SaaS companies adopt these aggressive tactics, the trend is worrying. The current SaaS sales model often neglects the fundamentals of building genuine relationships and understanding customer needs.

It’s time to reconsider the traditional 360 selling model. In this model, the salesperson is an expert in their market and uses their knowledge to alert prospects to unrecognised needs. This approach emphasises:

  • Expertise and Knowledge: Salespeople should deeply understand their market and the challenges their prospects face.
  • Building Relationships: Rather than a quick handoff, salespeople should build ongoing relationships with prospects.
  • Customer-Centricity: The focus should be on the customer’s needs and providing tailored solutions, rather than a one-size-fits-all pitch.

By returning to these principles, sales functions can better serve their prospects and customers, fostering long-term relationships built on trust and mutual benefit. The shift away from high-pressure tactics to a more consultative approach can ultimately lead to better outcomes for both the salesperson and the customer.

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