SaaS Playbook: Sales

Sales: a dreaded word with a lot of founders. Is sales all about finding star sales people? Can anyone do sales? How do you scale this beyond founders? ...

Rachit Parekh
Investments, Accel
8
 Min Read
SaaS Playbook: Sales

Sales: a dreaded word with a lot of founders. Is sales all about finding star sales people? Can anyone do sales? How do you scale this beyond founders? How do Indian companies sell to global customers?

The first Masterclass was all about building a high quality top of the funnel through marketing excellence. The second was all about creating a repeatable sales process and taking away some of the myths of sales.

Aim of this class?

"Make Sales into a scientific process."

How do you go from ad-hoc sales as a founder let company to a process driven sales machine. The end goal being making a consistent opportunity conversion engine with a nearly formulaic approach to sales process  which can be scaled indefinitely.

The star behind the session was Mohit Garg. He was the co-founder and CRO at MindTickle and setup and scaled the sales process there, he is now on to his next startup: Oloid. The best part of his personal journey? He was a tech leader who became a sales leader! Hope this motivates others to develop empathy for sales people and maybe go down this path themselves :)

The session was broadly divided into 2 parts:

Part 1: Detailed view on how to build a repeatable sales process

Part 2: Building the team, metrics, quotas and sales tech

Building a repeatable sales process

Mohit spent the most time on how do you build a repeatable, scientific sales process? This was all about taking a prospect through the end-to-end sales process:

Qualification—>Demo/ Discovery call—>Opportunity Management—>Closing—>Post close

Qualification and Discovery

The aim of this part of the process is to use less experienced reps (typically called SDR or BDR) to generate high quality, high probability leads for more experienced sales reps (typically called AEs) to close. In the context of cross-border SaaS companies, many companies use SDRs/ BDRs from India, with AEs in the US. This gives significant cost advantage to Indian SaaS companies.

Mohit, walked us through how an SDR reaches out to customers, what does a discovery or demo cal look like and how an SDR coaches an AE on the information they collect during the process. What was a revelation was the level of prescriptive templatization and detail that went into the playbook - templates for calendar invites, templates for emails for demos, follow ups etc. which made this process repeatable across less experienced reps.

Tactical tips for Qualification and SDR process

  • Create standardized templates to fill out for SDRs before each call with customer information which can guide the call, e.g. go through the companies website and fill out details on their business, type of customers, industry or read through linkedin to check how many employees they have, size of the team you're selling to, profile of the persona (e.g. VP of Sales, VP of Growth etc.); ensure that these reps follow this process!
  • Coach SDRs on using these templates to drive conversations
  • Create and continuously refine standardized criteria which helps qualify leads for AEs - in the long run this will help clearly define conversion probabilities; align this to your ICP
  • What is super important is to catch the ICP based on "timing of outreach" - identify triggers which have a high signal for buying your respective product (e.g. target hired a VP engineering recently or sales team grew beyond 25 people)
  • Persistence is key - you may need 15-20 followups to get a response. Some of Mohit's biggest customers have come from the 14th or even 18th touch-points

Discovery/ Demo

The key to success in all these calls is research, preparation and more preparation. Mohit has spent time painstakingly putting together clear guidelines on research before calls, personalization (through tools and manual work). The call itself need very specific questions to ensure you can score every call and help prioritize follow up calls based on how high the probability of conversion is.

Tactical tips for Discovery/ Demos

  • More research and less gut based sales! Create templates to standardize pre-call research and have hypothesis on what to focus on during the call
  • Create a scorecard for every demo that helps define the probability of closure, examples of criteria could be similar to the MEDDIC framework: economic (can they/ will they pay), buyer (have we reached the right decision maker), champion (do we have an internal champion) etc.
  • Identify the pain of the customers through use case exploration and demo the specific parts of the product which is most relevant to their pain points
  • Drive the call through hypothesis validation/ invalidation to make it crisper and cleaner
  • Communicate use cases by correlating to metric improvement/ impact that matter to the buyer

Opportunity Management

Ensure that opportunities are managed, prioritized and driven appropriately based on the right strategy for the specific customers. This is to make sure that the deal moves forwrad by ensuring that the right person is talking to the right buyer, with the right content and at the right time!

Tips for Opportunity Management

  • Create structure around pipeline reviews with concrete questions for each deal and actionable, e.g. what can we do to strengthen the relationship, what are the competitive traps etc?
  • Have strict guardrails for pricing and discounting in line with top down company margin and revenue targets
  • Have quick and easy to use battle cards to enable reps to respond very quickly to customer objections; founders should continuously document conversations with customers in order to make sure this is easy to build out in the long run

Closing

How do you move to close deals. Mohit spoke us through how to identify compelling events for the deal to close and what reps can do to identify and close deals in a timeline manner. Mohit also spoke about the big trap of giving customer refs to everyone! This can needle happy customers, while exposing them to potential buyers in a situation where a deal was never to be had!

Tips for Closing

  • For your industry, identify clear triggers for buying and closing in order to create urgency, e.g. end of quarter, new round of funding, spurt in hiring; target customers based on these triggers to drive closure through tactical discounting at these times
  • Allow for reference calls only for high probability cases (MEDDIC score>9). Treat each customer as a scarce resource, manage the number of references per quarter based on inputs from customer success and put criteria on who is reference-able

Post Close

What do you do with deals that are won or lost and how do you manage closed deals and learn from lost deals? This is critical for expansion and also continuous improvement for the marketing, sales and product teams.

Tips for Post Close

  • Do detailed loss reviews every quarter/ month to determine why the lost and what needs to be done to avoid these losses; ensure participation of product, marketing, sales and leadership to drive the learnings from these losses
  • Win reviews are critical to understand why they won - this feedback is channeled back to the playbooks for sales and marketing
  • Create and up-sell/ cross-sell monitoring process with cross- functional team members to ensure that there are metrics, triggers and nurture that leads to easier land and expand

How do you build a sales team in the cross-border context

Most of our startups have gone through a lot of pain in building sales teams. They've hired, fired, gotten the profile of the sales wrong multiple times! The key to building the team is firstly, identify the pattern of what it takes to close and be successful. e.g. is it about feature selling? Consultative selling? long sales cycle? Construct a team based on the model that is most relevant to your company.

Tips for building a team

  • Don't hire US based AEs without founder presence there (or in the post-COVID world, a clear sign of commitment from founders); when you're a small team and you need to hire great AEs vs. well funded tech competition, the reps need to believe that they believe in your mission and the founders commitment and how in the long run they will make outsize returns in your company
  • To hire freshers as BDRs/ SDRs in India, ensure that your product definition, ICP definition and playbook for demand gen is extremely clear; this can be done when you have a defined playbook and prescriptive process to ensure that reps are successful, else they will get demoralized and drop out
  • Create quotas only after you have a repeatable sales process; in the beginning, even the best sales people won't be able to meet quota if you don't have a process which is repeatable in terms of ICP, process, consistent lead generation with defined probability for closure - you can't assign quotas!

Final thoughts

Every company will have unique sales process, but one thing to remember is that sales is process driven and not ad-hoc, they key thing is to keep experimenting, build on top of hypothesis and then create a repeatable process.

Written by

Rachit Parekh
Investments, Accel

With an MBA from MIT Sloan and undergraduate degrees from BITS, Pilani. Rachit is a part of the investment team - focused on investments in early and growth stage companies.

‎SEED TO SCALE Podcast Series by Accel | SeedToScale Podcast by Accel

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