How to Build a SaaS Sales Strategy: Beginner’s Guide

Your software is ready for the real world, and you know its potential. But launching a successful SaaS goes beyond just having a great product—you’re facing the challenge of convincing your target audience that it’s worth their money.

As a software maker, this transition from a coding wizard to a savvy marketer can be a head-scratcher. The focus shifts from coding to translating features into a message that resonates with your customers. Key considerations like customer lifetime value and churn become essential. It’s a new hurdle that requires a fresh perspective.

Wondering how to build a lead pipeline that actually converts potential customers into paying users? This guide helps you bridge the gap between coding and selling your software, from setting the right price to building long-term relationships with happy users.

Let’s break down the steps to building the best sales strategy for your SaaS business.

Understanding Your Customers and Market

The first step toward building a successful SaaS sales strategy is to create a roadmap for understanding your ideal customer. what challenges they’re facing + what they need and want.

This is easier said than done in a market that’s rife with competition. How are others helping your target users solve their issues and reach their goals, and what can you do differently?

Start by defining your ideal customers and competitors. Keep a notepad or note-taking app handy — it’s helpful to document this info so you can return to it when you lack ideas or gain new insights about your users.

Build Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

Think about the person who can benefit most from what you’ve created. Here’s how to flesh out their profile:

  • Characteristics: I.e. demographics. Is your ideal customer a small business owner, a marketing manager at a large enterprise, or a freelance graphic designer? Age, industry, and tech-savviness all play a role, but don’t get carried away with demographics, either. King Charles and Ozzy Osbourne share characteristics like age, nationality, wealth, and marriage — but they have slightly different challenges, needs, and goals in life. 🙂
  • Pain points: What frustrations is your ideal user facing? Inefficient and manual workflows, data security concerns, siloed data, or a lack of budget for expensive software are all common pain points. Your SaaS should be the aspirin that cures their headache.
  • Needs: What keeps your target customers up at night? Are they drowning in emails and desperate for an automation tool? Struggling to work efficiently with remote team members? Understanding the core needs of your ICP allows you to position your software as the solution.

Develop fictional profiles that embody your target users. Give them a name, job title, and specific challenges. The more detailed personas are, the easier it will be to create a pitch and product messaging that resonates with them.

If you’re having trouble defining your ideal customer, it may be useful to get out into the real world and network. Go to industry meetups and user conferences (like we just did at WordCamp Europe 2024). Alternatively, explore online forums where your target audience is active.

These gatherings are opportunities to:

  • Talk to your potential customers to learn about the challenges they’re facing and the features their current solutions lack
  • Record video testimonials from your existing customers
  • Book interviews or extend podcast invites in person to industry experts

For example, we managed to schedule expert interviews with leaders like Patrik Posner, founder of Simply Static, and Matt Cromwell, co-founder of Give WP. This will allow us to create unique and valuable content for our users and readers, as well as build and strengthen relationships with other professionals.

Market Research and Competitor Analysis

Before you create a battle strategy, study the battlefield. Is your software entering a mature market or are you aiming to disrupt it with an innovative solution? Who’s currently leading the way? You’ll need to answer these questions to better define your product’s unique attributes.

  • Market research: Dive into industry reports, customer surveys, and social media trends to understand the overall market size, growth potential, and emerging needs. You can use free tools like Google Trends or resource hubs like Pew Research Center to get the data you need.

Say you’re selling a password protection plugin for WordPress. Google Trends data can indicate a slight increase in “password protection” searches over the past 12 months.

  • Competitor analysis: Who are the other players in the game? Analyze their features, pricing models, and how they position themselves. What marketing channels are they using? What are they doing well (or not so well)? This intel will help you differentiate your SaaS and find your unique selling proposition (USP).

Building Product Messaging That Resonates

Now that you know exactly who your SaaS product is for, it’s time to turn those potential customers into loyal users. How do you win them over, especially in a crowded market with already established players? Start by defining what makes your software unique.

Defining Your Value Proposition: Why Should People Buy From You?

Imagine you’re explaining your product to a friend at a coffee shop. Your value proposition should be a clear, concise statement that tells them why your SaaS is awesome and how it makes their life easier. This statement should:

  • Focus on benefits rather than features: Don’t just rattle off features like a robot, especially if your audience isn’t particularly tech-savvy. Explain how those features solve real problems.

For example, instead of saying, “Our software has fancy data visualization features,” say, “Our software lets you see important marketing and sales data in charts, tables, and graphs that even the busiest stakeholders will easily understand.” This way, you speak directly to potential customers who struggle to showcase their data and prove their ROI. An example may be executives or department heads who don’t have time to dive deep into long data reports.

  • Include a number when possible: Has your SaaS been proven to save your customers time, money, or effort? Put a number on it.

For instance: “Our software helps you avoid wasting hours on email by automating email marketing workflows, freeing up 10 hours per week for your team.”

Your sales message should naturally build on your unique value proposition. Avoid too much jargon — remember that your potential customers probably don’t know as much about coding as you. Above all, the message should be clear.

Also, keep in mind that people don’t buy features — they buy solutions. What’s the “aha moment” your software can create for your customers? That moment when they realize your product significantly improves their lives?

Craft your message around the “aha moment”. You could say: “Imagine generating reports in minutes instead of hours! Our software automates the process, freeing you up to focus on what matters most.”

This message should be consistent across your entire sales funnel.

Mapping Out Your Software Sales Funnel

A sales funnel maps out the steps leads take from initial awareness where a problem requires a solution to choosing your software and becoming a paying customer.

Mapping out these steps paints a clearer picture of your target users’ thought processes and how they make purchasing decisions. This allows you to tailor your messaging and content to resonate with potential customers at each stage.

There are three key stages to focus on:

Top of the funnel (TOFU) Middle of the funnel (MOFU) Bottom of the funnel (BOFU)
Goal Attract and educate: Make potential customers aware of your software and establish yourself as a thought leader Engage and nurture: Qualify leads and nurture their interest in your software Convert and retain: Convert qualified leads into paying customers and retain them long-term
Audience Broad audience with pain points relevant to your software’s solution Leads who have shown interest by downloading content or signing up for your email list Leads who have gone through the nurturing process and expressed buying interest

To successfully move your prospects and leads further down the funnel, you can:

  • Create targeted content that showcases your expertise and product
  • Segment your leads based on interests and needs to tailor your communication for specific pain points
  • Collect user emails to build a mailing list and run nurture campaigns. This is a series of emails that educate, engage, and gently nudge leads toward a purchase decision
  • Provide free trials with limited functionality to allow users to test your software before purchasing
  • Create a sense of urgency with limited-time discounts or special offers that incentivize immediate action

Setting the Right Sales Goals

Clear sales goals are crucial for the success of your software, whether you own a subscription-based business or have a one-time payment (lifetime license) software model. If you don’t set goals from the beginning, you won’t know what counts as success. This may lead to losing focus and motivation along the way.

The SMART methodology for goal setting is popular, and for a good reason — it guides your efforts so they don’t seem futile.

Here’s how to set SMART goals as a software maker:

  • Specific: Instead of being vague, define specific goals like “acquire 20 new paying customers by the end of Q1” or “generate $5,000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR)” by a set deadline.
  • Measurable: Ensure your goals are quantifiable with relevant metrics like website traffic, conversion rates, and free trial signups to measure your progress toward achieving sales targets.
  • Attainable: Be ambitious yet realistic to stay motivated. Consider your current market reach, development resources, and marketing budget when setting goals.
  • Relevant: Align your sales goals with your overall business objectives. Are you focused on rapid user acquisition or establishing a solid customer base with high lifetime value (LTV)?
  • Time-Bound: Assign a specific timeframe for achieving your sales goals. This could be a monthly, quarterly, or annual target depending on your sales cycle and revenue model.
    • A small note here: If your software caters to a specific industry, consider potential seasonal trends that might impact sales.

Pro tip: Break down ambitious annual goals into smaller ones that can be managed monthly or quarterly. This provides a clearer roadmap for achieving success — and you get to celebrate milestones along the way 🏆

Determining Your Approach to SaaS Sales

Choosing the Right Sales Model

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to selling SaaS. The best sales model depends on your software’s unique features, target market, goals, and resources. The three most common models are self-service, transactional, and enterprise.

Model Self-service Transactional Enterprise
Ideal for… User-friendly, low-cost SaaS products with intuitive interfaces like project management tools, basic scheduling software, or simple marketing automation tools Slightly more complex, ready-to-use software, like accounting tools or customer support platforms High-value SaaS solutions targeting large organizations with complex needs and multiple decision-makers, like enterprise security software or industry-specific solutions
Target customers Individuals, small teams Small and mid-sized teams Enterprise-level companies
Advantages Low overhead costs, easy scalability, quick customer sign-ups Provides personalized guidance and support, allows for in-depth needs assessment and solution tailoring, and higher potential deal value High potential revenue, long-term customer relationships
Disadvantages Limited customer interaction, may struggle to convert users with more complex needs Requires dedicated sales resources and has longer sales cycles. Extremely long sales cycles, complex negotiations, and requires a team of specialists

Being a solopreneur or working with a small team, you’ll likely choose the self-service approach (but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to scale later on!). If you choose this model, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Focus on a frictionless user experience: Make signing up, exploring features, and paying a breeze. Clear instructions and intuitive design are key.
  • Offer a freemium model: A free tier can give potential customers a taste of your product’s value, encouraging them to upgrade to a paid plan later.
  • Invest in exceptional customer self-service: Create a robust knowledge base, FAQs, and video tutorials to empower users and answer their questions.

Setting the Right Price for Your Software

Pricing your SaaS is like finding the perfect temperature for a hot chocolate – not too hot, not too cold, just right. You need to cover your costs, stay competitive in the market, and eventually make a profit. But putting a price on something you’ve poured your heart and soul (and knowledge, experience, and potentially some cash) into isn’t easy.

Think about the value your product delivers to customers. Can your SaaS save customers time, money, or resources? Probably so. For example, if your marketing automation software increases conversion rates by 15%, you can justify a higher price point based on the additional revenue it generates for customers.

Frame your pricing around the ROI your customers can expect. Will your SaaS help them reduce costs by 20%? Increase efficiency by 30%? Highlight these benefits and showcase how your product pays for itself (and then some!).

Researching your competitors’ pricing models will also help you better understand the market. Don’t undercut them – highlight the value proposition that justifies your price point. Also, find your competitive advantage and highlight the differentiator in your pricing strategy.

A one-size-fits-all approach to pricing rarely works. Instead, consider offering different pricing plans with varying feature sets. This way, even if your audience works with limited budgets, they can find a plan that fits their wallet. For example:

  • Freemium model with a limited free tier with basic features to entice users by showcasing your product’s value
  • Tiered pricing providing multiple paid plans with incremental pricing based on features and user limits
  • Per-user pricing, where you charge customers a set fee per user who has access to your software

Choosing the Best Sales Methodology

The success of your SaaS sales depends on a well-defined approach. Here’s where sales methodologies come in — structured frameworks guiding how you interact with potential customers.

This is good news for those who aren’t well-versed sellers — these frameworks will help you get into the groove:

1. Customer-Centric Selling

Ideal for: Products that solve common pain points for a broad audience, like project management tools and basic marketing automation platforms.

Say you’re selling a social media scheduling tool. A customer-centric approach involves actively listening to understand a prospect’s specific social media management challenges: inconsistent posting and difficulty managing multiple platforms. You then tailor your pitch to showcase how your tool streamlines scheduling and content creation, saving them time and effort.

2. Challenger Sale

Ideal for: Complex enterprise-level solutions with a high price point.

Selling a large-scale HR management platform requires challenging the status quo. A challenger sales rep might present data showing hidden costs associated with manual HR processes and highlight how your software automates tasks, improves efficiency, and generates measurable cost savings.

3. Consultative Selling

Ideal for: Building trust and establishing long-term relationships with customers.

For example, you may be selling a custom marketing analytics platform. This requires a consultative approach, where you’d act as an advisor, collaborating with the prospect to identify their unique data analysis needs. This might involve joint brainstorming sessions to define key metrics and reports their team needs to track their marketing performance effectively.

4. Value Selling

Ideal for: Products with a clear ROI proposition or those competing in a crowded marketplace.

If you’re selling an e-commerce platform with built-in marketing automation features, you can benefit from value selling. Here, you’d emphasize how quantifiable metrics like increased sales, conversion rates, or reduced customer acquisition costs are directly attributable to your platform’s marketing tools.

5. Target Account Selling (TAS)

Ideal for: High-value enterprise customers where landing a single account can significantly impact your business.

Imagine selling a security software suite to large financial institutions. A TAS approach would involve identifying key decision-makers within these target accounts and building strategic relationships with them.

Grab a free copy of our Cheat Sheet for
Selling Plugins and Themes

A growth roadmap with concise, actionable tips for every milestone of WordPress product development.

blue book with the title “Cheat Sheet for Selling Themes and Plugins by Freemius” written on it

Choosing the Right Sales Techniques

As a developer, the traditional world of sales pitches and cold calls might seem daunting. But outbound sales isn’t the only option — you can also market your product with inbound sales techniques and generate leads who might be interested in your solution.

Here are the main differences between the two:

Outbound Sales (Prospecting): This involves actively reaching out to potential customers to generate interest. Techniques include cold calling, email outreach, and social selling (connecting with leads on platforms like LinkedIn). This approach requires a well-defined target audience and a compelling message that highlights your software’s value proposition. It may also require sales automation tools to help reduce manual tasks and save time.

Inbound Sales (Lead Generation): Here, you attract potential customers by creating valuable content that positions you as an expert. This could involve blog posts, webinars, free trials, or demos. By establishing yourself as a trusted resource, you draw in leads who are already interested in your software.

Read more about how outbound and inbound sales work and which is better for software businesses in our detailed guide.

Implementing Your Sales Strategy: 5 Best Practices

Now that you know who you’re selling your software to, how you want to sell it, and why people should buy your product (and not your competitors’), it’s time to put theory into action.

Even if you’re inexperienced or not particularly comfortable with selling, these simple best practices will help you get started. Soon, you’ll build a steady pipeline with new prospective customers wanting to learn more about your software.

1. Build Your Own Sales Playbook

Your sales playbook can contain different materials, from sales call scripts to one-pagers with a description of your product’s features. Essentially, it’s a roadmap that will help you (and any new team member focused on sales) navigate the entire sales process. Here’s what it should contain:

  • Company snapshot: Briefly introduce your company, its mission, values, and role in the industry.
  • Product expertise: Dive deep into your software. Highlight its unique features, benefits for customers, and pricing details. You can attach product guides for reference, but keep this section concise.
  • ICPs: Include your ICP, considering their demographics, pain points, motivation for buying, and how your offerings address their needs.
  • The sales journey: Choose and explain your sales methodology, outlining the process from prospecting to post-sales follow-up.
  • Sales enablement: This should be a library of resources to support your sales, including call scripts, content for social media, email templates, one-pagers, pricing guidelines, and other helpful materials.
  • Goals and measurement: Outline your sales goals and KPIs and how you define success.

2. Track Relevant Sales Metrics

Sales metrics are like a fitness tracker for your SaaS business. They tell you about your business’s strengths and weaknesses and help you adapt, improve, and push your sales efforts forward. Setting KPIs and tracking them goes hand in hand with your sales goals.

Some examples of important sales metrics you may want to monitor include:

  • Customer Churn Rate: This metric reveals how many customers cancel your service. By tracking customer churn, you can identify areas for improvement in onboarding, customer success, or product development to keep users happy (and subscribed!).
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): This score indicates customer loyalty and satisfaction. A high NPS signifies that customers will likely recommend your product to others, which can drive new business for your software.
  • Revenue Metrics (MRR, ARR): Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) and Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) paint a clear picture of your predictable income stream. Tracking these metrics helps with financial planning, forecasting, and making strategic business decisions.
  • Sales Pipeline Metrics (SQLs, Lead Velocity): Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) tell you how many leads are genuinely interested and qualified to become customers. Lead Velocity Rate measures the speed at which you generate these qualified leads. Monitoring these metrics helps you assess the effectiveness of your marketing and sales efforts.
  • Lead Conversion Metrics (RPL, CAC): Revenue Per Lead (RPL) reveals the amount of revenue generated from each acquired lead. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) tells you how much it costs to acquire a new customer. Analyzing these metrics helps you optimize your lead generation and conversion strategies for maximum return on investment.
  • Sales Activity Metrics, such as Demo-to-Trial Ratio: Tracking Demo-to-Trial Ratio indicates how effectively your sales demos are converting into free trials and whether they need to be improved. You can determine if you should refine your pitch or make a more compelling product presentation.

Note: It’s critical to align KPIs with sales goals. For example, if you aim to maximize revenue from existing customers by upselling (with add-ons, for instance), you’ll need to track metrics like Average Revenue Per User, Customer Lifetime Value, and Renewal Rate.

3. Support Sales with Content Marketing

Content marketing is cost-effective, gives your business long-term value, and helps build trust among your audience, potentially bringing in many qualified and high-intent leads. This is particularly important for new software facing the difficult task of breaking through the noise.

As you’ve already done your ICP research by this point, you should create content around your ideal customer profile and their pain points. There’s a mix of valuable content formats to choose from:

  • Informative blog posts that address common industry challenges and showcase how your software can help
  • In-depth guides packed with valuable insights on topics relevant to your software’s function
  • Real-world examples of how your software has benefited businesses or individuals like them
  • Complex data or information presented as infographics
  • Engaging video tutorials, product demos, or live webinars to demonstrate your software’s capabilities

SEO is an excellent marketing channel for distributing your SaaS content and attracting leads. It can help you raise awareness of the problems your target users are facing and cost-effectively create demand for your product.

Building relationships with relevant influencers and journalists from your niche through digital PR can also help you reach out to audiences interested in solutions like yours. You’re leveraging the credibility of someone this audience already trusts.

Get our marketing handbook tailored to the developer’s needs and learn about the key content pieces — minimum viable content assets — that can help you produce quality content at scale.

4. Build Trust and Social Proof

Potential customers are bombarded with options when making purchasing decisions and are reluctant to invest in something they don’t trust. Social proof holds great power to convince them to use your solution.

  • Feature success stories of real customers who’ve gotten positive results thanks to using your software on landing pages
  • Include trust signals on your website (security badges, customer logos, and industry certifications)
  • Showcase any awards or recognition your software has received
  • Respond to both positive and negative reviews promptly and professionally, as it may affect how your customers perceive you
  • Encourage users to share their experiences with your software on social media using a branded hashtag as UGC (user-generated content). This may feel more trustworthy compared to branded content
  • Integrate social proof elements at every stage of the sales funnel to further nurture your leads
This is what Freemius reviews on G2 look like!
This is what Freemius reviews on G2 look like!

Read more about how to leverage social proof to boost sales of your WordPress and SaaS products.

5. Provide Excellent Customer Support

Your customer’s journey doesn’t end after the initial purchase — especially if you’re running a subscription-based business. The goal is to retain your customers and potentially make them open to buying new features or products.

To achieve this, you should focus on providing excellent support — a crucial element for retaining happy customers who will become your biggest advocates.

For many users, resolving issues promptly and professionally is required for a 5-star review.

For others, it’s anticipating their future needs or issues and suggesting solutions proactively. A skilled support rep can identify situations where your existing customers could benefit from additional features offered in higher-tier plans (upselling) or complementary products within your portfolio (cross-selling).

Proactive customer support can certainly prevent churn by addressing issues before they escalate. By addressing concerns efficiently, you can turn potentially frustrated customers into long-term allies. Lower churn rates directly translate to a more sustainable sales model.

Pro tip: Rely on multi-channel customer support. This way, you can cater to different preferences by providing email, phone, live chat, or even a self-service knowledge base with FAQs, tutorials, and troubleshooting guides.

Start Testing Your SaaS Sales Strategy Today

The world of sales might seem foreign to developers, but don’t fret. You don’t need to be a seasoned salesperson to achieve success. The key lies in embracing a flexible and data-driven approach. Experiment with a combination of inbound and outbound sales techniques, test, and reiterate tactics that bring in results.

Building a successful sales strategy is a learning experience. Just like Freemius, you too can navigate the competitive software market. By focusing on value, building trust, and learning from your experiences, you’ll be well on your way to attracting paying users and achieving your software business goals.

Have more questions about building a SaaS sales strategy? Please drop us a DM on X or get in touch with us at [email protected].

Goran Mirkovic

Published by

Content, SEO, and Growth Marketing Specialist with over 10 years of experience helping B2B SaaS companies scale through content.

Erick Danzer

“The kind of insight and analytics that Freemius can offer about plugin users is unheard of.”

Erick Danzer - Owner at NextGEN Gallery Try Freemius Today

Hand-picked related articles