5.4 Challenging Reasons Your SaaS Needs a Sales Team

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Enterprise deals are a big deal for some SaaS companies, but winning them is more than having a well-crafted checkout page. You'll need a sales team to persuade 5.4 people on the buy side: and that needs a sales team.

Not all SaaS is the same, as I wrote recently in Why SaaS isn’t Cinderella’s slipper.

On parts of the spectrum of the SaaS continuum there is no need to have a sales team. Self-service checkout and product-led growth works great. In other parts of the SaaS continuum, a sales team is essential. 

The tipping point appears to be – according to statements by SaaS staalwarts like Atlassian, Monday.com, and Twillio – about $30m ARR, or Year 7, or if your SaaS is complex on the client end. YMMV.

Beyond these tipping points are the deep enterprise waters where the big fish lie: and a big fish aint gonna give you a $1m on their corp card through a self-service online checkout.

Introducing the challenger customer

Years ago, a brilliant, blue book was written called Challenger Customer (IP now owned by Gartner). Based on research and not just gut feel, one of the many great findings in that book is this:

If you’re selling SaaS to the enterprise – it takes 5.4 people on the buy-side to make a decision.

Steve Chambers

Now you have to imagine this isn’t 5.4 people fighting over a mouse to click Buy Now on your website. They didn’t leap out of bed that morning, fresh from a dream about you, even skipping breakfast in a mad dash to be first in the office and buy the enterprise version of your widget. Not gonna happen.

Viewyonder SaaS Enterprise Sales needs 5.4 people to approve a deal

The 7+1 challenger customer personas

Of course the 5.4 is a statistical average of how many people were involved in a buying decision across many enterprises. You might find it’s sometimes 3 people, or it might be 30, but the point is it’s more than just the person who “gets you”: your fan isn’t enough.

This is a classic cause of SaaS ghosting: one passionate person on the by-side loves the product, kicks the tyres… surely it’s a win? Let’s forecast it for this quarter… then your #1 Fan has to go an persuade their peers to sign up and pay for the big deal… and then… crickets.

If you're a SaaS chasing enterprise deals without a sales team, relying on your #1 fan on the buy-side, then expect to be ghosted and hear crickets.

Steve Chambers

The Challenger Customer team discovered what I call 7+1 personas. Anyone who’s done enterprise sales will see this list and have PSTD flashbacks. These are the main 7, we’ll get to the +1 in a minute.

Viewyonder enterprise SaaS sales team 7 personas.

I will do a separate post on these personas another time, but suffice to say you need to spot and handle each of these differently. 

How do you do that?

viewyonder enterprise saas sales identifying personas

But this isn’t enough. We’re now getting to the person that enterprise sales REALLY REALLY need to target/enable: THE MOBILIZA (Steve: I wanted this to be a bit like Godzilla… not sure it worked).

Enterprise SaaS depends on the mobilizer

We used to think the key to unlocking an enterprise sales deal was to find and create a “customer champion” – remember Annie Wilks from Misery? She isn’t enough!

If you create a champion/fan in the customer, but they are ineffective in their organization (are they a Talker?) then you’re wasting your time. In fact, if they are unpopular, then that will rub off on you. They’ll fail the skeptic test. End of opportunity. This is a minefield.

To use military jargon, a mobilizer is your effective operative on the inside that can make things work. The higher up this mobilizer, the better.

This is what an enterprise sales team will do for a SaaS company. 

Try winning an enterprise sales deal without an enterprise sales team that can't enable a mobilizer and manage the 7 personas to persuade the 5.4 people to say Yes.

Steve Chambers

Remember this is based on real research. I can vouch for it from personal experience of being involved in enteprise sales for 25 years. 

We were taught this at VMware, Cisco, EMC, Microsoft and it won huge deals. I know it’s not cool for Mr Big Co to help SaaS companies… until you need them in enterprises.

So, when your SaaS enterprise sales team do find a mobilizer, here’s where they and the mobilizer need to focus to win the deal:

Viewyonder challenger sales persona impact on sales

In summary

Not all SaaS needs an enterprise sales team if they don’t want enterprise sales. 

But there comes a point in a successful SaaS’s life that they need to win big enterprise deals and their self-service checkout, product-led growth, and/or channel just isn’t enough.

When your SaaS does need enterprise sales, then a key thing they need to do is handle the challenger customer. Customers have inertia. Your sales team needs to show them that the pain of same is worse than the pain of change.

Good luck! Hit me up on LinkedIn, Twitter, or here if you have a question or need help.


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