The state of SaaS sales: Challenges, skills and tech


CloudShare, the software experience platform, has revealed insights from some of the leading influencers in the sales enablement industry. The panel, who came together during a virtual roundtable, discussed the current state of SaaS sales in a bold new (post-COVID-19) world, with a challenging economic backdrop.

The panel also discussed recent research revealing that sales reps only have around 5% of a B2B customer’s time during the entire buying journey. In today’s highly competitive digital landscape, salespeople must capitalise on this brief window of opportunity, yet, an astounding 82% of B2B decision-makers think sales reps are unprepared to make a sale.

See here a summary of some of the most pertinent insights from the roundtable, and tips for SaaS sales teams:

Training the sales team should be a business priority

Mario M. Martinez Jr., CEO of Vengreso thinks that management needs to rethink traditional methods of sales training. “Three-day intensive training sessions typically don’t make a meaningful difference in a salesperson’s day-to-day processes. Instead, training needs to embody the spacing effect by spreading out learning over 30, 60, or 90 days. This technique will improve retention and allow staff to use new information and technologies immediately.”

Mike Kunkle, VP of Sales Effectiveness Services at SPARXiQ agrees that it’s time to rethink traditional training approaches, too. “Event-based training, boot-camps, and information dumps seem to be fading, in favor of bite-sized virtual learning chunks, spaced repetition, and following a system’s approach to train, reinforce, provide practice (with feedback loops and coaching), apply purposeful transfer plans, and coach reps to mastery over time. Engaging, enabling, and empowering front-line sales managers more effectively is a key part of this trend.” 

Steffaney Zohrabyan, Global Sales Enablement at Cisco, thinks there is a lack of “hands-on” training opportunities in many organisations. “Selling is different in every organisation, and SE staff need to know what selling means in theirs. Spending time with the sales teams is the way to do that, allowing SE professionals to understand the needs and challenges they face in their respective markets.”

Insights are the key to success

Felix Krueger, CEO of FFWD discussed the importance of capturing and dispersing sales knowledge amongst sales teams. “Businesses need to embrace the buyer and industry insights generated by effective sales staff and capture it. It can then be dispersed through SE training programs to the rest of the sales department to drive meaningful outcomes”. 

He also believes in measuring results to determine what works. Krueger continued, “An emerging trend in sales enablement is measuring revenue KPIs (e.g. win rate, deal size, or sales cycle length) to understand the impact of strategic sales enablement initiatives. This is one aspect of taking a long-term vantage point of sales enablement.”

Rachel Mae, General Manager of Training at A Sales Growth Company believes that insights cannot be read in silos and thinks analysis, with context, is key. “The influx of data provided by modern sales and marketing tools can often make it seem like organizations face new challenges. However, much of the generated data is not helpful without context. The silos between leadership, marketing, lead gen, sales, and customer success make putting the data in proper context near impossible. Data may tell you the problem, but only observable moments tell you the root cause. The coaching gap is still as broad as ever. Worse now that live observable moments are all the more elusive in a remote world. I believe we run into trouble when we try to change processes or behaviour before a proper diagnosis. Rev ops cannot succeed in a silo. They need the field.”

According to Steffaney Zohrabyan, Global Sales Enablement Team at Cisco, everyone should spend a day in the shoes of a seller as real experiences are the best teachers. “Not only does this provide invaluable insights into what makes a top performer excel, but it highlights the exact steps, tools, and content needed to close the training gap. More importantly, it gives SE professionals insights into what it means (and takes) to be a top performer at an organisation.”

Sales in a post-COVID world

Mario M. Martinez Jr., CEO of Vengreso, thinks that COVID-19 has made selling more difficult, “Buyers have become increasingly adept at researching companies due to being unable to meet with salespeople face-to-face. Before contacting the sales team, a buyer has already researched your product and competition. Sales staff need to embrace this fact and focus on repeatable techniques that drive sales. Additionally, migrating to an omnichannel approach requires sales staff to understand which leads prefer each channel and the right cadence to contact them.”

Rachel Mae, thinks that due to COVID-19, the whole sales experience has changed, “The COVID-19 pandemic forced many salespeople to quickly change their approach from leaning on linear based relationships to credibility relationships. This requires a much higher level of skill and business acumen. Many sales orgs enjoyed a booming economy that gave them a false belief about the effectiveness of the sales team. Sales are still about conversations and not presentations. But enablement can often over-engineer the sales process in the pursuit of a process that presents as scaleable.”

Annie Reiss, Chief Marketing Officer at CloudShare, said it’s time to embrace the future of sales enablement. “What we’ve learned from this influential group is that whilst sales have not fundamentally changed, there is a gap between the crucial need to convert prospects in a short time frame, often remotely, and without proper skills or know-how. Buyers have become smarter since COVID-19 and sales staff, managers, and VPs are beginning to realize that technology is key to providing an interactive, engaging buyer experience in order to capitalise on every opportunity, with every potential lead. Building a forward-thinking sales enablement program doesn’t happen overnight. But with buy-in from key stakeholders, the right foundation, interactive training, and the desire to always improve — any organisation can develop a culture of sales enablement that drives meaningful results.”

The roundtable took place last month and the full panel of experts included:

  • Mario M. Martinez Jr.: CEO of Vengreso
  • Steffaney Zohrabyan: Global Sales Enablement Team at Cisco
  • Mike Kunkle: VP of Sales Effectiveness Services at SPARXiQ
  • Felix Krueger: CEO of FFWD
  • Rachel Mae: General Manager of Training at A Sales Growth Company

It was moderated by Alice Heiman, CEO, Podcast Host, and Public Speaker.

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