It’s no secret that marketing and sales are two of the largest expenses for SaaS companies. When companies like Salesforce spend 51% of their total yearly earnings on something, you’d best be sure it’s important.

With over $2.75 million going towards marketing and sales in 2015 alone it’s safe to assume they have a tried-and-tested system for capturing and converting their leads.

So, since most of us don’t have that kind of budget, why not analyze what they do to create your own effective sales cycle?

By signing up to 280 of the top SaaS companies in the world (including the Montclare SaaS 250 and the highest earning SaaS startups in AngelList) and analyzing the outreach sent, we were able to figure out what makes these top performers tick.

Although the full information (along with copies of everything we received) is on Inside SaaS Sales, here are five of the best tips we learned.

1. Keep messaging your leads for 9 days

One of the biggest problems when setting up your sales cycle is knowing how long you should stay in contact with a potential customer. After all, there comes a point where the resources you invest in getting the sale outweigh the worth of the deal.

On average, the companies we signed up for stayed in contact (without any further replies from us) for nine days. However, those who only sent emails only stayed in contact for only five days.

2. Use voicemails to go above and beyond

Voicemails are typically a sign of a high-touch approach to sales, as they cost significantly more than just sending emails. This can be seen in the sheer majority of companies that didn’t leave any voicemails.

74% of companies didn’t leave any kind of voicemail, showing that even with a potentially high-value lead (we signed up with fake details of an imaginary Virgin employee)

3. Use marketing automation to save time and effort

With the sheer amount that these companies spend on marketing and sales it pays dividends to save money wherever you can. Even

if you save a fraction of a dollar on each potential lead, that can quickly add up to the price of an extra employee at scale.

The best way to save money (and time) in your sales cycle is to use automation software to complete some tasks for you.

Think of these as services (software) that you can set to complete simple tasks and free up your team’s time. You can do this for anything that has a set input and output.

For example, services like Mailchimp can both manage your email list and automatically send a set of emails to a new lead when they sign up.

This was an incredibly popular tactic, with 53% of the emails we received being sent by a piece of marketing automation software. Not only that, but a significant 39% of all of those companies used only marketing automation to follow up with us – there were no salespeople involved. A further 28% mixed automation with salespeople, leaving 33% who only reached out with living, breathing salespeople.

It’s easier, it’s quicker, it’s cheaper, and it lets your salespeople focus on more important tasks (like setting up demos and closing high- priority leads).

4. Send one email per day

You don’t want to drown your leads in constant communication. Doing so will likely just push them away and relegate your messages to their spam folder.

Equally, it’s important to contact them regularly lest they lose enthusiasm or get stuck at a key juncture in the conversion process. They could also simply forget that they’ve signed up and not visit again – an email will jog their memory and can save some otherwise dead leads.

The top 280 SaaS companies follow pretty varied patterns depending on the length of their sales cycle, the number of times they make contact, and the way they reach out (email vs voicemail), but in general they sent an average of one email every day.

Now, the important term here is “average”, since very few actually stuck to one email every day since the beginning of the cycle. Instead, many opted for a trickle approach.

At the beginning of the sales cycle (when your lead’s enthusiasm should still be high after signing up) companies like LivePerson sent one or two emails every day. Then, as time went on, emails and/or voicemails became more infrequent – it wasn’t uncommon for three or four days to pass before we received our final email.

5. Use one of these five words in your subject line

The language you use is just as (if not more) important than the frequency you communicate, so when we analyzed our data we made sure to check for the most common words in every email’s subject line.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most common words were:

  • Your
  • Re:
  • Demo
  • Request
  • Trial

To inspire action,  therefore, the top 280 SaaS companies try to make things personal (“your”), imply a conversation (“re:” – these were all false since we didn’t reply to anything), give a benefit or solution to a problem (“trial” and “demo”) or give the reader an answer to something (“request”).

Although we discovered a lot of useful lessons during this project, remember that these are all averages, and that there were many exceptions to these rules. Each of the top 280 SaaS companies can be boiled down to a rough sales cycle, but the truth is that they do what works for their customers.

The key is having a foundation to go and test on your own audience, then customize to your own needs. Here’s to hoping that this pos has helped you do just that.BFM

Benjamin Brandall is a content marketer at Australian startup Process Street, where he writes on startups, SaaS, and workflows. He has written for TechCrunch, Fast Company, and The Next Web.

Business First is a peer-to-peer magazine: written by CEOs and other high level executives, with interviews with some of the country’s best leaders.

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