The maturation of the software industry hasn’t simply changed the type of products that come to market, it’s also changed the companies that sell them. Product teams have gone agile. Marketing teams have turned digital. Even HR has become predictive and self-service.
Indeed, the past decade has seen every department in the modern software company adapt traditional business practices to the new world of tech-enabled, data-driven, nimble business management.
Well, perhaps every department except one.
Even in the tech world, sales has somehow seemed to be outside of these changes. Some tech industry insiders have even gone as far as to say that, while every other department innovates, sales leaders appear to cling to outdated sales training principles that are older than most SaaS founders.
Is this perception right? Are SaaS sales teams failing to evolve even as every department around them modernizes?
The Customer’s Always Right Ahead
I’m going to dispense with the suspense early: SaaS sales is changing.
While the arguments laid out above are understandable, there is no denying the fact that, on a very fundamental and pervasive level, sales management is evolving every bit as much as the other departments in a tech company.
Just as product teams have developed processes to help them react to customer feedback quickly, and marketing teams have found new ways to get in front of fragmented audiences, SaaS sales teams have begun changing the way they manage opportunities to reflect changes to buying process and the need for more technical expertise during the sales process.
And these changes aren’t merely cosmetic ‒ they affect every level of the sales organization, from training and mindset to execution and measurement.
So why do so many people continue to argue that sales is standing still while the tech world innovates around it?
The short answer is that sales continues to be perceived as more art than science (who, after all, knows what makes a rainmaker?) and, therefore, all but opaque to an outsider. The longer answer is that sales is largely acting in response to changes — both to the buying process and to the evolution of the departments that surround them — so the changes are easier to miss.
But none of this changes the fact that software sales is evolving.
As marketing teams get better at generating and nurturing leads, and SaaS products become more effective and dynamic, software sales teams have started designing their process to fit more snugly into the software procurement process.
As part of our 2016 Tech Benchmarking Analysis, we analyzed the sales management processes of both SaaS and non-SaaS companies to see what we could learn about how SaaS sales management is changing.
In this article, we’ll look at the specific, data-supported ways that software sales is changing, and what it means for how tech companies should think about pipeline management.