8 Truth Serums – CRM for SaaS

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crm for saas

There is a big difference in the business models of traditional Enterprise Software and SaaS applications. For those who build SaaS applications and try to sell it via traditional sales methods, fail. The fundamental difference is while the earlier has an Outbound process, the later is completely Inbound. While evaluating CRM for SaaS applications, it becomes pertinent to understand the difference in this sales process of both the business types.

Sales Stages

crm for saas

For enterprise software business, the sales stages are Leads, which are converted into Deals based on prospect qualification. From here the pipe evolves into sales stages like Proposal Sent, Demo Done, Decision Maker Contacted, Negotiation, Won/Lost. Post this, the customer is handed over to delivery and the scope moves out of the CRM system.

crm for saas

For SaaS applications, the sales stages move from Leads to Hot Leads to Won, and then to possibly Leads. These movements are based on the customer’s behavior within your app or website. Deals are never lost because you continue to nurture leads and bring them back, till they opt out voluntarily. The deals that are won can also cancel their subscription if they are not nurtured. So there is no handover to delivery and the scope continues to remain within the CRM.

By now many of you are utterly surprised or even agitated.

Outbound Vs Inbound

The outbound sales process is quite simple. Sell your product to the customer and forget them. The customer is usually bound with a license contract and has already invested in a Capex. If they are dissatisfied with your product, they will reach out to your delivery team or a support team, if there exists one.

The Inbound sales process is a quite elaborate in scope. It has to ensure the continued connect with the customer. The customer is not bound by any contract and can cancel your subscription anytime they feel dissatisfied. While you may still have different teams for marketing, sales, delivery and support, all need to have a singular view of the customer.

By now you will be of the opinion that the traditional enterprise business model is better, but do not be disheartened. Allow me to show you the live revenue report of a SaaS company. With a very tiny product, the company has built huge revenues. This is not possible in the enterprise model. Check the Live Revenue report of Buffer.

SaaS is the future. Sooner or later, every software company has to move to SaaS. Click To Tweet

So what should the CRM for SaaS applications do?

Must Have

  1. Auto Lead/Customer Capture.

    SaaS applications need to cater to very large volumes of customers, and even larger volumes of prospects/leads. If Buffer has 64, 168 Active customers, it must have at least 10,000 churned customers, and at least a million free trials (Leads). Such volumes cannot be attended to if your CRM is not capturing customer details automatically. It is a plus if the CRM for SaaS provides a rich lead or customer profile to assist in understanding them better. The more sources of integration to enrich customer profile, the better.

  2. Lead/Customer Analytics.

    Most SaaS applications have Free users that are not-so-cold leads. The CRM should be able to track the health of these leads automatically and let the Inbound sales qualify them to conversion. Auto Lead Scoring engines are good to have although the scoring metrics should be flexible enough for your business needs. Similar analytics for paying customers as well, to understand their loyalty for your application and the chances of renewal or churn.

  3. Lead Nurture.

    In most cases, Inbound sales people are unable to act upon qualified leads only due to the overwhelming volumes. The CRM system’s lead nurture needs to have the capability to create automated time delayed drip campaigns which are sent to every new lead captured, encouraging them to return back to your application and get accustomed to it.

  4. Subscription Management.

    The CRM for SaaS system should automatically detect payments, upgrades, and downgrades by the leads and customers, if not with an intrinsic module, at least with 3rd party integrations. Unlike the traditional sales stages and the manual intervention to move them within the stages, the CRM system should automatically move the customers across the sales stages. I have known a few SaaS applications that do not have such automation at their backend and end up giving me free access for more than 6 months without their knowledge. SaaS CRM’s provide Live Segments to automatically move the customer into a more meaningful stage.

  5. Customer Nurture.

    The CRM for SaaS should have a Customer nurturing system which should trigger auto communications to the customer based on their behavioral analytics. You can trigger a congratulation message based on certain achievement of the customer within your app, or you can trigger a reminder based on certain activity not performed by the customer within a period of time. Needless to say that such systems should also have easy personalisation to make the customer feel cared for.

Good to Have

  1. Customer Support. The CRM for SaaS should have a customer support or an integration with a customer support system. At any instance, you can determine the comfort level of the customer, details about their issues and how satisfied they are with your support services.
  2. NPS. Net Promoter Score can be a module or an integration but is critical to identify churn and prevent it beforehand.
  3. Reporting. SaaS business metrics are again quite different from traditional enterprise metrics. The CRM system should have SaaS related metric reports which are better as a live dashboard than a static data table. If not as an intrinsic module, at least as an integration with 3rd party tools. You have already seen the SaaS metrics from Baremetrics platform above for Buffer.

saas metics


Caution: If you are in the business of a SaaS product, do not fall for old and popular CRM brands which do not understand the SaaS business. Instead, look for a CRM system that can take care of most of these requirements “out of box”, while allowing you to integrate 3rd party apps for the remaining features. As long as the system allows you to capture the lead automatically, enrich the lead, nurture the lead, create live customer segments, the rest can be made available with 3rd party integrations. Note that I never mentioned “Features” of CRM applications. Feature comparison is a signal of failure. Measure functionality, and effectiveness of a functionality. Also be aware of CRM systems that offer concierge set up services. Definitely, they are too complicated for you to set up yourself and go live in a day. Needless to say, do not even think about CRM systems that need expert consultants to put in place and go live.

8 Truth Serums - CRM for SaaS
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8 Truth Serums - CRM for SaaS
The fundamental difference is while the earlier has an Outbound process, the later is completely Inbound. While evaluating CRM for SaaS applications, it becomes pertinent to understand the difference in this sales process of both the business types.
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Palash Bagchi

Constant Innovator, fanatic marketeer, value creator, Growth Hacker. Making a positive impact on society with better technology.


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