A Guide to Value Selling for SaaS

And how to use the customer onboarding phase to sell value
August 4, 2021
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SaaS can be a lot like math. You can learn everything about formulas and theorems, but until you see how it helps you get the right proportions to bake a fluffy cake or predict the odds of your favorite team winning, it doesn’t matter, does it?

To be convinced to buy a product, your customers don’t need to hear about its features and functions; they need to see the value they can get from it. In fact, 92% of buyers want to hear a value proposition early in the sales cycle.

In this post, we look at value-based selling, how it applies to SaaS, the role of onboarding in value selling, key metrics, and what you can do to level up your value selling game.

What is value-based selling?

Value-based selling is an approach focused on benefitting the customer throughout the sales process and beyond. It is a consultative approach that helps customers make the right decision based on the potential value from a product/service.

Going beyond selling for the sake of selling, this approach puts the customer’s needs first, guiding them through the sales (and onboarding) to make an informed decision that best suits their needs.

The role of value-based selling in SaaS

The average B2B buyer regards your business knowledge and experience with other customers far more highly than your ability to talk about product features, functions, and USPs.

Though it takes more work than a simple feature-based or competitor-relative approach, value selling is a strong win-win proposition. Besides helping your customers succeed, here’s why it works for your organization too:

It builds stronger customer relationships: When properly implemented, value selling is one of the most effective and fundamental methods of building a strong customer relationship beyond the first sale. When you’re committed to their success right from the start, you can be sure of a better relationship throughout the customer’s lifecycle.

It helps build a better product: The process of developing a value-based model helps you to develop a higher quality solution that focuses on what your customers perceive, need, and want.

It helps you define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), so you can work towards long-term revenue growth.

It makes change management easier during customer onboarding: One of the biggest struggles CS teams face is overcoming customers’ resistance to change, especially at the end-user level. To them, a new product simply means another set of features and functionalities for them to learn and adopt. Value-based selling offers a more convincing pitch to your customers’ end users.

The role of customer onboarding in a value-based selling approach

With all the knowledge and expertise they’ve accumulated across multiple customers and projects, your CS/Implementation/Onboarding team can add enormous value to your customer strategy. 

Here are some tips for leveraging the onboarding phase to build the right value selling approach:

1. Involve your onboarding/implementation/CSM team at the right time

As Jeff Kushmerek shares in this episode of Implementation Stories, bringing in an implementation expert even before the deal is finalized is a great way to incorporate the consultative approach that value- selling needs. It shows your customer that you prioritize value delivery for them—right from the start. 

In another episode of Implementation Stories, Alex Farmer, VP at Cognite, shared how Cognite introduces the CSM at the 60% sales mark to help their customers identify the best way to gain value from their platform. 

Seeing their unique needs mapped to specific use cases and product features by an expert assures your customers that you are committed to their success. This goes a long way in establishing you as a partner on their journey and not a vendor looking to close a sale.

2. Create your ICP in consultation with your CS team

Let’s face it. Not all products work for all customers. For long-term success, it’s important for your sales team to recognize the right kinds of customers—those that see actual value in your product, render low/nil churn, and provide upsell/cross-sell opportunities.

As Assaf Barnar recommends in this podcast episode, use the expertise of the CS team to review every sales opportunity from the CS lens to ensure an effective Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) for your product.

The elements of a value-based selling approach 

There are four key elements in any good value-based approach to selling:

  1. Understanding your customer’s business
  2. Using a consultative approach help them to identify their needs
  3. Aligning their problems with your solutions
  4. Agreeing upon the value you can deliver 

5 Things to keep in mind as you adopt a value selling approach

1. Do your research

Invest time to fully understand your customers, what they do, how they function. Ideally, you should collect this information and make it accessible for your entire team.

 2. Create tailored value propositions

The same product/service can offer different kinds of value to different customers. Irrespective of how well you craft your value proposition, value selling needs you to go deeper.

The essence of value-based selling is a personally tailored and unique value position. Focus on specific use cases and a subset of your features to drive home value for your customers.

 3. Focus on ROI

Quantifying customers’ potential ROI is the best way to drive home the value of your product/service.  Before you dive into this, take the time to understand how they measure the impact of new products or services, what changes they’re focused on, etc., so you can narrow down a good mix of hard numbers and qualitative value that they’d understand and appreciate.

 There are three simple ways you can pinpoint the quantitative value you provide to your clients:

  • Money made/saved
  • Time/effort saved
  • Risk reduced

If qualitative improvements are your primary value proposition, onboarding is a great time to focus heavily on their current pain points and collect qualitative feedback on their experience with your product/service that you can use with future customers.

4. Lower TTV during onboarding

Each customer buys your product for a different reason. Tailor your customer onboarding process depending on different use cases. The sooner your customers experience their first aha moment, the sooner they begin to appreciate the value you sold them.

Onboarding projects can be chaotic, and the resulting confusion can take attention away from the value your product promises. Focus on perfecting your customer onboarding process, so it is efficient, seamless, and collaborative.

5. Provide value with every interaction

Aim to actively provide value with each interaction, whether it is through a timely update, an effective kickoff meeting, or a training module.

For instance, during onboarding, instead of flooding their inboxes with emails or clogging up their calendars with meetings, you could provide a single centralized dashboard that they can access whenever they need to understand the status of a task. Doing this at the onboarding stage can set you up for long-term success with the customer. Here is how Rocketlane can help you on that front.

Key metrics to track

Here are some of the metrics you can track as part of your value selling strategy:

  1. Time-to-value:  TTV for short, it’s the time it takes your customer to discover the first point of value in your product. Optimizing your onboarding, so customers see value sooner reassures them of their purchase and, as a result, encourages them to stay engaged, and to look forward to future value.

  2. DAU and MAU‍: Daily Active Users (DAU) and Monthly Active Users (MAU) indicate how many people use your product on a given day or a month, respectively. Active product engagement suggests that your customers are deriving value on an ongoing basis.

  3. Onboarding Analytics‍: The quality of customer onboarding is directly linked to adoption and churn. Demonstrating quick wins during the onboarding process can go a long way in retaining customers for the long run. Focus on the time it takes customers to complete tasks, the onboarding duration (or speed of onboarding), the correlation between onboarding completion and retention, etc., to identify customers for whom your product works best.‍

  4. NPS or Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)‍: A good way to gauge customer sentiment, NPS or CSAT score can help you assess how customers truly feel about your product/service so you can make changes to your approach or identify best-fit customers.

  5. Customer Renewal Rate‍: CRR is calculated as the number of customers who renewed against the number of customers who canceled. This is a simple yet significant indicator of the value your customers see in your offering.‍

No matter how good your product is, if your customers don’t get around to using it, they’ll never know for themselves. Customer onboarding done right can help you deliver value to your customers from the get-go.

More resources

  1. Creating Early Wins with The First Value Delivery Framework 
  2. Value Realization for SaaS Businesses: Framework and Tools
  3. Top customer onboarding metrics to track

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Kirthika Soundararajan
Head - Content Marketing @ Rocketlane

All things content at Rocketlane. I run on coffee and cat videos. Follow me on Twitter @kirthikasrajan

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