Hard or soft selling: What works best for SaaS sales reps?

Business Marketing sales CRM 3 min read, March 23, 2020
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Photographer: Austin Distel | Source: Unsplash

What’s the right attitude to sell SaaS products? Many people, particularly those whose first profession isn’t sales, get this wrong.

They either:

Sell like a wolf
Sell like a lamb

Both of these sales styles won’t lead to sustainable success. Let’s take a closer look at both of them, and then see whxat you can do to succeed in SaaS sales.

The wolf

Photographer: Jeroen Bosch | Source: Unsplash

Wolves are effective at closing deals. They operate with strength, free from inhibition, and don’t hesitate to apply pressure to make the sale happen. They’re the archetypical 9 pushy salespeople, utilizing hostile strength to get what they want.

The problem is that SaaS is a subscription business. If you bring a customer on board who simply won’t renew their contract after thirty days, you’ve gained nothing. In fact, your cost of selling to them, onboarding them, and supporting them during the setup phase is probably higher than what they paid you. And more importantly, that sales modus operandi is just unhealthy. Don’t be an asshole —it’s not worth it. You might be the number one closer (you get a coffee and a Cadillac), but that doesn’t count for much if it makes you miserable.

The lamb

Young Sheep
Photographer: Rod Long | Source: Unsplash

Lambs are on the other end of the spectrum. Instead of hostile strength, the lamb operates with friendly weakness. It’s a soft sales approach, without influence and leverage, without power over the prospect, and without confidence. The problem is that prospects don’t want to give their money to companies that employ weak people. And those prospects who do will often be the kinds of customers you shouldn’t work with in the first place.

Lambs attract wolf customers. Consultative sales? Many self-proclaimed sales experts advise you to take a consultative sales approach. They say selling has changed. This advice is all well and fine, but in the real world, too many people use this explanation as an excuse to avoid doing uncomfortable things.

If you’re a consultant, your job is not just to dispense advice. Your job is to:

● Figure out what needs to be done
● Find a way to get it done
● Make sure it actually gets done

If you’re not doing these three things, your “consultation” has no value.

The good parent

Three smiling young women in their twenties with a one year old child.


Photographer: Sharon McCutcheon | Source: Unsplash

Instead of acting like a consultant, you should act like a parent. Good parents have the best interests of their children at heart, but they also communicate from a place of strength.

● They give clear directions
● They confidently take charge of the conversation
● They lead with clarity

Imagine seeing your child do this:

What would you tell him?

“Well, I think there might be other alternatives to consider, if you’re looking to have some fun. I’d be happy to inform you about the choices available, if you could spare five minutes of your attention.” Of course not. You’d communicate with strength and authority.

Good parents communicate in whatever way necessary to get the right behavior from their children. I can already hear some people taking offense to this:

“Prospects aren’t kids! They’re adults!” Of course they are, but if you’re truly a good salesperson, you know more about your product and marketplace than your prospects.

You’ve dealt with the challenges and problems your prospects face many times already. You have deeper domain expertise, and you can see some of the juvenile mistakes your prospects might commit.

A good salesperson respectfully exerts influence—and even puts the screws to a prospect—if that’s what’s required to get them to make the right decision. In the end, you just need to sell with friendly strength.