The Sales and Marketing Blueprint for B2B SaaS Founders


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This is version 1.5 of the Handbook. It's a work in progress, that has as its sole purpose to help SaaS entrepreneurs with their sales and marketing problems, decisions, etc. If you have any suggestions, shoot me an e-mail at []( If you want more stuff to read from me, go to [](

This is a very basic guide for enterprise SaaS entrepreneurs who want to learn more about how sales and marketing works in the SaaS context. Selling SaaS to companies is a very specific activity: it involves learning how to understand customers, place prospects in a funnel, how to lead them throughout this funnel, step by step, and finally being able to increase the conversion rates of all the funnel’s steps.

Sales and Marketing: What’s the difference? #

Marketing produces leads. Sales converts leads into customers. Sounds - and it is - simple. Now we’ll dive a bit deeper on what it means to produce leads, and what it means to convert leads into paying customers. It’s not rocket science, trust me. By reading this, you’ll be kilometers ahead of most of your competitors.

First step: understanding your target customers #

First, let’s understand the concept of personas:

Personas are fictional, generalized characters that encompass the various needs, goals, and observed behavior patterns among your real and potential customers.

Identifying customer personas: #

What data points constitute a customer persona? Age, gender (let’s be practical), seniority level, position, domain of accountability (i.e. marketing, sales, ops, technology, etc), budget, and company (the company the prospect’s with: size, sector, funding, profitability, stage in the product cycle, etc).

a) If you’ve got paying customers:

Look out for patterns amongst your paying customers, and figure out who’re the customers that a) paid the most price, b) made the fastest decisions, c) had the worst pain attenuated by your product, d) where the most interested in your materials, blablabla. Find a pattern.

b) If you have no paying customers:

Formulate a hypothesis, based on what you think are your personas, than calibrate based on your first conversions. Rinse, repeat.

Personas are important because they will constantly serve as refference to what you should look for in your leads. So when you formulate forms to capture lead demographics on your website, you’re going to score them against your personas. You get the picture…

Identifying your buying process complexity: #

First, read this:

“How Sales Complexity impacts your Startup’s Viability” is David Skok’s primer on sales complexity. If you’re a SaaS entrepreneur, shame on you if you haven’t read EVERYTHING Skok’s written. Now go read until your eyes bleed.

The longer it takes for a customer to buy your product, the greater the complexity. The costlier your product, the greater the complexity. The more you have to spend on sales to sell your product, the greater the complexity. Skok defines it best:

Some products/services are easy to sell, and buyers will feel comfortable buying them online the first time they visit a web site, while other products and services require complex sales cycles with multiple on-site visits, meeting with various decision-makers, a protracted proof-of-concept trial of the product, etc.

Customer acquisition costs rise exponentially with sales complexity. Inside sold products cost 10x less to sell than field sales-sold products. Try to reduce your sales complexity. How do you do it? By doing more of:

And less of:

The marketing to sales funnel: how marketing-generated leads become customers #

Please observe that I’ve purposedly said marketing-generated leads. These are the leads generated by marketing efforts, and can be generally equaled to what’s known as inbound. Salespeople can also generate leads by cold-calling, for example, or getting referrals from current customers, etc. When leads are generated by the sales team, they’ll skip half of the sales and marketing funnel, and become Sales Accepted Leads immediately, provided that initial qualification was done.

Visitors #

The funnel is the process through which a company acquires customers. In the specific example of enterprise SaaS, the first step of the funnel starts when a person enters your website. This person becomes a visitor. Visitors hover around your web property, click around, and if you do a good job, become leads.

Attracting a lot of visitors is the job of Search Engine marketers, who focus on SEO (search engine optmizitation) and SEM (search engine marketing). They fill the very top of the funnel with a high number of potential leads.

Leads #

When visitors let themselves be known, by completing a form, they become leads. Visitors may fill out forms in order to download relevant content, to subscribe to a newsletter, to watch a webinar, to talk to a rep, or to try out a demo/free trial.

Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) #

When marketing qualifies a lead, it basically says to the sales team that this lead’s worth pursuing: the lead is ripe for convertion. There’s (hopefully) a limited number of salespeople in your company, relative to the raw number of leads being captured. The last job of the marketing function is to qualify these leads to ensure that no low quality leads (not ripe for conversion) are sent over to salespeople. It must be in both teams’ best interests to maximize company-wide conversions.

How can marketing qualify leads? We’ll get back to this in a second, but suffice to say there’s a plethora of resources, tools, and models, that will help you make that decision. It is usually a matter of fit and interest, as measured by:

Demographics are information about your customer that enables marketing to rank him or her relative to your ideal customer profile. Let’s say your company’s ideal customer persona is a large corporation (> 1000 employees), in the Oil & Gas, Materials, and Infrastructure sectors, located on the mid-west. There you go: you’ve got something to score your leads against. Now we move to buyer demographics: you’ve observed that economic buyers (the ones who sign the check) in your core company demographics are usually VPs, either leading Technology or Operations. Shazam: you’ve closed the demographics circle.

Demographcis are best collected via forms, used as gates before access to key content on your website (white papers, ebooks, webinars, etc) or access to product trials, demos, and free features.

Behavior is the second component of customer fit. Behavior is tracked with software like RD Station, Hubspot, and Marketo, and aims at measuring the hotness of the customer’s interest in buying your product. As an intro to this huge field, think about this: if the visitor has played with your home page, blog, and left, he’s cold. If the visitor has spent time researching features comparison and pricing, he’s hot. If he visited your website once, he’s cold. If he’s been visiting frequently, he’s hot. And so on.

Once both behavior and interest are scored (you have to figure out a way to score them, or buy software that can do this for you), you can plot them on this matrix, courtesy of Hubspot:


Call NOW leads are very ready for sales. They should be sent over to a rep immediately.

Nurture leads have to be - duh - nurtured further, to enhance their interest in your offering. Those guys should get a lot of relevant content.

Take orders are leads that shouldn’t get a lot of your time, but from which you should be ready to take orders.

Leave be are leads you should leave be.

Sales-accepted leads #

When you hand out a lead to your sales team, and they accept it, this lead becomes a sales-accepted lead. He’s no longer marketing responsibility, but sales. Salespeople will call him, do another layer of interest-gauging, schedule demos, etc. The sales process, according to Predictable Revenue, is everything that happens from now on, and starts with another round of qualification, this time, by sales:

Discovery Call: First step of qualification by the sales team. Should be focused on discovery, meaning the salesperson should ask a lot, and talk little.

Opportunities #

Once sales has successfully qualified the lead as really ripe for conversion, he or she will become an opportunity, over which sales will pour a lot of effort to convert. The next steps in the process are:

Demo Call: Salesperson should schedule a demo to go over features, talk about needs, explain how the offering will help the customer reach his goals, etc.

Propposal Back and Forth: Send propposal, discuss price, etc.

Closing: Signing the offer, setting up payments, and handing out the customer to your customer success team, who’ll ensure that he gets the most out of your offering.

Customers #

Once leads become customers, that’s where a new function enters: Customer Success. Customer success ensures that the customer is getting the most out of the product, by helping him configure the product, get educated on using it better, etc. Depending on your contract size, an officer may head over to the customer, and help him locally. Depending on your contract size, you may automate emails pointing him to a library of resources, like blog posts, webinars, etc, that’ll help him make the most out of your product.

Building a sales team: #

Things to look for and avoid in hiring your first salesperson:

The right mix: recent sales experience, leadership skills, and sales domain expertise (selling products that have a similar sales process with yours).By sales domain, I don’t mean selling your type of product (like CRM), but selling the same type of sales, like consultive sales (i.e. Hubspot) x take-orders sales (i.e. stock broker).

More on the subject:

Conpensating Salespeople #

Usual components of salesteam compensation:

More on the subject:

SaaS Economics #

Read every Pacific Crest SaaS Survey you can get your hands on. Understand that certain contract sizes (as measured by ARR) are suited to certain types of sales approaches.

Different types of sales strategies #

CAC (Customer acquisition cost) grows exponentially with sales touch: from lowest at self-service to exponentially highest with field sales. As a rule of thumb, the following ARRs are rock bottom minimums that work with each sales approach:

More on the subject:

BasicSaaS metrics and acronyms:

MRR = monthly recurring revenue
ARPA = average revenue per account
CAC = customer acquisition costs
CLTV = customer lifetime value

Final reads #

Appendix #

Sales and Marketing Blogs/Websites (what you absolutely have to read, and other than the ones I’ve already provied throughout the text): #

David Skok

Jason Lemkin


Tomasz Tunguz

If you read these:


Some examples of marketing initiatives #

Some examples of marketing initiatives that may help drive leads to the top of the funnel:

Outbound sales lead generation #


Now read this

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