The 6 Stage Software Services Pipeline
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is increasingly becoming a preferred revenue model for its consistent cash flow and long-term sustainability. Building out a sales pipeline for SaaS means having a set of tasks and decision rules to drive new revenue consistently. However, having a coherent sales infrastructure is not just about moving prospects through a one-dimensional funnel, but a carefully planned and multistep approach that balances the need for short-term revenues and long-term sustainability.
At Venturit, we do digital transformations. As a boutique software development, design, and consulting firm, our projects run the gamut across many diverse industries and incorporate a range of technologies and services to meet whatever our clients' needs. As you can imagine, this poses some challenges to our sales team, which is tasked with bringing our high-end product development services in an increasingly competitive industry.
To meet this challenge, we started with the fundamentals and built our sales team and processes from the ground up. With no existing sales infrastructure, we took the opportunity to formulate a sales process for our SaaS business in software development services that is efficient and balances long-term growth with short-term revenue demands. Over time, this process will continue to be refined and improved as we gain more experience and iterate on what works. The 6 steps outlined here will serve as guidelines for drafting a software development services pipeline of your own, and getting your sales team on the right path to success!
Here is a handy guide for building out a software development services pipeline in 6 easy steps:
1. Lead Generation.
Bringing in new leads is the first and most essential part of the sales process. Getting this part right will make moving through each stage of the pipeline easier and more fruitful. The lead generation stage can be divided into two basic types:
Leads gathered through direct outreach over email, direct message, phone, or in-person. Actively reaching out through outbound sales is necessary to ensure consistent new sales, but ultimately should give way to a focus on the next type.
Leads gathered through marketing from your website, social media, advertising, or reputational word-of-mouth that come as a result of a potential client engaging with the company. Passively generated inbound leads are preferable because they have been brought to you from your branding and marketing efforts, making the next stage, qualification, much more manageable.
Regardless of which path, inbound or outbound, leads come through, all leads entering the pipeline need to be qualified before they can be moved to the next stage. This stage is the primary screening mechanism for finding out if the lead you've made contact with is valid. As stated above, inbound receives additional weighting since by coming to you through inbound channels, there is a higher likelihood of an existing fit between your services and the client's readiness to buy. Having a concrete, realistic client profile in mind representing your ideal client, based on either previous work or industry standards, will allow you to quickly and effectively qualify new leads, decreasing the attrition rate and increasing the likelihood of conversion.
Once the lead has been contacted and qualified, schedule a more in-depth meeting to identify the client's needs, and gather the information required to submit a proposal. The discovery meeting should be used to establish project specifications, note any special client requests pertaining to their project needs, and introduce your client to crucial figures and points of contact for the project, including but not limited to: team leads, project leads, designers, and developers. The sales team member responsible for this lead should act as the liaison for the meeting and serve as a go-between for the client and other team members.
Once discovery has concluded, it is time to return to your team and draft a proposal based on the requirements and specifications identified during the discovery phase. However, it is important to treat each proposal as its unique deal. As more sales come in and your team gains experience doing various projects, streamlining and expediting the development proposal process becomes essential for conserving resources and providing consistent offerings. The best way to improve and simplify client proposals is to have at your disposal several generic proposal templates from which to choose, which are pre-made and can be easily amended and modulated for each new deal. Keep your development proposal templates in a templates folder for easy navigation and, when applicable, create several templates to encompass broad swaths of project types and seamlessly draft new proposals.
5. Final Offer.
When submitting your development proposal to the client for review, there are a few components of your proposal that can help ensure the final offer's closing. These are incentives and guarantees. Incentives here refer to a discount or special offer included in the proposal, contingent upon acceptance by the client within a specified amount of time. Incentives are a way to lock in the final sale by continuing to add value for the client while creating a sense of urgency for the close. The second important tool for closing are guarantees. Guarantees here means having skin in the game by including a guarantee of client satisfaction, backed by a refund of some kind, within a limited window of opportunity. The guarantee is the defensive component to the incentive's offensive component. They help the client commit to a decision without feeling trapped or pressured and allow for smoother decision-making because they know a mistake will not be financially fatal.
6. Post-sale, Follow-up, & Maintenance
Congrats! You've closed the deal, but the sales process isn't over quite yet. Crucial to building a long-term, the sustainable sales pipeline is the aftercare. The sales team member in charge of the deal should retain themselves as a point of contact for the client, even after the primary contact for the project has been transferred to a project or team lead. Following up with the client as the project progresses will help ensure the services agreed upon are being delivered satisfactorily and allow sales team members to maintain valuable ongoing relationships that will pay future dividends to your business. Additionally, any maintenance tasks or current services provided after the initial close increase the client's lifetime value. They should be considered as an integral part of the sales pipeline. Delivering long-term value to clients will extend the reach of your efforts well beyond the initial sale and increase the return on all previous stages of the process.
Building a robust sales pipeline for software development services can seem like a daunting task when starting from scratch, but breaking it down into these 6 stages will allow you to identify what stage in the process each new client is in, formalize your sales process, and keep new projects on track. With the right process and mindset, building out your SaaS pipeline can lay the foundation for a sustainable, profitable, innovative future!