Sales 3.0: evolution of the software sales function

It’s widely accepted that SaaS has permanently changed software sales. Enterprise software sales once meant a large “boots on the ground” field sales team who knew how to wine and dine the right individuals and stakeholders.

With the emergence of SaaS, the sales process became more transactional and less about relationships. With software products at lower price points, companies need to make up revenue via volume. As a result, focus began to shift from field sales to inside sales. During the first six years, Salesforce literally built their company around inside sales.

Higher volume at lower price points also means that organizations have a lot more data to measure the sales process and that takes us to the next stage in enterprise software.

Sales 3.0: data-driven

We’re now entering the third phase in the evolution of sales. Sales 3.0 is more methodical and analytical, driven by continuous testing and tweaking. This can be at a micro level, such as determining which messaging is more effective on an email sequence, how many touch points are needed to go from zero to opportunity, and what combination of email, phone, text, twitter, etc. are the right one for your buyer persona (our portfolio company, Outreach.io enables such tests).

Testing can also be on a large scale such as which sales structure makes the most sense: SDR and account reps or just account reps? Is it better to have the same team deal with inbound leads and outbound calling or should specialized teams handle each function?

This transition to a metrics-based approach is similar to what we saw in marketing a few years ago, as the practice shifted from largely unquantified “brand building” advertising to very analytical, ROI-driven online marketing.

In this new data-centric reality, the ability to adapt quickly is key. The old mindset that clings to “how it’s always been done” won’t work. Instead, sales leaders need to stay open to changing the process and structure of the sales team, while also helping manage their people to adapt to an ever-changing environment.

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