B2B sales in 2023 - a study with >250 SaaS firms

Written by
July 27, 2023
B2B sales in 2023 - a study with >250 SaaS firms

B2B sales is a complex topic.

It is the lifeblood of any business as the absence of a sales motion (outbound, inbound or even product-led) almost automatically means the death of a company. Without revenue there is no business.

Over the last 6 months, we have spoken with over 250 sales leaders from various B2B SaaS firms in Germany, Europe and the US to analyse how they are building sales processes.

The main focus of our study lied on customer-facing B2B sales firms with a high-touch sales motion, slow deal velocity, 5-6 digit ACVs, and various stakeholders on the seller and buyer side. We are looking at B2B sales in a way a buyer would as well and therefore include customer success as a vital part of the motion.

We specifically focused on the following:

1. How do B2B companies stay ahead of the competition?

2. How do B2B companies build scalable and repeatable sales playbooks?

3. How do B2B companies operate in a bear market when there aren't as many new leads in the pipeline?

The findings were interesting, insightful and showed a mutual trend across boarders and continents while also revealing a few shortcomings in the way B2B firms try to prepare themselves for a primarily digital future.

Over the next few paragraphs, we will explain our approach for the study and the correlated findings to provide a qualitative description of the status quo and the future ahead.

Looking at B2B SaaS firms today, it becomes very obvious that they function in a somewhat similar way. Their sales is structured in pre- and post purchase processes that are primarily handled by 2 positions - Account Executives (AEs) & Customer Success Managers (CSMs). Advanced teams also employ SDRs / BDRs to qualify leads for the AEs and bring in additional experts to support with tech, legal or other topics when necessary along the funnel.

The amount of stakeholders on the seller side varies mostly based on the Average Contract Value (ACV) or product complexity. Every single firm we have spoken with used a CRM like Salesforce or Hubspot (over 90%) and often a few other tools in their tech stack such as LI Sales Nav, Apollo or Gong. They concentrate on filling the pipeline with new leads and their tools mostly focus on the top of the funnel. They often use sales methodologies like MEDD(P)IC to qualify leads and manage different phases in their CRM while trying to push prospects through them as fast as possible.

Only a small amount of firms deeply thinks about innovating the mid- to bottom-funnel touch points through tooling and productization.

Workflows in post-purchase processes like onboarding, account management or upselling as part of customer success are completely untouched as it seems.

What struck us the most is the fact that there isn't a market segment or industry that sticks out of the masses. Small startups with a few employees or mid-market and enterprise firms with thousands of people all work very similarly. Sellers focus on themselves and rarely have deep understandings of the buyer journey. They look at their own tasks without thinking about the other side and what to do to simplify the buying process. On top of that, sellers have almost no visibility in buying behaviour and a big part of their sales process is based on the hope for an answer from their buyers.

Basing a sales process that is ideally characterized by consistency and the ability for repetition and scale primarily on hope seems to be fragile at least. Almost every seller therefore struggles with disengagement / ghosting, deal slippage or driving deal consistency / velocity. Specifically the latter point is also a big problem in onboarding.

Over the last 6 months, however, we saw a spike in interest and understanding for the buying side - specifically towards the end of Q2. A lot of firms not only faced a potential summer slump, but also had to wake up to the fact that today's companies (specifically their buying centers) are primarily run be the CFO now. The days of unlimited spendings are over and sellers are faced with flattening pipelines and the necessity to generate more revenue with less leads.

It's a simple question, but how exactly do you do that? We were confronted with this issue a lot and I will try to provide some hints in connection to the three topics of this study

1. How do B2B companies stay ahead of the competition?

Most firms in our study focus on optimizing materials and approaches within their current workflows when exchanging with potential buyers. As >96% of them use emails to communicate with buyers and to share materials (besides phone calling them, but sending emails right after), they focus on optimizing mostly this channel. The problem here is that email is a generic communication tool and used for all sorts of back and forth. Sellers compete with any other email in an inbox ranging from newsletters, updates or calendar invites to all sorts of confirmations or spam. Being pooled together with all other emails on the same level makes it difficult to stand out - not only from the emails, but also from competition.

There is rarely a firm that tries to take a step back from their current customer communication channels thinking about how to innovate in a more profound way. The need to wow buyers and think outside the box is widely understood, yet the ideas on how to do that don't really exist.

2. How do B2B companies build scalable and repeatable sales playbooks?

Building a scalable and repeatable sales process is one of the core tasks of any modern sales team. The necessity for this is also understood, however the results in our study show that most firms don't really know how to do that. As mentioned above, firms operate with sales methodologies like MEDD(P)IC, but the sellers in the firm are independently responsible for executing on it and rather get evaluated on their forecast. The focus doesn't lie on collectively building a sales machine that can rise, but on individual successes. Another major point for B2B firms is deal consistency and building a process with their buyers that can be guided and doesn't slip out of a seller's hand.

Today, deals get stuck, important stakeholders are forgotten and repeatability is wishful thinking - specifically when the sales complexity increases.

3. How do B2B companies operate in a bear market when there aren't as many new leads in the pipeline?

Coming out of a year-long bull market, most sellers we spoke with never really operated in a bear market and it was interesting to see how they coped with the new environment. A lot of firms need to focus on existing pipeline now and come up with creative ways to convert known leads with new tactics and approaches. It's a completely different way of selling and forces a lot of sellers to come up with new ideas under pressure.

2023 is a year that will bring spending back to reality while making sales a skill again. A bear market is hard to sell into so sellers need to step up their games (and tools).

Finishing the report in the beginning of Q3, it seems like B2B sales teams are sliding into an unknown direction. They face less clients, less spending power, longer sales cycles and more difficulties to grow revenue. Sales has to reinvent itself and the focus needs to shift to how you can optimize processes further down the funnel as well as in onboarding.

The last 5+ years in tech sales were primarily focused on how to get more leads into the pipeline as selling wasn't the hard part.

Today, this has changed and the way a seller works with a prospect along the funnel and post-purchase increases in importance. It's a unique opportunity to innovate at these touch points with new ideas and tools that focus primarily on guiding buyers through their steps to a mutually ideal outcome.

Customer success as its own field also becomes a focal point. B2B SaaS success should not be measured based on closed deals, but on net revenue retention. The money lies in the relationship with a client over a long period of time instead of the first credit card payment.

How Along can help ✅

At Along, we build a solution that helps firms to optimize demo to close processes and onboarding. We position ourselves to productize the mid- to low-funnel touch points by providing a single interface along the entire client life cycle.

We assist firms in generating additional revenue with known leads and assuring customer happiness far beyond the closing. Our tool is a guideline for sellers and buyers that helps to align both sides at all times while preventing ghosting, decreasing deal slippage and accelerating deal velocity.

Please schedule a demo here - we are happy to explain our solution in more detail and show you how to bring your sales and onboarding processes to the next level.

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