SaaS Sales

Are you selling your product's features? Or are you selling its value to your customers?

Most of the times I ask businesses why customers should pay for their product, the immediate answer that comes back is a list of what their product offers. All the bells and whistles, the stuff from their feature list. A very small percentage of the answers list out the value their product adds to their customers. That’s never a good sign. And it’s not their fault either. They know they should communicate the value part, and they want to communicate it as well. After all, every single one of them started their pitch and/or business description listing out the pain points of their target audience. So why is it that they started their answers right, but then made a hard pivot to selling features instead of value?

Two main reasons. First, selling features comes instinctively to us. That is the methodology most businesses have been following for years, so that is the methodology our brains have been exposed to time and again. So much so that we don’t even realise we are doing it when we need to make a sales pitch ourselves. Second, most of them want to communicate value, but aren’t really sure how to do that. As a result, the default mode takes over, and even if the pitch started with the thought of selling value, feature selling creeps into it and dominates without anyone even realising it.

So today, lets look at value based selling, how you can do it, and how it can give your business a significant edge over your competitors.

What is value based selling and why is it important?

Value based selling is almost the same as any other sales approach or methodology you have ever used, with one key difference. It starts with and revolves around the customer’s life and workflows/workprocesses.

The pivotal goal in this approach is to serve to the customers’ needs, help them overcome their painpoints and challenges, and improve their quality of life or workprocesses in a quantifiable measure.

When done right, it can make a substantial difference in helping a customer see the need for your product on his own, thereby bringing him closer to the transactional decision making stage. Sales pitches that include value proposition early on, or marketing landing pages with value-based copy convert 5-7x more as compared to their traditional counterparts.

Learning from others

Let us look at some examples to see how companies approach value based selling.

First. This is a screengrab from the homepage of baremetrics.

​​ baremetrics sales 1

Notice how they did not present it as a feature, i.e. something that their product does. They presented it in a way that is portraying the notion that (by using their product) you will know why your customers cancel their account. You would also be able to stay on top of exactly how much revenue you are losing because of this, and then you would be able to take actions to recover that revenue.

Losing customers is a nightmare, and it is common to all businesses. No matter how good your product is, you will lose at least some customers. This is why there is just so much content floating around on customer retention and reducing churn. Lost customers haunts all businesses. So, bringing even some of them back gets your attention. It allows you to draw parallels between what the product is doing, and how it can affect your business, your day-to-day work. And since you are making that connection on your own now, you would be more inclined to - at the very least - know more about this. Result => a click on that ‘learn more’ button.

They take it a step further and list it out on their pricing page as well. And now, since they already have some attention of the customer, they list out some features covered under this particular value they are selling.

Value first, features later.

baremetrics sales 2

The difference between a value based selling approach and a feature based selling is manyatimes subtle. You are talking about the same things in both approaches, but how you are talking about it differs. The copy changes. The subject and focus area change.

Let us try to understand that subtlety by looking at two competitors, and how they are using website copy to attract customers.


moz pro

This is your classic feature or product centric sales approach. You list out what your product does, what its capabilities are, you explain those, and try to give your audience a sense of confidence into making that transaction.

Now, let us look at a competitor of Moz, SEMRush


“Create content that ranks”. That one phrase alone showcases how different the two approaches are. While Moz chooses to focus on its product, SEMrush is focusing on you, its potential customer. It is talking about things that would matter to you. “No expert knowledge required” is to help people with no background in SEO comfortable about considering their product. “Actionable tips to create content” - once again, focus is on people.

Even the CTAs on the two websites are different. While Moz is inviting users to check out all the features, SEMrush continues to focus on its audience.

To be honest, the copy and especially the CTA for SEMrush could be improved significantly to increase impact. For example, replacing that “Try content marketing toolkit” with something as simple as “Create your first content in 5 mins” would help them see more conversions. It is more action oriented than their current CTA, invites action in a more decisive way, and helps the customer create a piece of content, thereby making him take that first step in using their product.

Now, does the Moz approach doesn’t work? Are they not making money.

Oh they are. Moz does a kick ass job with their content marketing, and the foundation of that could be traced back to its founder, Rand Fishkin, who is quite honestly a badass at marketing in general. But their approach to marketing and sales here leaves much to be desired, and despite how well they do, they could have been doing much better.

It even reflects in the numbers the two businesses do. In 2019, did $61M in revenue. A remarkable feat for any business. They were serving 34K customers, and they could be doing well over $100M this year. In contrast, SEMrush, started almost the same time as Moz (Moz started in 2004, SEMrush in 2008), did close to $90M in revenue in 2019, and is expected to do more than $140M this year.

SEMrush is doing almost 1.5x as compared to Moz. Is that all because of their approach to sales? I wouldn’t think so. But I guarantee you, that approach definitely helps with their conversion percentage!

So, how should you do it for your business?

As I mentioned earlier, the differences are subtle, so you will need to practice a fair bit before you are able to overcome the way our brains have been hardwired when it comes to selling.

A good starting point is looking up on examples like we saw earlier and trying to both understand why they are doing it the way they are doing, and coming up with ways in which you would have done it. (Notice how I added a note on the CTA for SEMrush? You could be doing the same. You just need to back it up with why you think your approach would result in more conversions.)

Any business that follows a bottoms up sales approach can act as your sandbox. Not all of them would be doing it right, you get to experiment there, and the ones that are, you get to learn from them.

There is only one thing to remember. Your customer needs to be the central theme at all times. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and try to visualize how he would be feeling and what he would be thinking of when looking at your product. Try to imagine how he would be drawing parallels with his day to day work. Then use all of that into creating your website copy and sales pitches. You would need to experiment a bit to get it right, but the more you undertake this exercise, the better you’ll get, and your conversion rates will go up significantly.

Want to bounce ideas off of someone? Want someone to do this fun exercise with you? I am always game ;-). Let us work on your landing pages together.

Alright then.

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.



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