This week, over 10,000 SaaS enthusiasts gathered at SaaStr Annual in San Francisco, where they sought out innovative products and discovered the most innovative sales practices.

SaaS sales leaders have to be innovative. After all, the proliferation of choice in products makes it necessary for SaaS sales leaders to run an airtight sales operation in order to grow in a competitive environment.

Here are four sales trends to keep your eye on, following this week’s event.

The rise of the sales enablement role

Notice I used the words “the rise of” rather than “emerging.”

Sales enablement has been around for a while. But just recently it has crossed the chasm from a nice-to-have role for companies to a necessity. Much of this is due to The Sales Enablement Society’s rapid growth and thought leadership. Founded in 2016, the Sales Enablement Society has been making strides in formalizing the sales enablement profession and promoting the value it provides B2B sales organizations. Expect to see handfuls of sales enablement professionals join high-profile SaaS companies this year.

Personalization continues to grow in importance

This is not so much a new trend as it is a continuing trend.

While HubSpot’s mantra of “inbound marketing” works well for many companies, going upmarket with your SaaS solution (selling to large enterprise customers) typically requires outbound account-based sales and marketing efforts (“spears” rather than “nets,” as Aaron Ross would say). To make this approach effective, personalization is a non-negotiable. SalesLoft and Engagio are two technologies you’ll see at SaaStr 2017 that enable hyper-personalization in a scalable manner.

Sales coaching is shifting into a strategically critical activity

Differentiating your SaaS solution based on features and product specs is a short-term game. Someone somewhere is bound to catch up with you in six months time. Smart SaaS sales leaders know this.

This is why the phrase “Differentiate based on how you sell rather than just what you sell” is so popular among SaaS sales practitioners.

Basing part (or all) of your differentiation strategy on how you sell requires a white-knuckle commitment to coaching and sales training. With so many SaaS sales tools focused on sales efficiency, sales effectiveness is now becoming the name of the game in the “sales acceleration” category of software. Keep your eyes peeled for a mix of complementary sales coaching technologies at SaaStr this year.

The proliferation of AI in B2B sales

Conversations are key to sales enablement. As Forrester Analyst Steven Wright notes, content must be designed for conversation. According to Wright, sellers “need information on how to use content to best engage not with emails and links but in conversation. That’s where the real connection is made.”

That’s where AI comes in.

There are so many heated social media conversations about whether artificial intelligence (AI) will displace a large portion of the sales profession or not. While I won’t try my hand at predicting that far into the future, I will predict AI’s impact on sales for the foreseeable future: AI will commonly be used to augment and empower sales effectiveness, rather than to replace it.

Elevating SaaS sales to greater (but more demanding) heights

These four trends combined will only continue to raise the standard in SaaS sales innovation. It’s an upward spiral. Sales enablement will empower sales teams to continue to become more effective. The standard of well-crafted, personalized messages will continue to rise. Coaching activity will continually upskill the SaaS sales profession. And technology will be used to empower B2B sales professionals further. A rising tide raises all ships, and SaaStr Annual is the place where all of these trends can be seen together under one roof.


chris-orlobChris Orlob is Sr. Director Product Marketing at Gong.io, where he’s on a mission to help salespeople succeed using conversational intelligence.