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What can SaaS sales leaders learn from the world of Retail?

Retail Blog Post

5 months ago, my world changed… I was told, by my wife that I was going to be a father. Gulp!

Last weekend, we saw Mothercare were running a 50% off sale and I agreed to finally go ‘baby shopping’. I'd put it off until now as we needed EVERYTHING. But I knew nothing, and that as a buyer made me uncomfortable. 

I can honestly say when I first entered Mothercare I was taken back, this was like being on another planet. It was a giant room and it had everything on display; prams, pushchairs, car seats, cots, changing units, baby monitors - the works. I felt out of my depth, immediately.

My wife and I walked around for a bit, nobody asked if they could help, but the truth is we needed it. We didn’t know where to start and it was far too busy.

After what felt like an eternity, I’d lost enthusiasm, the task at hand was overwhelming and even though everything was reduced by up to 50% it was too big a headache and we left.. I felt bad, I’d let Michelle down. We were leaving empty handed and I’d sucked out some of her enthusiasm. At this point I noticed a Mamas and Papas over the road, I said ‘I’ve got an idea, let’s go in, tap them up for some knowledge and leave’, Michelle agreed. 

After five or so minutes walking around the store I decided to approach a member of staff, Rachel. I wanted to show some desire to educate myself on the products we needed to buy. I was in the ‘information search’ stage of the buying cycle.

“Rachel, I need your help, we’re looking for a Pushchair, can you show me some?”

What Rachel said next really surprised me, I expected her to march us over to the pushchair section. Instead, she said “sure, but before I do that, let me ask you some questions.”

Rachel then asked my wife and I a bunch of questions, some were obvious like timeframe, budget, you could see her working out who the decision maker was (clue, it wasn’t me) but others were questions I’d never think to ask myself like “will the grandparents use it?” or “do we like to go for walks, if so what’s the terrain like? How big is the car boot?" etc.

The penny dropped, Rachel was qualifying us…she was doing what we in the SaaS world call, a Discovery Call. I even said out loud she was doing what I do in my job and she laughed and said “I call it a discovery of needs” she then went on to explain there would be no point showing me all 40 pushchairs in store with their gadgets and gizmos, she needed to know what we needed and only then would she show us the right solution – it sounded logical to me, after all I didn’t want to look at 39 pushchairs that weren’t great for me either.

It turns out, post discovery there were only 2 pushchairs she would recommend we look at – and you know what?! I believed her and most importantly, trusted her.

What I really respected about this was that Rachel didn’t demo 'blind’ she qualified us with a well-run version of a discovery call, she found out our needs, played on our needs and pain, and then convinced us that we should look no further than these two pushchairs, giving us the element of choice, but the reality is we picked one of two pushchairs she suggested.

Once we agreed on the pushchair Rachel knew she had us, hook, line and sinker… At this point she placed a leaflet in our hands, it was a nicely designed checklist of all the key items new parents need to buy. Touché Mamas and Papas, touché.

Before we knew it we were strolling around the store on a personal shop, lapping everything up, we’d even selected a car seat, cot, play mat, bathtub, changing bag, maternity clothes, pumps, pacifiers the lot. You name it, we’d got it.

I ended up spending more money than I’d like to share but any parent can have a guess based on what I listed.

When I woke up that morning and agreed to go baby shopping, I honestly thought it would be an hour out of the house followed by a nice lunch. Instead, we were qualified like a boss on a live discovery call where our needs uncovered, pain was built on, we were educated and consulted, we were moved through he entire sales funnel within an hour.

That is how you sell, this is what SaaS sales leaders, SDR’s, AE’s and anyone else who sells in a B2B environment can learn from the world of Retail!

The Team and I at Refract always insist on a discovery call first and then a demo. Without properly understanding what our prospects are looking for a demo just isn’t the most effective use of their time (or ours). We will always avoid delivering a blind demo or dumping all the features at once. We also have the same approach to other questions when asked at the start of a demo such as “how much is it?” or “how are we better than competitor X?”… Unless we know the needs of our prospect, how they want to use our sales coaching platform and what they’re looking to achieve, how can we possibly demo the platform in the most effective way?

Rachel was a sales pro. I ended up leaving with my wife armed to the teeth with baby stuff and actually saying “thank you, Rachel, please take my money”

That is how Mamas and Papas reassured me that the team and I at Refract are selling SaaS the right way.

Do your team run a well executed discovery call? Do you as a sales manager listen back to these calls and coach your reps? If so, you may find our Discovery Call Checklist helpful. Hit the link to get your copy.

Thanks for reading,


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