Tech Deciphered

Tech Deciphered

#16 – SaaS Primer – Part 2

October 06, 2020

In this episode, the second part of our SaaS Primer trilogy, we deep dive into Sales and Pricing in the Software-as-a-service space. For further context, please listen to episode 15, in which we did an Overview of SaaS and its intrinsic Business Models. Please look out for our next episode that will conclude our Primer, with deep-dives on Financing/Fundraising, Benchmarking/KPIs, Lessons Learnt and Predictions.


Introduction (01:24)
Section 1 - Sales
Section 2 - Pricing


Please check below to download our SaaS Primer PDF deck, serving as reference for our episodes 15-16-17

Our co-hosts:

Bertrand Schmitt, Tech Entrepreneur, co-founder and Chairman at App Annie, @bschmitt
Nuno Goncalves Pedro, Investor, co-Founder and Managing Partner of Strive Capital, @ngpedro

Our show: Tech DECIPHERED brings you the Entrepreneur and Investor views on Big Tech, VC and Start-up news, opinion pieces and research. We decipher their meaning, and add inside knowledge and context. Being nerds, we also discuss the latest gadgets and pop culture news.

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Intro (01:24)

Nuno: Today in episode 16, we will have our second episode on our "software as a service" primer.

For further reference, please also listen to our episode 15, where we started this discussion.

Today, we will talk about sales and pricing, and we will go a little bit in depth into these topics. And we will see where the discussion heads. As always, we always get very verbose when we get excited, as you guys know.

Section 1 - Sales

Bertrand: Exactly. Let's start today on the sales side. The sales motion, the sales process is obviously a critical part of any business. But, SaaS has its own approach to sales, and it's very tightly connected to the financing, obviously, we'll talk later about financing. 

What do we see as a benchmark of percentage spend of sales and marketing, as a percentage of ARR? What we can see, and we are leveraging some slides from Openview Partners, is that across the range, you are at the lowest, around 30 percent of spend in sales and marketing early on, below the $2.5 million ARR barrier. 

And then it goes up, 35, 40, potentially 45 percent of spend, on median. From $2.5 million, to 10, to 20, to 50, beyond 50. This is a median, so we see a pretty wide range, plus or minus, 15 percent of these numbers.

So if I were to take a different stage, we can see that the wider range would be from 15 to 60 percent being spent in sales and marketing. So widely different range, and usually it depends on the business model. If you have a more product-led growth, you will spend less in sales and marketing. If you're a more traditional, I would call it old-school, SaaS approach, you will usually end up with higher sales and marketing spend. 

Nuno: And I would highlight two interesting pieces of this chart. 

One. It seems once you get to a certain critical mass of ARR, let's say about $15 million in this case that the costs will start reducing as a percentage of your ARR, which makes sense. You can start optimizing you have a certain scale and a certain brand, and there's a lot of things you can do.

The second effect, which might actually correlate to that as well is in many cases, companies are growing really fast to get into the 50 million ARR or a hundred million ARR. So they are spending way into the market, and we discussed it in our previous episode, they're doing a land grab type strategy.

And so there may be overspending on sales or on marketing overall for customer acquisition. And therefore, once they taper at 50 million or 100 million,