COVID-19: Battling the Disruption in SaaS Sales

  • May 25, 2020
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COVID-19 has created widespread impact for startups. Perhaps no functional area has been disrupted more than the sales organization for B2B software companies.

Origin Ventures recently facilitated a sales leadership discussion with our B2B SaaS portfolio companies to discuss and share strategic and tactical shifts in their sales processes.

The questions we used to frame the discussion included:

  1. For benchmarking purposes… what’s your Q1 and Q2 updated forecast vs. your original bookings plan?
  2. Are you still doing outbound prospecting, or shifted more to inbound? 
  3. Have you changed your product messaging due to COVID-19? 
  4. Have you created a freemium offering, or using a free trial period to generate leads? 
  5. Have you changed pricing to retain customers or convert new prospects? 
  6. Have you shifted more dollars to digital media? What’s working and what have you learned? Using an agency or in-house? 
  7. How have you changed your content strategy? Any renewed emphasis on webinars?

This blog post summarizes that discussion.

Get a Handle

Several companies have implemented weekly flash reporting. 15Five is using real-time reporting on churn and the sales pipeline to continually revise its outlook for Q2 and Q3.

The Shift to Digital

With trade shows and the associated event marketing opportunities completely wiped out by COVID-19, several companies have shifted 100% of budget to digital advertising. CPMs on paid social and display have declined in recent weeks, and teams are using Google Trends to identify emerging keywords for SEO and paid search.

New Momentum for Webinars

With pervasive use of video as teams shift to working from home, webinars as a marketing tool are seeing a resurgence. Voxpopme created a “Virtual Insights Summit” and gathered 3,000 registrations and average session attendance of 500+. That helped generate a significant number of new sales leads for Q2 and Q3.

Messaging and Pricing

As sales prospects shift to work-from-home in their own organizations, the sales messaging of the pre-Covid period can sound tone-deaf. Several companies have shifted messaging and created special offers in order to be “part of the solution, not part of the problem.” As secondary education rapidly shifted to virtual learning in Q1, Pronto launched a free offer to help onboard schools and student populations to its real-time messaging platform.

Sales Quotas and Compensation

For companies that have revised sales forecasts downward, sales rep quotas have been reduced. In multiple cases, sales leaders have reduced fixed compensation but increased variable compensation to align overall compensation with the company’s cash and runway forecast.


SaaS sales leaders have made rapid adjustments to messaging, pricing, media mix, and compensation programs in response to COVID-19 impacts. Q1 results were buoyed by January and February results, before challenges emerged in March. We expect Q2 to be the most challenging quarter of 2020.

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