When to Automate Sales and Marketing: A Study of 281 SaaS Companies

When to Automate Sales and Marketing: A Study of 281 SaaS Companies

Have you ever wondered when is the best time to automate sales and marketing? We will try to explain this to you with the help of a study of 281 SaaS companies and the learnings that we derived from it. Read the entire blog thoroughly to get useful insights.

Building an effective sales cycle is a challenge which SaaS companies of all kinds must face up to.

On the surface, it appears that each company has a slightly different approach to their sales and this makes it very hard to figure out what kind of best practices we can draw and learn from.

That’s why we at Process Street, in partnership with PersistIQ, decided to look at the different sales cadences of nearly 300 leading SaaS companies in order to gather the data and begin to break down these various approaches.

This is the story of how we developed Inside SaaS Sales, a website where you can navigate through and interactively assess the sales cadences of your favourite SaaS companies.

Here’s what we learned.

1. Human salespeople are more persistent:

There was obviously a wealth of differing approaches in regards to how long a company would keep pestering you, but the average length of time they would continue for was 9 days.

On the low end of the scale we had companies who only sent one sales email before ceasing communication. A surprisingly large number of companies employed this approach with some 25% falling into this category.

Human salespeople

Others, like Epicor, pushed onward with their sales for much longer. At this end of the scale we find companies like Epicor sending emails and leaving voice messages. Their sales cadence was 160% longer on average.

Epicor is a large company with just under 4000 members of staff and target higher value clients, mainly large industrial ones. As such, we can conclude that their reduced use of automated sales techniques and their extended sales cadence shows that it is valuable for them to invest more in each potential sale as the client gained is likely to be worth significantly more too.

This makes sense for companies like Epicor, but this high level of personal and intense contact could prove to not be cost effective for smaller SaaS companies targeting small and medium sized enterprises.

We see this assumption echoed in the fact that 74% of companies don’t bother with phone calls at all. Instead, we see an average of one email a day for their contact period, likely delivered automatically.

However, it is worth noting that some companies employ a mixture of both emails and voicemails delivered in sync. This is a technique HubSpot describe as “opening with context”. The idea is that a salesperson contacts you via email and then leaves a voicemail asking if you have seen the email.

This creates a scenario where the salesperson has an opportunity and a reason to reach out and make human contact. It is very easy to ignore an email for many reasons, but two might be:

  • You receive lots of emails every day
  • It’s just letters on a screen probably sent automatically

The approach of opening with context manages to overcome each of these problems by targeting you on a different channel and putting a real person’s voice into the mix. It shows that your company is willing to take a personal approach to their clients while allowing you the opportunity to break through the chatter of a busy inbox.

2. The majority of companies use an automated marketing approach:

In short, 65% of companies handed the potential customer over to an automated marketing scheme of some description.

By fully automating the sales approach, the cost invested into customers who do not convert is substantially reduced. Within an automated marketing system the cost of sending an email a day for nine days is very low, so if one cycle doesn’t result in an eventual sale, then very little has been lost.

This automated approach is valuable for large companies and small ones, but likely most useful for the intersection between smaller companies with less resources and internal infrastructure and companies whose target customers are worth less per year in revenue.

With the availability of automated email marketing being at an all time high, with PersistIQ and others bringing automation into the normal workplace, it’s easier for companies to employ these methods and reduce their overheads.


While 65% used automated marketing techniques at some point in the cadence, 39% actually only used automated marketing throughout.

In the course of our whole study, less than half the total communications came from a real person. This includes the more high-touch sales approaches where a real person would reach out many times to try to push through a sale.

In total, 53% of all emails we received were automated. The main reason for this is that companies love to attach you to an automated marketing drip campaign when you sign up for a demo, a free trial, or another lead capture point.

Different companies do it in different ways, and it all depends on what they feel is most useful for their potential customer. Slack, for instance, utilize a fully automated sequence of 5 emails. Each of these emails is super short and tells you pretty much one thing: “Slack is better with teammates”.

As a collaborative tool, it makes sense that they would want you to onboard your colleagues so you can make the most of the service. However, they also know that the more your team get involved the more their service will become embedded in your work practices. Their product is simple and intuitive so they don’t need to overcome particular problems within the sale, they just need to get people using it.

In contrast, a company like Salesforce mix automated contact with manual contact while reinforcing the benefits of their service.

Salesforce generally has a more quantifiable effect on a business’ operations than a company like Slack. Beyond this, Salesforce is more complex that Slack and they recognize that this hurdle needs to be overcome for new customers.

For these two reasons, we think, Salesforce delivered two emails in succession both with differing angles. The first automated email reinforced the benefits of Salesforce, while describing where we could learn more about the product, and providing a free telephone contact to call if we had any questions.

This used statistics to sell the service while providing a small encouragement to learn more about the product and overcome initial confusion.

The automated email was then followed by a manual email where the salesperson introduced themselves and proposed a quick meeting to discuss the product. This email brings an element of high-touch sales to the process while also giving an opportunity to coach a new user in how to use the platform - improving the chances of making a successful sale.

3. On average each lead has two points of contact:

As you go through the sales cadence, you can often end up interacting with multiple representatives of the company. On average, most companies assign two contacts to each lead.

Which person sends these emails depends partly on the size of the company. For much smaller companies, the CEO might even reach out to you. However, as those companies grow it’s common to find that the CEO’s name is simply attached to an automated email.

Generally speaking, the first person you have contact with will have the word “sales” in their job title. Around 36% of all points of contact we encountered has a sales related title.

The next most popular was “business development” at 18.5%, “marketing” at almost 18%, “account manager” at just less than 10%, and CEO/Founder at 7%.

But how did they contact?

Well, you’re probably not surprised to hear that Mailchimp was the most popular service to send email campaigns through. Mailchimp is hugely popular in general and it’s easy to navigate and use.

What you might be surprised by is the extent by which Mailchimp won: almost 50% of the companies were using Mailchimp for their correspondence.

In an honorable second place came Marketo with 21%, HubSpot in third with 19%, and the rest slowly following a little distance behind.

4. Focus on your strengths and automate where possible:

Companies tended to send emails which weren’t too long.

Unsurprising, as no one wants to read paragraph after paragraph in a sales email.

But because of this, it requires a concise demonstration of the value of the service. The emails received weren’t just short but were crafted to convey value as best as possible in as short a time as possible.

Focus on your strengths and automate where possible

Even the longer emails did so because they knew their strengths were more complex to convey but their clients also more profitable. The Slack vsSalesforce comparisons give a good example of this.

We learned that companies stick to conveying their strengths and automate the parts of that where possible.

If your strength is a high-touch customer support and assistance program for huge industrial clients, like Epicor, then you’ll have a sales cadence which demonstrates that value within its personal nature.

For small SaaS companies, an automated campaign appears to be the industry standard and one you should consider beginning if you haven’t already!

Benjamin Brandall is a content marketer at Process Street, where he writes on startups, SaaS, and workflows. In his spare time, he runs Secret Cave, a blog about obscure entertainment and internet culture.

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