The Ultimate Guide to Purchasing
SaaS has transformed revenue teams. Thanks to its accessibility, security, scalability and independence from IT, sales reps now enjoy a well-stocked arsenal of tools that help them work more effectively. When implemented properly, many of these products offer huge increases in productivity — which means more sales, better operations, and a more efficient go-to-market organization. Naturally, this has also led to a major increase in spending, and total spend on SaaS has exploded.
Gartner research estimates global SaaS spend to reach 208 billion in 2023, marking an 18% growth over 2022 (177b). This growth explains why there are now more than 25,000 SaaS companies working with businesses across the market landscape — thousands of which are dedicated to supporting sales organizations. SaaS adoption has ballooned so much that the average business of 1,000 employees now maintains around 177 active software subscriptions.
It has become extremely difficult for modern revenue leaders to manage this important and sprawling expansion in tooling. How can CROs, sales operations managers and other senior revenue executives ensure that they have a market advantage when it comes to SaaS? How can they ensure this without also losing track of both costs and management of their tech stacks?
This report details a comprehensive analysis of the most popular SaaS products among revenue teams today, comparing trends with other sectors and providing guidance on purchasing. Vertice’s aim is to help organizations reduce their SaaS spend and take control of their tech stacks.
Consider a salesperson’s routine in 2023 compared with 10 years prior. In 2013, a typical sales rep might have picked up a physical landline to speak with a customer, logged their notes in a paper or digital file, updated the account in the CRM, and fired over an email as follow up. Technology was comfortably in place, yet the list of supporting tools was sparse and rudimentary by today’s standards.
Fast forward a decade and that salesperson is now taking the call natively from their laptop, which is being recorded, transcribed and tagged in the CRM. That CRM is connected to several other tools, mapping the customer’s social media information, syncing with sales intelligence platforms, and tracking the email chain prior to the call. Follow-up messages are exchanged on Slack with a colleague before a new cadence is built using outreach software. A quote is calculated, marketing automation scores the account, enablement tools are updated, and relevant documents are passed through.
In total, the present-day account executive has both directly and indirectly used at least a dozen tools more than their 2013 counterpart would have. Considering the bigger picture, the average sales rep can now work at a speed and scale that would blow away the highest performing sales rep from yesteryear.
These advantages come with a cost. Sales teams are the most expensive department inside the average business when it comes to SaaS, representing 18% of all SaaS spend. Sales reps now expect to have access to SaaS products such as Salesforce, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Gong, Outreach, ZoomInfo and 6Sense, which at list price amounts several thousand dollars. Data from the SaaS Inflation Index revealed that the average business spends $4,552 on SaaS per employee – this is significantly higher for revenue teams.
The pricing data and observations in this report examine most corners of this new sales environment, spanning everything from CRMs to commission softwares.
Sales SaaS categories
SaaS platforms included in this report
Our study group includes vendors that provide functionality in areas such as demand generation and marketing automation, but this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of every vendor and application available to today’s CRO.
Rather, it is a collection of some of the tools that are most frequently featured in a typical sales environment, representing the technologies and strategies frequently seen in a typical sales organization in 2023.
Selecting, purchasing and implementing sales tools takes a significant time and money investment. Sales enablement teams and marketing operations work hard to equip sales reps with the right products to be successful and roll out extensive onboarding programs.
The reality, however, is that work gets in the way. Salespeople may be focused on closing the big deal of the quarter, or distracted by the next promising prospect. Ensuring that reps actually take advantage of the licenses that have been purchased for them is a challenge for many revenue leaders.
Analysis of usage at hundreds of businesses, in this case defined as simply as when a user has logged into the platform in the previous 30 days, reveals just how significant this problem is at many organizations. For SaaS in general, there are frequently products that companies are paying for and not using at all – the lost shadow subscriptions that have been forgotten about or abandoned. Even discounting these phantom licenses, the issue is stark.
Only 67% of licenses being paid for are actively being used by employees. This under-utilization represents an over-spend of one third, a needless cost that will number in the millions at larger organizations.
This wastage is even more pronounced among sales tools, with over half of users frequently failing to even login to platforms, let alone get maximum utility from them. Revenue teams are the least likely of any department to efficiently use the SaaS licenses they have invested in, with only 48% of total seats being accessed in the last 30 days. Even those that do login don’t always require the licenses they have been assigned — around 16% of sales users are on tiers more expensive than their usage would require.
Selecting the right tools for sales teams is one thing, but managing, optimizing and renewing an entire SaaS stack is a challenge for many organizations.
Vertice pricing data shows that B2B software is frequently sold at different prices to different companies, with high rates of disparity in the actual prices customers pay. This can be due to hard realities, such as the size of a deal or the length of a contract. It can also be due to the nature of negotiation or through systemic functions, such as how close to the end of a quarter a deal lands.
In general, vendors have a long list of techniques they employ to secure the best possible selling price.
Buyers, on the other hand, have a much shorter list and much less leverage as a result. It can be difficult to prioritize SaaS purchasing when you have a business to run, and not knowing what other companies are paying can make the negotiation process significantly more difficult. One of the most fundamental factors driving the final selling price is a consequence of pricing transparency.
What is pricing transparency?
In short, transparent pricing demonstrates that customers are not only able to see vendor list prices, but that there is also reasonable visibility into the actual prices other customers are paying. The former is often not as easy to come by as it sounds, and the latter is even harder to come by than it sounds.
With regard to vendor list prices, this commonly means a concise pricing page on a vendor’s website. This usually provides customers with enough information to help them negotiate and secure the highest quality SaaS products for the best available prices. Unsurprisingly, not all vendors publish their pricing in an accessible way.
Vendors use pricing ambiguity to maximize the customer’s marginal willingness to pay. Only 45% of SaaS vendors publish their pricing, with the remainder obscuring the cost of at least some of their licensing — a technique that typically works to the advantage of the vendor rather than the customer.
Looking at sales tools specifically, this technique is even more prevalent. Among the 50 tools analyzed, only 36% featured transparent pricing models — meaning almost two thirds of sales SaaS is murky and more difficult to navigate.
This lack of transparency works to the vendor’s advantage. Most sales vendors require a consultation with their sales teams before they will provide a quote. In other words, they require you to enter their own sales funnel before sharing any meaningful pricing information.
This widespread lack of transparency puts customers at a disadvantage since they are unable to compare pricing across a variety of vendors, which is a crucial step in making the best choices for their businesses.
The average amount spent on SaaS is growing rapidly, as sales leaders provision more and more tools. When additional licenses and new purchases are taken out of the equation, the cost of SaaS is still growing for sales teams. This is due to rising prices.
Analysis of more than 10,000 SaaS contracts shows that 74% of vendors have increased their list pricing since 2019. Among the quarter of vendors that have not, almost all of them have reduced the size of the average discount afforded to customers — effectively raising costs without touching list prices.
There are multiple factors contributing to these rising costs. Most vendors will seek to protect their revenue, safeguarding their own income against general inflation by upping prices on a regular basis to keep up with market forces.
Vendors also frequently seek to offer new modules, bundle together features, and adopt upselling techniques to grow the size of their accounts.
Some vendors will even include automatic pricing increases in their contracts with customers, using similar language around renewals to ensure customer spend grows over time and is less likely to churn.
A third of sales vendors contractually include language that supports pricing increases. This is a higher proportion compared with some product categories, such as DevOps (24%), but lower than some others, such as marketing (47%).
Almost all SaaS companies make use of auto-renewal language, with 9 in 10 sales vendors including it in standard contracts with customers — slightly higher than the average of 88%.
To learn more about SaaS inflation, read the latest research on SaaS spending habits and guidance in our Inflation Index report >
There can be stark differences between the list prices of software and what companies are actually paying for them. Customers that have access to pricing insights can secure much more leverage in negotiation. A well-prepared and well-resourced procurement team makes use of renewal cycles, bake-offs, insider knowledge and market research to drive down the final pricing of the SaaS they purchase.
The reality for many businesses, however, is that there are more urgent matters to address than running a detailed program for scores of different SaaS purchases. Who has time to go through this arduous task for a hundred contracts when there is a business to run?
Focusing on the money coming in versus the money going out is understandable for a business in today’s fast-paced environment — but completely disregarding the latter carries major consequences. Some companies pay up to four or five times the price other companies pay per license for the exact same product. While very few buyers will pay the full list price for SaaS, many pay only a slightly lower amount. And some negotiate hard enough to pay only a tiny fraction of the official price.
Discounting is wildly varied across tools used by sales organizations, with 5 of the 50 companies examined averaging discounts below 10%. One vendor does not discount its prices at all.
At the other end, several vendors average discounts above 35%, with the highest being 40% for one SaaS company.
This means that for certain tools, it’s possible to secure well beyond 50% off of list pricing, representing a huge saving on overall SaaS spend to revenue leaders willing to invest in more intelligent SaaS purchasing.
Sales Intelligence platforms are the most likely category of sales SaaS tools to offer heavy discounting, while Quoting software is the least likely.
*Due to sensitive pricing and discounting information, vendors have been anonymized. For vendor-specific insights, get in touch with us.
From extensive pricing data from the Vertice database, we have developed three distinct pricing ratings for each vendor:
Simplicity is rated on how easy and intuitive pricing is to understand. Parameters: Intuitive, low number of tiers, fixed for longer terms, minimal overages.
Transparency is rated on if pricing is published clearly and explicitly on vendor websites. Parameters: based directly on usage, no hidden add-ons, no additional fees, professional services and opaque set up fees.
Parity is rated on how consistent pricing is across similar customer profiles. Parameters: low pricing variability even across verticals, regions, currencies and company size. Standardized and low variance.
By making pricing unclear and difficult to understand, vendors often hold the most negotiation leverage. With a clearer understanding of a vendor’s pricing, you can gain back negotiation bandwidth and, most likely, secure a better deal.
The Vertice Pricing Clarity score aims to provide business leaders with insight into how a vendor compares with its peers in terms of pricing simplicity, transparency and parity. For each vendor, we’ve also analyzed average discounting — the aggregate price discount that customers pay compared with list pricing.
Tool categorization is nuanced and complex, so the 50 products analyzed in this report have been grouped into three broad categories to better display the information.
Click on any vendor to see how they match up against their peers in terms of pricing simplicity, transparency, parity and average discounting.
Intelligence & Prospecting
Sales Cycle Enablement
Managing spiraling SaaS costs can be a challenge, even when armed with the most comprehensive data. Finance, procurement, IT and departmental leaders all struggle to gain insights into the purchasing process.
To break it down into a simpler perspective, the amount of control a business has over any SaaS agreement depends on how much control it has over two key factors: time and leverage. Leverage can come from all kinds of places, such as pricing intelligence, awareness of a vendor’s sales cycles and overall business health, or insights into the competition.
Even just knowing what options are at your disposal with a particular vendor can help generate leverage. For example, around 89% of vendors alter their pricing based on the length of contract that a customer is willing to commit to. Being aware of the minutiae of each vendor’s pricing practices can go a long way at the negotiation table.
Negotiating contract terms with leverage
The goal is to create as much leverage as possible, and this often means taking a step back and thinking about the bigger picture. Finance teams need to take three key elements into consideration for a negotiation strategy to be effective.
Do you expect to switch tools in the foreseeable future? If you predict that you will likely need to switch tools as your business grows, it might be worth considering a contract with shorter terms so that you are not stuck paying for tools that will no longer serve your business in the long run.
Is the product scalable enough to meet future needs? Determine whether or not the vendor can scale its services to your specific needs as your business grows. If the product is scalable, choosing a multi-year contract will help maximize the overall discount.
How much do you value price certainty? It is almost inevitable that prices will increase in the future. If you want to lock in a discounted price for the duration of a multi-year contract, a long-term contract would be the best option.