What are SaaS bookings? Bookings vs billings vs revenue

Alvaro Morales

SaaS billing is often much more complex than collecting one-time payments for regular software solutions. 

That’s why SaaS companies — especially those in the B2B space — should start looking at their SaaS bookings data to understand the future health of their business and make strategic decisions that lead to growth and revenue. 

That’s what today’s article is all about. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What are SaaS bookings?
  • Why SaaS bookings are important
  • SaaS bookings vs. billings
  • SaaS bookings vs. revenue
  • Challenges in managing SaaS bookings
  • Some best practices for tracking and leveraging SaaS bookings

Let’s dive in.

What are SaaS bookings?

Simply put, SaaS bookings represent the total value of new customer contracts

Think of it as the commitment your customers make to pay for your service over a set period. This value is recorded in full, even if the contract covers months or years and payments are spread out.

Bookings are a key indicator of future revenue potential. They give you a sneak peek into how your business is likely to grow, allowing you to make informed decisions about resource allocation, hiring, and more.

Types of SaaS bookings

Not all bookings are created equal. Here's a look at the main types you'll encounter:

  • New business bookings: These come from brand-new customers signing up for your service.
  • Renewal bookings: These represent existing customers choosing to continue their subscriptions.
  • Upsell or expansion bookings: These occur when existing customers upgrade to a higher-tier plan or purchase additional features.

Timing and conditions

In a SaaS agreement, a booking is typically made when the contract is signed. This signifies the start of a formal business relationship, even if the actual service delivery and payments are scheduled for later.

Why SaaS bookings are important

Bookings offer a unique window into the future health of your SaaS business. They provide strategic insights beyond just figures, allowing you to make informed decisions. 

Here's why bookings hold such a significant place in the world of SaaS:

  • Decoding sales performance: Bookings shed light on how well your sales team is doing. Are they consistently landing new deals? Are existing customers staying loyal and upgrading? Analyzing these trends helps you identify areas of strength and spots where your sales strategy might need a tune-up.
  • Understanding customer commitment: Bookings show the level of commitment your customers are willing to make. This is especially valuable when you break down bookings by type. High renewal bookings mean happy customers, while a steady inflow of new business points to a healthy sales pipeline.
  • Forecasting and financial planning: Bookings are the foundation of accurate revenue forecasting. Since they represent future incoming revenue, you can project how your business will perform in the coming months and years. This is crucial for making informed decisions about budgeting, resource allocation, and expansion plans.
  • Smarter decision-making: Bookings data isn't just for the finance team. It guides decision-making across the organization. For instance, your product team can use it to understand which features drive upsells.

Marketing can tailor campaigns based on successful customer segments. The insights gained from bookings help everyone in your company work towards a common goal — sustainable growth.

Pro tip: While bookings are a powerful metric, they are best used in combination with other SaaS indicators. Consider them alongside revenue, churn, and customer acquisition costs for a holistic picture of your business's health and potential.

Bookings vs. billings

It's easy to mix up bookings and billings, but understanding the difference is crucial for a clear picture of your SaaS finances. Let's break down what each represents and how they work together. 

First, let’s define billings:

Billings are the amount you invoice your customers over a specific period. They are the actual request for payment based on your customer's subscription plan. You typically issue bills monthly, quarterly, or annually.

The key distinction between billings and bookings:

  • Bookings represent future revenue potential when the contract is signed.
  • Billings signify the immediate obligation of your customers to pay for services.

Bookings and billings influence your cash flow in different ways. A high booking amount suggests a healthy pipeline, but those dollars might not get to your bank account immediately. Billings, however, show you the money that's expected to arrive soon.

Here’s a practical example:

Say you close a deal with a new customer for a two-year subscription at $12,000 per year.

  • Bookings: You immediately record the full $24,000 as a booking, indicating future revenue.
  • Billings: If the customer chooses an annual payment plan, you issue a $12,000 invoice. If they opt for a monthly plan, you send a $1,000 invoice each month.

Key point: Billings are often lower than bookings because they represent the invoiced amount for a single billing period, while bookings encompass the total contract commitment.

Bookings vs. revenue

Bookings are exciting, as they represent potential earnings for your business. 

But when it comes to reporting your business's overall health, revenue is the key metric. 

In SaaS, revenue refers to the money you actually earn as you deliver your service over time. Unlike traditional sales models where you get paid upfront, SaaS revenue follows a principle called "revenue recognition." 

This means you only "recognize" a portion of the income from a contract as you fulfill your service obligations. Here we need to make a distinction between recognized revenue and what’s called deferred revenue:

  • Recognized revenue: This is the money you can officially record on your income statement for a given period because you've delivered the service.
  • Deferred revenue: This is the part of the payment you've received but can't recognize as revenue yet because the service is still pending. It sits on your balance sheet as a liability.

Think of bookings as the starting point. As you deliver the service promised in the contract, portions of your bookings gradually transform into recognized revenue.

For example, if a customer signs a one-year contract and pays upfront, you recognize one-twelfth of the booking amount as revenue each month.

Why revenue recognition matters

Revenue recognition principles, like those outlined in GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and ASC 606 (Revenue from Contracts with Customers), guarantee that companies present an accurate picture of their financial performance

This standardization is especially important for SaaS products, where long-term contracts are the norm.

Saas bookings vs. billings vs. revenue: Head-to-head comparison






Total value of new
customer contracts.

The amount invoiced to customers
over a period.

Money earned as services are delivered.


At contract signing, indicating future
revenue potential.

When invoices are issued, reflecting
a more immediate cash
flow expectation.

Recognized over time as services
are provided, following revenue recognition principles.


Future revenue
potential and growth prospects.

Expected cash flow based on invoiced services.

Actual earnings contributing
to financial health.


Challenges in managing SaaS bookings

While bookings are powerful indicators, managing them within the SaaS model comes with its own set of challenges. Let's explore some of the common ones:

  • The complexity of subscriptions: Unlike one-time sales for a fixed price, SaaS subscriptions come in all shapes and sizes. Different contract lengths, payment terms (monthly vs. annual), and custom add-ons for customers can make it tricky to track the precise impact of each booking on your revenue projections.
  • Systems and processes matter: Accurately tracking bookings demands reliable systems. Your CRM software needs to capture detailed contract data, which must flow seamlessly into your accounting system to ensure bookings translate correctly into billing and revenue recognition. 

That’s why, without proper tooling, you could end up with misaligned data and inaccurate reporting.

  • The need for alignment: Bookings aren't just the concern of finance teams. Sales teams need to understand how their deals influence the overall picture, and operations and implementation teams also need visibility into bookings to ensure they can deliver on customer promises. 

Clear communication and a unified understanding of booking metrics across your organization prevent misunderstandings and ensure everyone's working toward shared goals.

Best practices for tracking and leveraging SaaS bookings

Turning bookings into actionable insights requires a strategic approach. Here are some best practices to help you get the most out of your bookings data:

  • Embrace technology: Invest in the right tools to automate and manage bookings effectively. A strong CRM integrated with your accounting software provides a centralized platform for contract tracking, streamlined billing, and accurate revenue recognition.
  • Prioritize transparency and training: Don't let booking metrics be a mystery that only your finance team understands. Train your sales, operations, and leadership on what bookings represent and how they contribute to the business's overall health. This creates a shared language and promotes greater accountability.
  • Regular review and analysis: Don't just record bookings — analyze them. Incorporate bookings data into your regular financial reviews and strategic planning sessions. Track bookings over time to identify trends in sales performance, customer behavior, and potential areas for growth.

Next steps

Understanding SaaS bookings is a crucial step in managing your business's growth. But turning that knowledge into action can bring its own set of challenges.  

Orb offers a comprehensive suite of tools designed to transform usage data into actionable insights for your bookings and revenue. 

Here's how Orb supports your SaaS bookings strategy:

  • Detailed usage tracking: Orb meticulously captures every billable event directly related to your contracts with usage tracking. This is essential for accurate bookings and revenue forecasting, especially when using complex subscription models.
  • Adaptable to your business: Orb effortlessly accommodates a variety of pricing and packaging structures, from straightforward subscriptions to complex usage-based or hybrid models. This flexibility ensures your bookings data reflects your unique customer contracts, providing granular insights.
  • Accurate invoicing and contract alignment: Orb generates precise invoices that align perfectly with your contract terms. This minimizes disputes, maximizes customer trust,  and helps you track bookings against actual invoiced amounts.
  • Seamless reporting with integrations: The platform integrates with key CRM and accounting systems, streamlining the flow of booking data into your broader financial analysis. This gives you an up-to-date, unified view of bookings, billings, and revenue.
  • Customizable for evolving needs: Tools like the Plan Builder and a custom SQL editor let you tailor how Orb captures and translates usage data into bookings, ensuring it aligns perfectly with your business model, even as your offerings evolve.
  • Developer-friendly for rapid integration: Built with the developer experience in mind, Orb is quick to integrate and manage. This frees up your technical teams to focus on core product development, not complex billing infrastructure.

Learn more about how Orb can help you with bookings, billings, and revenue.

April 17, 2024

Ready to solve billing?

Contact us to learn how you can revamp your billing infrastructure today.

Let's talk.

Thank you! We'll be in touch shortly.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.