I read a very interesting article this morning - 'Stop waiting for rockstar sales people; embrace the ‘average’ sales rep' which focuses on how a SaaS startup needs to be able to thrive and grow with an 'average' sales team.
This was interesting for several reasons:
1. Will your Rock Star give you a good ROI?
We've all had rock star sales people in our work environment in the past, and they are damn good at what they do. They have that quintessential 'sell ice to eskimos' raw talent that makes hitting their sales targets seem like a gentle stroll in the park. Don't get me wrong, all of the rock star sales guys (and gals) I have worked with in the past work damn hard to blow those targets out of the water, they are on call 24/7 and living and breathing what they sell.
However when it comes to sales rock stars in SaaS there are other key considerations when it comes to your ROI:
- Churn - great sales ability doesn't always correlate to high retention scores. Ensuring your rock stars are properly qualifying the leads they pull in, and that those customers are then being cared for over the long term needs to be a top priority. There is simply no point having a rock star sales person if all of the sales made are churning out the other end.
- Cost - rock stars know their worth, and they are expensive to hire. That's a fact of life, and you need to be ready and willing to pay. As a cash strapped startup cost is highly important, so consider carefully if one rock star will be able to pull in the same amount of new sales as two 'average' sales staff? For the fact is, they can often cost you twice as much.
- Recruitment - finding these rock stars is hard enough, let alone that the recruitment process often involves enticing them from their existing comfortable position, which in turn leads to a longer on-boarding period than if you were to hire an 'average' sales person.
2. 'Average' Sales People are good at what they do.
When I talk about 'average' sales people I am picturing the majority of sales staff I have seen in most SaaS sales teams; hardworking, dedicated and enthusiastic team members that drive themselves to hit their sales targets each period.
Usually they hit these targets, but sometimes they fall short. In my experience in SaaS, falling short of sales targets in a given period is often due to something outside of the sales teams control rather than a lack of sales skill, such as;
- Lack of leads to convert
- Poor on-boarding
- Missing product features
- Outages or product bugs
Yes a rock star could sell the product even with these issues, but is this actually what you want? Consider again what effect this would have on your churn rate in 30 days time. It is more important to be aware quickly of any of the above issues via your sales team so they can be resolved as quickly as possible, than it is to force sales through a funnel that will drop they right out again as these issues continue.
Reducing cost in the sales team by limiting the number of rock stars you hire allows you to pump more time and money into other key areas like; lead generation, on-boarding and product development.
3. Automation is the real golden nugget
When it comes to selling on a global scale, a team of rock stars with great sales skills will only get you so far. Scaling in SaaS depends on identifying the winning sales formula for your product, and automating it as much as possible.
If you are able to automate the key elements needed for an easy sell, such as:
- Pre-qualified leads that want/need your product
- A great user on-boarding experience
- All key features your customers require (not the extras, just the core)
- Minimal outages, bugs or product interruptions
Then my great uncle Barry could sell your product, with his hands tied behind his back.
I'm not saying don't hire any rock stars, I love rock stars - they can bring so much passion, skill and drive to a sales team and can really blast those targets! What I am saying is don't focus on finding rock stars to the detriment of your sales process, they are not your solution, they are just another resource.
Amy Walker - Specialist in SaaS Strategy & Business Execution
I work with SaaS companies to develop their key strategies, and assist them to get the right tools in place to be able to execute seamlessly in market. I believe that the only thing preventing a great idea from scaling globally is a clear strategy supported by strong execution.