The SaaS (Software As A Service) industry is growing like a wild fire. Companies are evolving their offerings to a subscription-based service and it has completely changed the game withing software sales. As with any industry, the lifeblood of a SaaS company is their sales team. A trending pattern within SaaS is to split the sales team, allotting about half to business development and nurturing cold and warm leads and the other half to sealing the deal and closing the client.
Finding a successful sales team is never easy, considering that this is the group that is the main driver of revenue. Since partnering with several SaaS and technology companies over the years, the only consistency is that everyone seems to have their own magic formula about how to hire the best reps. Newsflash: There is no perfect formula.
What there is, however, is a mindset that can be adopted towards hiring that is more practical and more realistic; a mindset that is open-minded and less literal about what works and what doesn’t.
If you are a sales manager and you have successfully hired a strong sales team using different practices, that’s AWESOME. Seriously. Keep it up. Share your tips. The goal here is to simple suggest additional guidelines to keep in mind as you slowly, or quickly, hire for your company.
Let’s start with a controversial thought: Don’t hire only experienced sales reps. Well that sounds silly, doesn’t it? Here me out for a second. Universities are producing sharper and more driven young professionals every year; implementing professional selling groups, startup-focused courses, and educating students on being a career-minded rockstar, rather than only caring about how to pass a midterm. As a result, hundreds of graduates per semester walk across the stage with a fire lit to do whatever it takes to succeed. To that point, I’m sure you could count on your fingers and toes (at least) how many arrogant salespeople you’ve encountered. Sometimes being in sales, even for a few years, will lead to a layer of “confidence” that isn’t so wildly popular, especially within a small startup or more humble workplace. Food for thought.
Whether you have a more established business or are just getting started with onboarding, I think it’s key to develop a strong training program for new sales employees, especially with a SaaS product. And this goes not just for sales, but all the way through to the customer success team. The essence of SaaS sales is not just closing the deal, but training your employees enough that they can sustain a long-lasting client partnership.
Establishing a strong training process on the front end is going to make your life a lot easier down the road, allowing you to build your team faster and more efficiently. It’s definitely understandable if you don’t have a formal training in place, especially as a new business. However, if you plan on investing your time early in anything, let it be that. Again, your sales team is driving your bottom line; do you really want that piece of your business to be the weakest link in the chain? Try networking with other leaders in the SaaS sales space to see how they train new employees; you’re all on the same team here. At the end of the day, what you don’t want to do is leave your new recruits high and dry after their first few days, leaving it up to chance if they’re successful.
Lastly, all I can say is don’t negate candidates that don’t perfectly fit your mold. So many quality candidates get thrown by the wayside because they miss one checkbox, even if they bring five additional skills to the table. Piggybacking off of our startup hiring article, focus your hiring on smart, driven professionals. Tune in to soft skills more than anything. If you find a articulate, sharp sales executive, and they simply haven’t sold SaaS software before, trust the process that you can ramp them up and they will hit the ground running with minimal guidance. There’s always going to be slight discrepancies with a candidate’s past experience compared to what you’re looking for. The important thing to keep in mind is to not neglect a candidate because they’re a 9 and not a 10.
The most important takeaway here is to keep an open-mind. Young adults are especially eager to join SaaS companies, particularly startups. Those early hires can turn into your most valued, long-term employees. Don’t throw all of your eggs into finding perfect “3-5 years’ experience in SaaS sales in an enterprise environment with a degree in Business Administration”. You’ll definitely miss out on some hidden gems that can help scale your company quicker than you’ll know.