SaaS Kills Sales People?

Or Did Stewart Butterfield really Write ‘The Death of a Salesman’ and not Arthur Miller? I posted a question on Quora the other day that was borne out...

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Or Did Stewart Butterfield really Write ‘The Death of a Salesman’ and not Arthur Miller?

I posted a question on Quora the other day that was borne out of the consumerisation of enterprise software movement and the emergence of killer SaaS products that are seemingly so good, that they sell themselves (or do they?)

Some interesting answers. For the sake of brevity, i’m only reposting 3 on SaaScribe:

Q: Could we be entering into a new phase where we don’t need sales people? If we look at slack for instance, 500k new customers and no known salespeople.

Steli Efti CEO @


The same question was asked when Yammer saw massive viral growth among enterprise customers. There’s still this myth floating around that Yammer succeeded without sales people. It didn’t. They tried to, but their viral bottom-up model didn’t work – so they built a sales force.

The same question was asked when Atlassian saw massive growth without sales people.

Now it’s slack.

There will always be some startups that manage to grow without sales people.

But they’ll be the outliers. Because they’re so exceptional, they get a ton of attention.

But assuming that business is going this way, or that YOUR B2B startup can do without a sales team is very risky, and in most cases just plain wrong.

I talked about this in more depth in my recent interview with Growth Hacker TV (as of now, you can still watch it free, I think once it goes into the archive only paying members can view it) -> Growth Hacker TV

Hampus Jakobsson, CEO and founder of 


Three things have dramatically changed last 10 years:
1. People don’t want to be sold – not as consumers or companies – but happy to buy and be served
2. We have 50+ suppliers (Salesforce, Dropbox, Yesware, Google Apps, Xero, Hubspot, …) instead of a handful (IBM, SAP, Microsoft, …) which means you pay a lot of companies little money each instead of few a lot.
3. Software is no longer sold as a “transaction” (sign-and-goodbye) but as a subscription (deliver value or see churn)

These three together make a perfect storm – sales people can’t work like elephant hunters for 12 months on a deal, and when signed can pretty much deliver anything (hello Windows 2000 Server…). The game has fundamentally changed.

The new world is the one that Atlassian, Evernote, and yes, Slack show the way. Sales has changed to “Marketing” and “Customer Success” as the industry calls it. Marketing’s job is to get people to find you, get to know you and want to buy.

If there is a sales team (and yes, most of these companies have them – I promise you – we supply to a lot of them – the call themselves “customer advocates”, “product evangelists”, or “customer success”) they work with guiding the the customer to configure the product right.

There are new challenges though – as a sales person you are used to be able to talk to a customer and make sure that they get the product (and if you are smart, that it fits their needs). We have the issue that we get A LOT of new companies trying out our software, but never given the chance to communicate to them and educate them. It can be frustrating to see LinkedIn, Google for Work, Atlassian, Evernote, and many more appear in Mixpanel but they are not answering your emails.

We work hard on building the product to be more like a consumer product – meaning no manuals, no onboarding, no education, etc. It is tricky, but I think the new world of sales requires it. I at least am tired of signing up on a page and being called by a sales person just because I want to check out a new tool. And don’t get me started on the hunt for a pricing page…

One last thing – it is a whole other story if you are signing bigger deals. Zendesk started as self-service but then hired sales people when they wanted bigger deals.

Luc Boilly, Founder Rocks Ventures


Disclaimer : I am not an insider to Slack, so I might be wrong, happy to read others answers

Slack prices (From free to small paid amount for “Standard” and “Plus”) and huge virality (Sell by itself) does not need upfront traditional sales people, rather some customer success functions.
Interesting fact also is that until their latest fund round, Slack did not even have a CMO, their insane viral growth was not requiring one, plus Slack was going so fast that they were needed more funds to fuel their operations instead, to cope with their viral growth.

Growth within big account can start bottom-up, as like Box.
Now to sell within big corporate and beyond single teams within corporate, with an higher contract value , with unified billing, account management, they will  need a sales structure with Account Executives, and Marketing.

The recent hiring of a CMO and also on going Account Executives hiring, will enable Slack to sell to these big enterprise account, you can see also the first target price “Enterprise” on Slack pricing table announced for later in 2015.


*I also asked this question to Mark Roberge, CRO of Hubspot. Find out what he had to say in this SaaSStar Interview

Question by Alex Theuma & Answers by Steli Efti, Hampus Jakobsson, Luc Boilly

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