Let’s be honest, we all want to recruit and coach sales rock stars. And naturally, we strive to identify, support and nurture the very best talent to achieve this.
But having managed, founded and invested in a number of SaaS businesses, I have concluded if your SaaS business cannot grow and thrive with ‘average’ sales people, you’re doomed!
This is not an admission of recruitment failure, nor a lowering of the bar in the process and people that I or companies I invest in employ – exactly the opposite. It is just the stark realism that if the rest of your business (your product, addressable market, value, leadership and strategy) cannot support ‘average’ sales people, your chances of success are very slim. At best, it is a very real single point of failure!
Why do I believe this damning assessment so confidently? Well, first of all, you have to appreciate how hard it is to either find or develop true sales rock stars. Like x10 developers, these guys and gals are both a rare commodity and naturally not oblivious to their own abilities and opportunities.
If you are lucky enough to find a true rock star, who wants to move on from their current employee (who will no doubt offer them the earth to try and retain them, even if only for a short while, if they are a true rock star), will they choose your opportunity beyond the plethora of amazing opportunities available to them? Let’s hope retaining them is easier with the appropriate reward, culture and development path, but often that is not a given.
In many of the SaaS businesses I see, the sales strategy is the final consideration. The focus is on creating the perfect product, considering the market fit and evaluating the pricing. A few sales people are added into the plan, each with an achievable goal multiplied by your closing team on a spreadsheet and the whole thing works and we all make oodles of cash, right?
Unfortunately not. The law of averages works against you even with great recruitment practises. Hopefully you are lucky enough to have a few rock stars either join the team, or you gain people who have raw talent, commitment and enthusiasm which can be developed into your top performers. But what about the rest? Those strong performers who exceed your goals, those that don’t make the grade and who leave or are replaced and our ‘average’ friends.
What churn of sales people with costs to recruit, train and then let go, is built into your plan? Are you planning to let go the underperformers, or the average sales people too? Those capable of delivering a number, achieving a goal, but never reaching the heights of your top performers?
But, I hear you say, “we do/will only recruit the very best! We have a robust recruitment strategy to identify and lure the best sales talent around.” You may well do this better than most, but frankly I rarely see a SaaS business that successfully weeds out all but the very best sales professionals. In a fast growth business, where time is our enemy and the next funding round, year end or exit is fast approaching, few can take their time to be so uber-selective in finding the right recruits. We all want growth and market share, and want or need it fast.
However, if your business can thrive with a growing selection of rock stars, over achievers and ‘average’ sales people – taking for granted you’ll want to identify any who slip through the net and don’t meet this standard, the world is your oyster. Each hire quickly becomes a net contributor and if your addressable market is sufficiently large and scalable, growth becomes predictable and guaranteed.
If they all contribute to the recurring revenue, client list and growth that is allowing your business to gain the attention of prospects, investors and suitors alike, your fast paced growth allows you to continue to raise the bar on your sales hires. Tomorrow’s employees may well be more qualified, talented and better rewarded than when you hired in the past, as your ability to attract and reward the best becomes increasingly easy. Just as your prospective clients become bigger, with higher license fees and longer contracts due to your success (product, value, reputation etc), so does your ability to recruit the very best sales talent who aspire to join your now infamous team.
But perhaps you’d have never got there without the ‘average’ sales people along the way?
By Kevin Beales
Multiple Founder & Investor in SaaS, CEO @refract_tv
You Can meet Kevin Beales at The London SaaS Meetup #3 on 27th January where he will be giving a talk on Growth for SaaS Startups. Get your ticket now