Growing your team is an exciting step forward – it's an indication that your business is thriving and serving more clients. Finding the right professionals to fit the role, however, can always be a little tricky – particularly in the software as a service (SaaS) industry.
This is because the concept of selling subscription-based software is still relatively new. Not only that, but the field is segmented by a wide plethora of technologies, each serving a specific industry – or sometimes a multitude of industries. Which begs the question, when looking to hire a salesperson, does the candidate have to be a Jack-of-all-trades to fit the profile?
Many SaaS companies are only just learning to crawl; the sector is an incubator for start-ups. In such cases, it can be tempting to look for an experienced sales person who can bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to your company. But finding such individuals, particularly SaaS sales specialists, can be costly and near impossible due to the scarcity of such a niche talent.
So, naturally, there are considerations to make:
- Do you hire inexperienced salespeople and invest in training them?
- How do you define the skillset you are specifically looking for?
- How do you attract top talent to your business?
These are all questions which we will attempt to answer along the way as we address the points that will help you to hire a winning SaaS sales team.
#1: Create an attractive and functional environment within your business
To attract individuals of a high-calibre, you need to remember that they'll be reviewing the pros and cons of working for the company as diligently as you are assessing their CV. Experienced SaaS sales people understand that there are specific tools and basic frameworks that have to be in place to enable them to do their job properly.
While you may not have the budget to offer trendy office space, complete with beanbags and flavoured water coolers, you can still put in some effort to make your company's HQ an attractive, functional space.
While your salespeople may often be on the road or working remotely, it might sometimes be necessary to bring clients on-site for demonstrations or training. You want to give your sales reps a practical area to welcome guests and present your business in the best possible light, this makes the sales process easier and supports the function that your salespeople are required to fulfil.
#2: Align your sales and marketing teams with the right tools and processes
Regardless of where your SaaS business is in its growth journey, having a clear structure for how things operate within your organisation will look far more encouraging to the candidates you're trying to attract.
Your marketing team needs to have generated and created the right content for your sales team to use. There also needs to be a system that enables the two departments to communicate and exchange information effectively and accurately.
Having a customer relationship management (CRM) system in place is one of the first steps to ensuring that the goals and targets of your sales and marketing teams are aligned and that there is transparency between the two. As HubSpot partners, we naturally recommend the HubSpot CRM suite because of the many features tailored explicitly for this purpose, but of course, you are welcome to review others and find the one that serves your needs.
Salespeople are process driven by nature, and they are likely to show a genuine interest in how your business supports this as, particularly in SaaS, the sales cycle is one that requires continuous honing and optimising. This can only be achieved through accurate insights and technology that allows for quick adaptation and access to up-to-date information on clients, products and other critical business content.
#3: Look for the problem solvers
Salespeople will often come across great in an interview; after all, selling themselves is what they do. But to sell SaaS, you're looking for someone who isn't just skilled at pointing out a product's benefits and leveraging their sale on charm and wit alone.
SaaS products solve problems, but how they do this is often the most complicated part to communicate. Your salesperson has to be great at identifying the clients' problem and illustrating how your software addresses that. In fact, this isn't only limited to making the transaction.
According to Dan Martell, problem-solving for your client is an essential trust-building component that comes into play during the conversion process. This is an inbound marketing approach that is essential to SaaS sales, and your prospective hire has to understand the value of nurturing a lead effectively, understanding the clients' pain points and coming up with tangible solutions, even if that assistance isn't directly related to the sale. If you can assist the customer with advice on other industry-related matters, that client will see the value in purchasing from someone who isn't just interested in making a profit out of them.
You'll notice a correlation between someone's ability to problem-solve and listen with intent. These are vital qualities in a SaaS salesperson because it means they are also looking for those small windows of opportunity where they can strengthen relationships and generate long-term value from a customer. Again, this is crucial to SaaS due to the challenge that churn presents – you sales reps should always be striving for longevity, not a quick exchange that results in a customer bouncing out of your net as soon as their free trial or paid subscription comes to an end.
#4: Your salespeople speak your buyer persona's language
In a way, you're setting your salesperson up for a blind date – many blind dates. But, as a good friend, you want to make sure that you've matched each party up with the most suitable person for them. This way, the chances of success are far greater.
When looking for a SaaS sales candidate, hold them up against your buyer persona and make sure that this individual will be able to relate to the prospect, appeal to their psyche and speak on their level. Someone may have a fantastic technical background with hundreds of sales accreditations, but if they come off as patronising to your buyer persona, the sale simply won't happen.
#5: It's okay to have a green team
The most challenging part when sourcing talent for your sales department will be to find people that have the right combination of technical and sales skills. In some particularly new sectors, you may as well be looking for a genie and a magic lamp. In such cases, it's okay to hire candidates who tick all the crucial boxes like a willingness to learn, a tireless approach to prospecting, experience in software sales (even if it's not for your particular industry).
If you find individuals who are the right culture fit for your organisation and you have a thorough training process for every new starter that ensures they are adept in using your software and feel confident to speak about the technology, that's perfect. You can then build on that and tailor your team to fit the niche criteria of your industry. Be open-minded and look for the kind of qualities that will add value to your business over all – the rest, in many cases, can be taught.
Excellent product knowledge is non-negotiable, of course, but that will also primarily be down to your training process. So if you're struggling to find experts in your field, why not just make your own?
Ultimately, winning SaaS sales teams are built through the cohesive efforts of your entire business. You need to have a clear vision of what your company represents and find the individuals who will align with those core principles. Your SaaS sales team are those customer-facing individuals who understand your buyer personas through and through and are willing to dedicate the time and effort to continuously evolve their sales strategies and focus on retention as much as they concentrate on acquisition.