There’s a common idea in the world of Software-as-a-Service you may have heard:
This is completely, utterly wrong. As anyone who has worked at a SaaS company will tell you, organic sales growth has a limit. While your SaaS startup may be able to grow at first with a group of enthusiastic early adopters, these customers will only get you so far. At some point, your SaaS business will have to cross that chasm, and appeal to buyers who won’t be swayed by your product features alone.
Sales (together with Marketing) are there to show prospects exactly how valuable and innovative your SaaS product truly is, and why it’s worth the price. The best SaaS sales reps are able to do this with ease — however these top reps are few and far between. As a sales leader, you’re always on the hunt for these top reps who can take your team to the next level.
So what makes the best SaaS sales reps rise above the rest? It’s a combination of skill, determination, and SaaS-specific knowledge. If you’re building a powerful SaaS sales team, these are the 7 qualities you should be looking for when hiring new sales reps.
1. Fluent with Technology
It’s almost a no-brainer, but any rep selling SaaS software must be comfortable with both using and discussing technology. Traditional sales reps can often get away with only understanding their own product well, but this won’t fly in SaaS. Reps have to understand not just their product’s technical specs, but also how it fits in with and complements other technology in a business’ software stack. SaaS reps can never be caught off guard by a prospect asking technical questions about the software’s compatibility with X data or Y product.
SaaS reps must sell to a highly technical market, and have to pay attention to not just their industry, but general technology trends and developments. Technology doesn’t have to be their personal passion, but top reps pay attention to the latest developments and changes to the industry. The best SaaS reps are technologically fluent, able to easily understand new technology and learn to use it quickly.
2. Understands the Value of the Product
One of the biggest challenges of SaaS sales is that your product is often replacing a difficult or manual process like tracking data in Excel spreadsheets or managing financial payments. While your product might be amazingly innovative, prospects may not see it that way at first. Many people will believe they’re managing just fine with their current workflow, and have no need to upgrade to SaaS software. Prospects often don’t have the budget or see a pressing need to change the status quo, and that’s where sales comes in.
Great SaaS sales reps can convince prospects of the true value of your product, and how it will revolutionize the business from within. They can easily prove true ROI of a SaaS product, and convince prospects that they’re losing out on a huge opportunity if they don’t buy. A strong value proposition is the key to SaaS success, and top reps know exactly how to position and pitch a product to achieve maximum impact.
3. Knows the Ideal Customer Profile Inside and Out
Understanding your ideal customer is important for any sales rep, but it’s especially vital in SaaS. In traditional sales, reps might be able to get away with selling a product to a customer who isn’t exactly the right fit in order to hit quota for the month. But in SaaS, sales reps are actually hurting the business if they close a deal with the wrong type of customer. Customers that don’t fit the ideal profile are generally more likely to churn and waste the resources and investment the company makes in onboarding them.
Great SaaS sales reps know to look for specific characteristics when talking to a new sales prospect — including size, industry, and technology stack. If a prospect isn’t quite the right fit for the business, the best reps are completely comfortable disqualifying the prospect and shutting down the sales process before it goes too far. This saves the business time and money by focusing the rep’s attention completely on the best possible prospects, and lowering the overall churn rate.
4. Values Long-Term Customer Success
Similar to understanding the ideal customer profile, top SaaS reps always think about the long-term success of a new customer. In some industries, it’s not a big deal if a sales rep over-promises a product’s capabilities to a prospect in order to close the deal. However, in SaaS, if a product doesn’t deliver what a sales rep promised, that unhappy customer is likely to churn rapidly.
Great SaaS sales reps are always looking out for the success of the overall business, not just themselves and their quota. Even if it means missing their goals, top reps won’t lie to prospects in order to close the deal. These reps realize that every SaaS deal isn’t a one-time payout and know the vital business importance of payback period for every customer. By being honest with prospects, reps ensure that prospects become happy customers, who will stick around and will be open to upsells in the future.
5. Always Minimizes Discounts
In SaaS, discounts are even worse than in traditional sales. Because of the financial structure of SaaS deals, discounts compound over time and will hurt the business long into the future. For example, if a SaaS rep offers a 10% discount to a prospect today, that discount will apply not just to this month, but to every month going forward. It’s not really a one-time discount, it’s a recurring discount that cuts into profits every month.
Because of this, the best SaaS reps always have an eye on the bottom line. These reps are able to focus on the value of the product, not on the price, and always steer prospects away from numbers-based negotiation. Top reps will hold firm, and refuse to discount because their product is worth the price they’re charging.
6. Understands Venture Capital
Most of today’s biggest SaaS companies started out as VC-backed startups, and often sell to similar companies, depending on the market. SaaS sales reps should really understand the world of Venture Capital, and what it means for a company to be funded, have an IPO, or be acquired by another business. These may seem outside the realm of traditional sales skills, but SaaS prospects will often ask reps about their company’s funding, and reps must be able to answer intelligently.
Great SaaS sales reps can reassure prospects that their business will be there tomorrow, next month, and years from now. They understand who is venture-backed and what it means for the business, and how it can help them sell their product more effectively. For example, if a rep is targeting high-growth startups, those companies have a lot of pressure to grow quickly. A top SaaS rep will then position their product as a tool that will help the prospect’s company grow, and hopefully, close the deal.
7. Creates Strong Connections
The traditional traveling sales rep doesn’t exist in today’s SaaS companies. Most SaaS businesses focus almost entirely on inside sales, with reps calling and emailing prospects daily. SaaS reps often have to close deals without ever meeting prospects in person or shaking their hand. This means that reps have to build strong interpersonal relationships just using email, phone calls, and maybe a video chat or two.
Top SaaS reps have great written and spoken communication skills, and understand the challenges of inside sales thoroughly. It’s really tough to build a strong rapport with someone you’ve never looked in the eye, but great reps can do it with just a few phonecalls. The best SaaS sales reps can engage prospects through email and the phone almost as well as traditional reps can close deals in person.
Not every SaaS sale rep will naturally have these specific skills from the start, but if you hire reps that are talented and learn quickly, you can teach them to adapt. Build your sales team to embody these top SaaS sales reps qualities, and you’ll be on the path to building a powerful SaaS business.