Hiring new sales professionals is a tough, thrilling and rewarding experience. There are few things more inspiring than meeting and recruiting the perfect new hire who’ll give your sales department a decisive edge. But it’s also time-consuming and expensive ($4,000 on average per hire!).
Effectively expanding your sales team with new hires requires more than just a phone call to a recruitment agency. It requires tremendous imagination and analytical nous from the sales leaders responsible for the hiring plan. Sales managers need to look beyond the pure number of closed-won deals they’re bringing in and consider whether their sales team is also poised for excellence when it comes to keeping customers.
Balancing the need for winning deals with the need for customer success is key to getting your sales hires right. Taking the right survey of your sales organization—where it is now, and where it could be with the right talent aboard—and reviewing the areas of need in your sales process will make hiring the right sales professionals a breeze.
Why should we be hiring sales professionals now?
Answering the question “Why should we be hiring?” is easy enough. Adding new sales professionals to your sales team allows you to increase your sales volume and expand the range of services you can offer your customers after they’ve signed on the dotted line. But why should your company be hiring now?
After all, recruiting multiple new sales professionals (or any professional) is an investment, on every level. It takes time, money, and dedication to sourcing the right candidates and put them through their paces in an interview. Then, once you’ve found a match, comes onboarding. After onboarding is complete, you need to make sure your new hires are motivated and have the proper commission structure to secure that motivation. They also need to be integrated into your employee wellness program.
Doing this for even one new sales professional requires a lot of work and resources, so make sure it’s the right time for your business to be hiring. All successful sales hire to begin with a thorough review of your sales team’s state and your company. Ask yourself:
What Do Our Cash flows Look Like?
One of the first measures for figuring out if now is a good time to hire is the strength and stability of your revenue model. Whether or not you can maintain payroll is the main determining factor in whether or not you should be hiring. Can you support those additional salaries? Can you sanction the outlays to get them the tools they need? Can you spend the money required (on marketing, agency commission fees, etc.) for a talent search?
How Does Our Sales Funnel Look?
Your sales funnel comprises the various stages of a deal, from lead-qualified to deal-closed to customer-success-achieved. The health of the different stages of your funnel will tell you a lot about where your hiring focus ought to be.
How many high-quality leads are you converting? Where are you losing momentum most in your sales funnel? If you see rabid demand for your product, with high-quality leads coming inconsistently, then new hires are not only preferable but a necessity. You can’t let those opportunities go to waste!
How’s Our Churn Rate Looking?
Your churn rate is the rate at which customers are leaving your company.
Some conventional wisdom might suggest that churn rate isn’t really your sales team’s problem—but, in Software as a Service (SaaS), the after-sales period is arguably more important than the pre-sales period. A churn that’s even moderately high will cripple a company. You can’t afford to let those customers go once they’ve signed on with you, and there are sales professionals you can hire whose unique role is to keep existing customers happy and engaged with your product.
Is our sales team stable?
New sales professionals will thrive quickly if they come into a stable environment with steady growth. This requires effective, standardized sales processes that translate into accurate sales forecasting. It also requires you to have established social processes for creating a strong team spirit with high accessibility.
Does Our Team Need Help?
There’s a human element to bringing new sales professionals into your revenue organization. Overworked employees, key time being lost, customer service standards slipping—these all suggest that now is the time to add to your ranks.
The Daily Briefing Executive Summary
Hiring from within
Some companies might find themselves with a conundrum. They’re reasonably well-placed to expand their selling efforts, with good growth prospects, but they don’t have the funds to allocate to payroll. But “new additions” doesn’t have to mean “new hires.”
Even if your sales team can’t afford to hire right now, “adding” to your team is still an achievable and desirable goal. You can do so by re-addressing your existing sales team’s abilities and, where sensible, expanding your team members’ responsibilities. And you can do this in a balanced way, widening workloads slightly with astute management and the right tools without stretching your employees too thin.
Hiring new sales professionals can involve a reshuffling of existing personnel as much as bringing in new ones. Creating that promotional pathway will also provide additional motivation for your team members looking to take that next step in their sales career.
The Weekly Briefing
Sales professionals that will bring you sales success
There are two forms of sales success: sales success in new sales and sales success with existing customers. First, we’ll take a look at the sales professionals you need to stack your team with to bring lots of new business into your company.
Certain types of sales professionals are what you might call “sales team staples.” We're talking about sales representatives, who find prospects and try to sell them your product. Then you have business development reps, whose job is to find the prospects your sales reps will sell to. Finally, you've got frontline sales managers to help the whole operation run smoothly.
1. Sales Representatives
The sales rep needs no introduction. The alpha and omega of sales success, perhaps the most decisive ground-level players in your entire organization, your sales reps are responsible for turning prospects (qualified leads) into successful sales.
Sales success for your reps involves taking a prospect from the first contact to the point of signing on the dotted line and becoming part of your customer base. Hiring more sales representatives for your sales team is a priority when your sales funnel is full of prospects, with comparatively few prospects turning into actual customers.
The ideal sales representative has emotional stability—they'll have to make as many as 200 cold calls per won-deal. That means very demanding follow-up requirements and an ability to face rejection daily. The kind of resilience and tenacity needed to do that are two of the most irreplaceable sales skills and can be found in any good professional salesperson, whether they're reps or customer success specialists.
Your reps will also have top-notch communication skills, able to build rapport with prospects quickly. Finally, the best sales reps are curious and self-motivated researchers. It's great both for your department's overall sales success and your sales training budget if you have salespeople with the initiative to research their own prospects and diligently review their own call recordings.
2. Business Development representatives
Business development representatives (BDRs) are another critical part of a sales team's foundation. Their main hustle is prospecting: finding prospects and turning them into qualified leads. They then give those leads to your salespeople to wreak (positive) havoc with.
The primary competency that marks out a BDR is research capability. BDRs must be prolific researchers, able to identify and then reach high-potential, hard-to-access leads. They will be able to consistently identify the right decision-makers at each of the companies they qualify to prevent your sales reps from dealing with decision-maker-related difficulties later on.
To that end, the ideal BDR will have experience or at least aptitude for social-media-oriented research. Social listening through platforms like LinkedIn is now a fundamental component of finding leads who might be interested in your product. A good BDR candidate will also be highly adaptable, allowing them to get inside each of your buyer personas’ perspectives.
3. Frontline Sales Managers
Your sales team might be swimming with rep talent—sales reps with a proven track record of closing deals, and BDRs brimming with research skills and contextual market knowledge. Why, then, is your sales velocity sluggish, your closed-won rate consistently lower than forecast, and overall sales performance underwhelming? Because your talent is not being appropriately managed. You may not have the right sales managers currently, or not enough to satisfy your sales team’s ideal span of control.
You can strengthen your sales strategies and talented but wayward sales professionals into shape by hiring a new frontline sales manager. Your frontline sales manager answers to your sales lead/VP of sales. They will build up relationships with your sales team members to determine their motivational and wellness needs, allowing you to set up more effective compensation plans and wellness programs. They will correspond with sales enablement to create coaching templates and target the tool stack improvements your sales team needs.
Stable sales management is so important for sales team success because it allows you to quantify that success beyond just the number of closed-won deals or qualified prospects you’re seeing.
They can introduce and track more illuminating sales metrics such as:
- Sales activity
- Pipeline velocity
- Average contract value
- Win-rate-per-industry sector
Frontline sales manager candidates will preferably have a few years of management experience in a high-pressure, metrics-driven environment. They'll have excellent familiarity with sales coaching techniques and good knowledge of the sales tools that will fit nicely into a tech stack. Their communication skills will also be of a high quality, where both employee motivation and well-being are concerned.
Sales managers can also be “hired” through promotion from within. Promoting a sales rep to a sales manager allows you to take full advantage of their experience and hands-on knowledge of your company's objectives and sales culture. If you've got a sales rep who's demonstrated conscientiousness, displays the ability to multitask, and who is happy to dispense valuable sales tips and mentorship to younger colleagues, you've got the perfect managerial candidate on your hands.
Sales professionals to ensure customer success
In SaaS, it’s not enough to focus hiring on getting as many new deals as possible over the line and hoping enough of them stick. Sensible sales team hiring will also involve bringing in people who can help you derive maximum value from your existing customers. Customers who are helped to see the value they require from you are likely to stick around, keeping your churn rate low and your MRR/ARR (monthly- and annual recurring revenue) high.
1. Account Executive
An account executive (AE) is vital for locking down existing business. An AE acts as a general overseer of client satisfaction with your product and connects your customers to other professionals in your company (e.g., customer support) when required.
The lifetime value (LTV) question is paramount in SaaS. Companies that survive and thrive will be the ones that maximize the value each customer brings into the business (LTV) against customer acquisition cost (CAC). The AE sits at the heart of this effort. By securing those existing accounts that are providing MRR and offering to upsell packages to customers (where appropriate), the AE is key to unlocking expansion revenue.
Think of expansion revenue as the value that is already latent in your customer base—customers who are on one plan but could see the greater value by upgrading to an expanded plan. It represents a dependable, easy-to-access business with a much lower CAC than a new business. All of this can be harder and more expensive to come by otherwise. You and your sales team should look at expansion revenue as the determining factor in keeping your business afloat while your sales representatives and development department fight hard for new business.
Whether you get in a new hire or add the responsibility to an existing sales team member, the AE is important. You can convert regular sales reps into AE roles with minimum friction and without excessively adding to their workload. Do so by employing a reliable CRM and restructuring your sales goals to perhaps include an expansion revenue component.
2. Customer Success Specialist
The customer success specialist, a growing role in SaaS and beyond, was the star sales professional of 2020. That’s because the pandemic woke up businesses to the huge value they could/should have been getting from expansion revenue.
Whether times are good or bad, buyers and vendors are worried about the same thing: value. Buyers who may be facing budget cutbacks or scale-down will be frantic to ensure that they’re getting the most out of the products they’re paying for. A sales professional whose specific duty is to help provide a smooth, personalized onboarding and launch experience for new customers makes this much easier to achieve.
Whether you’ve managed to upgrade an existing customer to a more involved feature tier or you’re dealing with new business, the onboarding experience is a key sales process area. The launch-life cycle, which occurs immediately after a customer begins using their new product, is a churn hotbed: 23% of all customer churn occurs here.
Therefore, it’s vital to have a specialist there, specifically to guarantee customers’ safe passage from the first contact to getting real value from your product. Customer success specialists can also provide a wealth of data that’s key for shoring up strategy decisions in an uncertain market. The way they observe customers using your product helps them understand your customers’ pain points and needs. Finding out why your customers think your product is useful in these conditions is key to navigating a tricky market successfully.
Customer success specialists are harder to convert from existing sales team members if you don’t already have them on hand. When you’re bringing new customer success pros on board, consider empowering them with sales tools that make commanding the context around a sale easier. Knowing exactly who a customer is, and what they need, can set up your new customer success specialists for positive outcomes.
3. Onboarding Specialist
If you cannot hire a bespoke customer success specialist, then fashioning an existing sales team member into an onboarding specialist can work as an alternative.
The onboarding specialist sits in the all-important SaaS sweet spot between HR, customer support, and sales. The role isn’t as comprehensive in duty as a customer success specialist, who will often spend the first three to six months of a customer’s experience in close contact with them and provide an auxiliary support function afterward. However, they are still there to guide your customers through that challenging onboarding phase. They help customers get maximum value from your product from the get-go, and that goes most of the way toward keeping your clients loyal in an uncertain market.
With the use of tools like Deal Hub, even a newbie onboarding specialist can easily manage the sale-to-use transition. If sales priority and time allow, you can add a degree of onboarding responsibility to your sales reps’ and AEs’ duties. If you’re managing a stretched sales team, you may even consider talking things over with your company’s HR department and drafting someone from elsewhere to help with onboarding.
4. Engagement Officer
Competing for attention in the market can be difficult. That’s why sales professionals whose primary responsibility is to keep existing customers engaged and happily using your product are gaining in popularity. You can purpose either existing sales development representative (SDR) personnel or a new hire into this role, which primarily resurrects previously qualified leads who are either inactive or went silent.
This kind of “attention churn,” where an accurately qualified lead suddenly loses interest in purchasing your product, happens for all kinds of reasons. Some of them—like a prospect who’s had a change in financial fortune and cannot afford the outlay any longer—are less avoidable than others. However, many of those prospects will be in desperate need of just what you offer and either forgot about your product or weren’t aware of it in the first place.
Your engagement officer’s job is to connect those would-be customers to departments beyond your sales team. They assist sales management in liaising with your finance department. Suppose you’re dealing with price-sensitive customer demographics. In that case, your engagement officer can use their buyer persona knowledge to help develop offerings/subscription tiers that those price-sensitive prospects can more easily afford. This is especially true if your engagement officer previously had SDR experience.
On the other end, your engagement officer will be actively involved with your marketing department to help make your plans more appealing. Buyer persona adjustment, content marketing, and SEO (search engine optimization) is vital in times like these. Pursuing the right branding in times of crisis—demonstrating that your company is calm, in control, and looking to help, while not being opportunistic—can be decisive in helping prospects see your value. Marketing and sales are always closely aligned, but in a market downturn, they are inextricable.
Match these kinds of inter-departmental efforts with a dedicated re-engagement campaign, and an engagement officer can quickly become one of the most influential new additions to your sales team.
The relationship dynamics of long-term selling
Sales hiring is not just about trying to satisfy raw numbers: the highest possible number of cold calls, the maximum possible number of deals on the closed-won table. If it were that easy, you could simply stuff your team with reps until your payroll begged for mercy.
B2B SaaS goes beyond the pure metrics; it’s a matter of cultivating long-lasting, fruitful relationships with customers. Great sales management understands that recruiting new sales professionals is not about meeting quota, but creating a team of people able to build and sustain those relationships.
Recent years have demonstrated how essential existing customers are to subscription companies. Any sales hiring plan will apportion at least as much attention to expansion revenue as new business. Get those two requirements—sales success and customer success—into equilibrium through sensible hiring, and your sales team will be unstoppable.