The traits and skills sales reps need to succeed in the SaaS industry are unique
There is arguably no place on Earth changing more rapidly than Silicon Valley. Leaders need to understand the latest trends to build winning sales teams if they wish to succeed in the ultra-competitive technology epicenter of the world.
Cloud computing and the software as a service (SaaS) has exploded. A new study from Bain & Company, The Changing Faces of the Cloud, predicts global cloud IT market revenue will increase from $180 billion to $390 billion in 2020.
The traits and skills sales reps need to succeed in the SaaS industry are unique. Leaders such as Microsoft, SalesForce, Oracle, Amazon – as well as numerous unicorns that are eager to disrupt – are jockeying for position and engaging in a full-blown arms race to control the space.
Oracle, for example, increased their cloud computing R&D to $5.1 billion in 2016 and saw their revenue top $1 billion for the first time. Oracle Co-Chief Executive Mark Hurd said in a statement, "Over the last year, we sold more new SaaS and PaaS than Salesforce.com, and if these trends continue, it’s just a matter of when we pass Salesforce.com in total cloud revenue." While SalesForce would beg to differ, one thing is clear, the fight to become the cloud computing champion of the world is on.
To gain a true competitive advantage, corporate executives must recognize that the goal posts have moved. A next generation sales force is needed to effectively penetrate and grow new markets, upsell and cross-sell across multinationals, and most importantly, meet the rapidly changing needs of today's enterprise buyers.
As the CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting, we see SaaS companies struggling to build high-performance sales teams. While there are many reasons for this, including a largely underreported talent shortage, corporate leaders of today's high-growth firms must understand what types of reps they need to hire.
Here are four qualities that Silicon Valley's top SAAS sales reps possess:
- They're consultative- and solutions-focused: The notion that SaaS products can sell themselves is shortsighted – especially when attempting to penetrate enterprise accounts. Since buyers have an unprecedented amount of information about their own needs and how a given solution can meet those needs, today's best SaaS reps put themselves in their customer’s shoes – becoming trusted advisors that help purchasers navigate a complex buying environment. They develop a deep and robust understanding of their industry, their customers' purchasing requirements and the extended impact purchasing decisions have beyond the buyer. This insight-driven, consultative skillset not only enables the seller to achieve buy-in from stakeholders across the enterprise but sets the stage for future upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
- They're technically competent. Today’s best SaaS reps don't rely on their sales engineers to explain how their solution integrates or compliments their prospect's technology stack. They understand their product inside and out, how it compares to the competition and the new features that are being built because of customer feedback. Ultimately, they harness their technological skill-set to connect and build trust with buyers from different business units to shorten sales cycles.
- They have a proven ability to grow a territory from zero. Some estimates suggest inside sales is growing 300 percent faster than traditional outbound sales. While many SaaS companies build their sales force around an inside sales model, those with higher ACV (average customer value) need talent that can hunt net new logos and build a territory from the ground up. Talent that has this ability is known for possessing what is known as "hunter DNA." These are ingrained psychological traits and behavior styles, such as being highly competitive, maintaining a high sense of urgency, and the ability to be resilient in the face of obstacles, that allow a rep to effectively capture the attention of new prospects, and convince them that they have a critical business need that can be solved by the rep's solution.
- They share an unwavering focus on the target customer and closing good business. In SaaS sales, the difference between targeting and closing the right and wrong prospects has profound impacts on whether revenue and profit targets are realized. When the wrong customer is pursued, not only are they more likely to churn (resulting in large onboarding costs that won’t be recuperated), but the offering's margins are often sacrificed in an effort to simply close the deal. The best SaaS reps, however, relentlessly pursue their ideal customer and sell a premium offering relative to the base offering. They realize that the quality of the deal often matters more than the quantity of deals and ensure their selling activities and behaviors are focused on pursuing stakeholders that drive the most valuable deals.