The 4 factors that determine your SaaS sales career

The 4 factors that determine your SaaS sales career

Alexander Goovaerts

Alexander Goovaerts

Managing Director @ Headlight

When talking to salespeople, one of the most surprising things is that many have a short sighted view on sales careers. Due to the fact that they only worked in 1 or 2 sales contexts, they don’t see the vast amount of opportunities in sales. In fact, there are so many options within sales that it’s even challenging to decide which sales career you want to pursue.

In your early career it’s therefore crucial to find the career path that you prefer. Not knowing about the different paths in sales will leave you with missed opportunities and an unsatisfying career, because you never found your personal preference.

After helping hundreds of SaaS sales professionals find their career, I have identified 4 determining factors that can help you in having a fulfilling career in SaaS sales.

Good mentorship is more important than the salary or that sweet sounding job title

When meeting new prospects I still use the techniques I learned when I was selling door-to-door as a student.

In your sales career, your first jobs and your first mentors are the foundation of your career and will shape you as a professional. It might be hard, but in these years it’s worth turning down that high-paying job, if you find an opportunity with a better environment to develop yourself. Look for an organization with a proven onboarding program, where you work for a manager you can learn from and with great leadership in sales. This foundation will allow you to grow exponentially in your future career & even determine the extent to which you like sales.

A great mentor is someone with a proven track record, who will get the best out of you and has a career path you want to have yourself. By the way, mentors aren’t just useful in the early days of your career. They are definitely to be considered when changing career paths, so you can keep growing in your professional career.

After helping hundreds of SaaS sales professionals find their career, I have identified 4 determining factors that can help you in having a fulfilling career in SaaS sales.

If you end up in a sales environment with a sales dynamics that doesn’t match with you, it will limit your growth potential

Even though the value proposition of a product might look the same, if there is a major difference in dynamics of sales, the sales process will be completely different. In the end, the context in which you operate will determine what you’re doing, learning and practicing on a daily basis.

I see some major differentiators that consistently have a big impact on the SaaS career of our candidates.

SME sales and Enterprise sales are entirely different ball games. Some would disagree, but those would typically be the ones that feel at ease doing both. Moving towards Enterprise Sales usually requires you to strengthen your business acumen, professional presentation, verbal agility and sales acumen in general.

Rule of thumb: the more expensive the product, the more people you need to convince, thus the harder it gets to close a deal. Each of the stakeholders has different needs, as such you’ll have to learn more skills and competencies to get everyone on board and make the sale. Because of that, ticket size plays an important role in your development as a sales professional in SaaS.

It’s not who you sell for, it’s who you sell to. When talking about their ideal job, candidates often talk about who they want to work for, but never about who they want to sell to. Nevertheless, the type of buyer you’re dealing with on a daily basis will have a big impact on your development as a SaaS professional. Think about it, would you prefer to be negotiating with procurement gatekeepers all day or selling visions to CEOs of large companies?

Are you a prophet or a commodity seller? This all depends on the solution you’re selling. Are you selling a “nice to have” solution to middle management of a small company or a “Business-critical” solution to the CEO of a large corporation? The importance of the problem your solution solves will determine the ease of selling.

To determine what fits you best, you’ll have to try different dynamics in your career. Lots of professionals are drawn to Enterprise Sales, but chances are you won’t be selling directly to CEOs of S&P 500 companies, instead you’ll come across a lot of bureaucracy & procurement struggles will be your daily thing. On the other hand, selling to SMEs can be very fulfilling if you see your solutions boost an organization to a next level.

Sales has to be seen as a core competence of the company

I see major differences in sales professionals who have been in companies where sales is at the forefront and their team is a valuable asset, versus professionals active at companies where sales is seen as a sort of back office role and their team is seen as a group of outcasts. 

On that account I would advise you to, at least once or twice in your career, preferably early on, work in a sales-driven organization. This environment will give you the confidence that you need, to make sure you will see the sales role as vital to every organization.

In these environments you’ll find the learning culture, mentorship and overall competitiveness that will shape you as a sales professional and prepare you for the rest of your career.

Not sure if a sales culture is present? Choose a growth company 

Hyper Growth companies align perfectly with highly ambitious sales professionals. The rapidly growing organization demands sales professionals to keep up to speed, be creative to stand out and challenge themselves to be the best they can be in general.

On the other hand, it could be a major challenge to do sales for the market leader within an industry. This company is trying to retain their number one spot and will therefore aim to excel on all fronts. Both have their challenges & advantages, so try both and choose the one that fits your needs best.

One last remark: before moving to a growth company, really assess where the company is headed and join them at the right momentum. Make sure to check how mature the sales organization is to cope with rapid growth, this will determine the success of the organization as a whole.

Of course there are lots of other factors that can determine the progression of your career and knowledge, but these are the ones you can control when choosing a possible new employer or solution to represent.

Join us on November 8, for a Sales Power Session where Stef De Cuyper, Talent Director at Headlight, will go in depth on the 7 skills every SaaS Sales Professional needs

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