The Role of Leadership in Shaping Sales Team Performance

The stronger your leadership, the better your sales team’s performance. There’s simply no denying the correlation. From coaching to communication to collaboration to culture, the caliber of your internal leaders impacts all aspects of your company. For this post, I’ll analyze this correlation in-depth, looking at concrete data and identifying key areas where leadership shapes sales team performance.

Some Telling Stats

To begin, let me paint a clear picture of how the competency and commitment of your leaders affect your sales team by looking at some compelling data. Here are some statistics that jumped out at me.

“High-performing sales leaders reported an overall average annual quota attainment of 105% compared to 54% for underperforming sales managers.” That’s nearly double! At the most fundamental level, having elite sales leaders heavily impacts your ability to reach your quota.

And this makes sense. If you have top-tier sales leaders at the helm, their professionalism will trickle down, helping you make more sales and generate far more revenue.

Next, “Employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers.” This illustrates another way your sales leaders’ behavior rubs off on the rest of your sales team.

If you have sales leaders who are truly committed and highly engaged, your salespeople will take notice, and most will feel compelled to follow their lead. It’s all about leading by example.

Going deeper, “Engaged employees had 59% lower turnover rates,” which, as we just discussed, is something largely impacted by sales leadership. In other words, when you have highly engaged sales leaders, it creates more engaged salespeople, which should significantly reduce turnover.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Excellent sales leadership can also help:

  • Boost productivity
  • Motivate the rest of your team
  • Ensure accountability
  • Increase customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • Increase company resilience

On that note, let’s look closer at some specific ways leadership influences team performance.


Whether you’re dealing with lead generation, customer acquisition, customer retention, or any other aspect of sales, goal-setting is essential for accomplishing your objectives. Strong sales leaders understand this and 1) set clear, specific, measurable, realistic goals and 2) effectively communicate these goals to the sales team.

By doing so, this helps your salespeople know exactly what they need to accomplish and when — something that’s a critical precursor for sales success. On the other hand, lacking clear goals is almost always a recipe for failure, as your sales team won’t have any real direction.

If you’re looking for further examples of goals top sales leaders tend to focus on, here’s a great list for reference.

Coaching and Development

Even the best salespeople have to start somewhere, and hardly anyone comes out firing on all cylinders right away. It takes consistent coaching and development to fine-tune a rep’s skillset so that they’re able to fully realize their potential.

Another way leaders actively shape team performance is by acting as mentors to aid in this development. Consider these stats.

  • “77% of companies report improved sales performance as a result of coaching.”
  • “Companies that provide effective sales coaching can see up to a 16.7% increase in revenue.”
  • “83% of companies said that coaching helps new hires become productive more quickly.”
  • “92.8% of sales leaders believe that sales coaching has a significant impact on sales performance.”

Long story short, solid sales leaders facilitate coaching and development, either doing themselves with a hands-on approach or matching salespeople with other mentors who can help them in their progression.

Building a Positive Culture

I think we can all agree that having a positive company culture is a vital part of long-term success. And what’s one of the most important factors in creating a positive culture?

Strong leadership.

I like to use a pyramid as a metaphor. When you have great senior leaders at the top who are genuinely passionate about their role and committed to helping everyone else around them, it trickles down to managers to supervisors and ultimately to salespeople on the front line.

A leader’s mission, values, engagement, communication, work ethic, and so on spreads downward to every other branch of your company, including your sales team. So to establish a thriving culture, it starts at the top with dedicated leaders who are invested in helping your company succeed.

Adapting to Change

Today’s sales world, and the business world in general, is incredibly complex and ever-changing. Fueled largely by advancing technology, new trends are constantly emerging and entire industries can seemingly go from thriving to defunct overnight. No one is immune.

A huge part of not only adapting to change but thriving amidst it is having strong sales leadership. These individuals can successfully navigate change, plow through setbacks, overcome challenges, and capitalize on new opportunities. When you have people like this in charge of your sales team, it doesn’t matter what’s thrown at you.

Whatever the circumstances, they’re agile enough to make the necessary adjustments and ensure your sales team is equipped to succeed. When compared to a competitor that shirks from change, this can make a world of difference.

Enhancing Sales Team Performance By Finding Elite Sales Managers

In my opinion, sales success almost always requires a top-down approach, where you start by recruiting the cream of the crop sales managers, making this your main priority. Of course, you’ll want to also put plenty of effort into recruiting quality salespeople. But by giving elite management the reigns, the rest will usually fall into place.

Not only will their leadership aid in the areas mentioned above like goal-setting, salesperson coaching, and culture-building, they’ll have a final say in the reps you bring on board when hiring. So by recruiting top sales leaders, you should also be able to recruit top salespeople, creating a positive cycle.

When it comes to attracting, recruiting, and retaining top sales talent at all levels, it’s helpful to use cutting-edge, data-driven technology. With HireDNA, you can find sales leaders by analyzing 26 profile data points to find individuals who are most likely to succeed in your unique sales environment. You can get started with HireDNA here.

Overcoming Common Objections in SaaS Sales: Strategies for Addressing Customer Concerns

Objections in SaaS sales are inevitable. After all, buying a SaaS product is often a big decision, especially when it comes to robust packages that are costly and require extensive effort for implementation.

So it’s only natural that you’ll encounter resistance. It’s just part of the process, and objections should be anticipated, both when a lead is interacting with a salesperson or performing their own individual research.

A big part of overcoming SaaS sales objections, however, is to 1) identify those that are most common and 2) prepare a response for each scenario. That way, you can cover all the bases to keep more leads in the sales funnel and ultimately make more conversions.

Here are some of the most common objections in SaaS sales, along with the appropriate rebuttal.

The Product is Too Expensive

This is one of, if not, the most common barriers to making a sale. Many leads just don’t feel they have the budget to justify buying.

That’s why you should always be ready to tackle this objection head-on.

The best way to go about that is to help leads see the big picture, focusing on the overall value, increased productivity, cost savings, and long-term ROI. Even if your product is more expensive than a major competitor, clearly articulating the core value your SaaS product offers is essential to overcoming this objection.

At HireDNA, for example, we quantify the real-life results our users get from using our product as you can see here.

Why Should We Choose You Over a Competitor?

Let’s be honest. The SaaS industry is incredibly saturated. No matter what niche you’re in, you’re likely up against some stiff competition, with everyone battling for their slice of the market.

Modern SaaS buyers know they have tons of choices. So, naturally, most will examine at least a handful of products before making their final decision.

Further, many will ask themselves or a sales rep why they should choose you over a competitor. So this is an area you should put plenty of effort into — something that online appointment scheduling software Calendly does expertly on their website.

On the Compare page, they provide links to eight separate product comparisons with leading competitors so leads can see firsthand how Calendly stacks up and why they should choose Calendly.

I recommend creating a resource similar to this that leads can browse, as well as having your salespeople fully familiarize themselves with each comparison so they can fire off the benefits of choosing your product at a moment’s notice.

We Need to Try Before We Buy

In the past, many SaaS companies strictly had paid versions of their products, and that was it. But in more recent years, offering a free version has basically become ubiquitous.

“If you’re a growth-stage B2B SaaS, there’s a 71% chance you offer some type of free version of your product—even higher if you’re a Cloud 100 SaaS,” writes Peer Signal. “Why? Removing friction increases growth potential; free is how people want to research and buy software products today.”

With a large percentage of leads wanting to try before they buy, the best way to accommodate them is to offer a free version of your product if you haven’t done so already. Even better, make it so no credit card is required, as popup builder Sleeknote does.

I Don’t Fully Understand How Your SaaS Product Works

Most SaaS products are loaded with features, integrations, and more which contribute to the value. And that’s great.

The only downside is that figuring out a new product can feel overwhelming. And whenever a new client implements a new product, they’re likely to encounter at least some resistance from team members because, after all, they have to learn something new and get out of their comfort zone.

Therefore, this is something you definitely need to address, and make sure you take steps to succinctly explain the fundamentals of how your SaaS product works and why using it is beneficial.

This is another area where Sleeknote excels, where they have a “Learn” section of their website that includes a help center, webinars, and more.

Besides that, they give leads the option of getting their own personal Sleeknote tour.

By clicking here, a person can “Get your tailored introduction to Sleeknote or tons of popup inspiration for your site and book a free personal call.”

The Contract is Too Long

While offering flexible, short-term contract options has pretty much become the norm, I felt this was an important SaaS sales objection to include. That’s because limiting customers to overly lengthy contracts (like annual contracts only) can really put a damper on your conversion rate.

If you’re one of the SaaS companies that only offers annual contracts, I would say it’s almost a necessity to have shorter terms available. While this will likely result in a higher churn rate, it should be beneficial in the long run, as it should get more leads to go ahead and buy.

I like how Zendesk approaches it by giving customers the option of choosing a monthly or annual subscription term and toggling between the two choices to see how much each option costs. For instance, here’s how much a customer will pay for different plans for the platform to support five agents with a monthly contract.

And here’s how much they’ll save if they opt for an annual contract.

Handling Objections in SaaS Sales Like a Pro

Again, SaaS sales objections are unavoidable, and that’s fine. Potential customers should be diligent about researching a potential product and make sure it’s the right fit for them.

Whether one of your salespeople is interacting one-on-one with a lead or a lead is doing their own research, having responses for the objections listed above should help you overcome a lot of resistance, make leads more comfortable with making a purchase, and ultimately boost your conversion rate.

Looking to assemble a team of elite sales reps? Use HireDNA’s cutting-edge technology to attract, retain, and recruit the best of the best.

The Art of Upselling in SaaS Sales: How to Increase Customer Value

We all know that retaining existing customers is more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. But one of the best ways to really boost profitability without a lot of extra effort is using upselling in SaaS sales.

To quantify, research has found that “upselling increases revenue by 10-30% on average,” and “the probability of selling to an existing customer, with whom you have established a relationship, is 60-70%.” Those are some impressive numbers and show firsthand how big of an impact upselling in SaaS sales can have.

For this post, I’ll share with you some practical strategies, along with examples so you’ll know how to implement upselling in your SaaS sales properly.

Identify High-Probability Upsell Opportunities

Just like not all leads are created equal, neither are existing customers from an upsell perspective. By this, I mean that certain segments will have a high likelihood of converting to a more expensive product version while others will only have a low likelihood. So the first step to having success is knowing how to identify high-probability upsell opportunities.

There are a few ways to do that, but here’s what I feel are two of the best.

One is to use analytics to monitor SaaS product usage, behavior, and engagement and then target the segment of customers that rank highly in these areas. If, for example, one customer used your SaaS product daily and took advantage of most of the features, they would be a much better upsell candidate than someone who only logged into your SaaS product weekly and only used a feature or two.

After narrowing down your high-priority list, you could then have your SaaS sales team initiate outreach through each customer’s preferred channel (email, phone, text, etc.). This brings me to my next point.

Personalize Your Outreach

Once you know which customers to reach out to, you’ll need to tailor your outreach to ensure your offerings address each customer’s unique needs. Let’s look at Slack’s pricing options as an example.

Say one of their customers was using the free version. They used Slack consistently but were only running a small team where they could likely gain value from some additional features but didn’t need all the bells and whistles. When performing outreach, a sales rep would likely want to suggest the Pro or Business+ version of Slack, as it offers plenty of great benefits for small businesses.

However, they probably wouldn’t want to suggest Enterprise Grid because this is aimed at much larger companies with extensive needs.

This is a hyper-simple example, but I think you get the idea. The point here is that you should always make personalized upsell offers, as that’s going to A) increase your chances of converting and B) ensure your customers get the maximum value.

Automate Upselling with Triggers

Up until this point, the SaaS upselling outreach methods I’ve discussed have required a manual approach. But for this point, let me talk about automating your upselling.

One of the best ways to do this is by using upselling triggers that let high-potential customers know about relevant offers based on their behaviors. There are two main ways to go about this.

First, you can use native, in-app messaging to encourage customers to upgrade their plan by showing them the benefits they’ll get at the opportune time. This is something Slack does expertly by letting users know when they’re approaching the maximum amount of searchable messages.

While their policy has since changed, it used to be that free users were limited to 10,000 searchable messages. Once they exceeded that limit, some of a user’s older messages were no longer shown.

When a free user approached 10,000 messages, it would trigger Slack to automatically display this upsell that showed the limitations of their free plan.

Users who were interested could simply click “Learn more” and get the full rundown and upgrade.

Convey Value

Once an existing customer has been propositioned for an upsell, they need to understand at a glance the exact value they’ll get from it. The more concise you are about conveying value, the stronger your chances are of converting.

Most SaaS companies that succeed at upselling simply provide a side-by-side comparison so customers can see how one plan differs from the next. AI image generation platform Leonardo, for example, offers a succinct breakdown of different plan benefits.

So if a customer wanted to generate more images per month (which is done with tokens), they may be interested in making the jump from the Apprentice plan, which only offers 8,500 tokens per month to the Artisan plan, which offers 25,000 tokens.

And for customers who are on the fence about an upsell, you can always leverage testimonials or case studies that show how other real-life customers have benefited by making the switch.

Incentivize Upselling Offers

Finally, you can often increase your conversion rate even more by offering targeted incentives, with two of the most popular being a free trial or discount. This is a technique that Leonardo currently uses where they’re giving customers a percentage off when they upgrade product versions.

And to encourage customers to take action right away, you may only want to make your incentives available for a limited time to create a sense of urgency.

Succeeding with Upselling in SaaS Sales

With companies routinely increasing revenue by as much as 30% through upselling in SaaS sales, it’s hard to argue with the impact this technique can have. As long as your customers are genuinely getting more value, it’s the ultimate win-win. It’s just a matter of fleshing out your upselling strategy and taking the right steps to maximize your conversion rate.

Want to find elite SaaS sales reps that can help you close more deals? See how the Original Sales Assessment can help you find the best of the best.

How to Enhance SaaS Sales Performance By Leveraging Key Data

I think we can all agree that efficiently using data is an asset. For perspective, McKinsey & Company reports that “data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times as likely to retain customers, and 19 times more likely to be profitable.” But what are some specific ways you can enhance SaaS sales performance by leveraging data?

That’s what I’ll tackle in this post so we can have a clear understanding of how to put SaaS sales data to use in a practical way. More specifically, I’ll cover core areas of SaaS sales that can be dramatically improved by leveraging key data.

Let’s jump in.

Audience Segmentation

Today’s customer is more sophisticated than ever, with most having incredibly high expectations. This is true in traditional e-commerce, and it’s especially true in SaaS.

One of the best ways to meet or exceed customer expectations is with audience segmentation, as it paves the way for personalization. For reference, “80% of audiences tend to do business with a brand that personalizes their experience with it,” and “80% of companies that use market segmentation report increased sales.”

For example, you could use SaaS sales data to break your audience down into different segments, such as demographics, purchase history, engagement level, product interest, and so on. From there, you could tailor your sales approach to address each segment’s unique needs, thus creating a more enjoyable lead experience and increasing your odds of converting.

Lead Scoring

Your SaaS sales team’s time is valuable. If they spend time pursuing the wrong leads with a low likelihood of converting, they waste time and money, often with nothing to show for it.

On the other hand, if they pursue the right leads — sales qualified leads — with a high interest in buying, your conversion rate can’t help but increase. And you can send leads that aren’t yet sales-ready to your marketing team to be nurtured.

But how do you quantify leads and know who’s sales qualified and who’s only marketing qualified? This can be done with lead scoring.

By assigning leads points based on behaviors like website pages visited, website interactions, and contact methods, you can assign each lead a score.

For instance, a lead that simply read a couple of your blog posts and visited your pricing page would receive a lower score than someone who visited your pricing page, signed up for your newsletter, downloaded a PDF, and contacted you through a web form.

Using lead scoring data like this can be invaluable for identifying which leads to prioritize, which to nurture, and in some cases, which leads will never close.

Customer Journey Analysis

Every customer journey consists of a series of touchpoints. From the very first time someone learns about your SaaS product to the moment they actually buy, there’s a customer journey that takes place in between.

The better you understand the customer journey, the smoother you can make it. In turn, this creates a better customer experience, which sets the tone for more SaaS sales. And in the grand scheme of things, this can factor into deeper customer loyalty because it creates a great first impression, which will make many customers want to stick around longer, renew their subscriptions, become brand ambassadors, and more.

Another key way to enhance SaaS sales performance with data is through customer journey analytics, which “is the process of identifying customer touchpoints and understanding how they affect customer experiences and business outcomes.”

Here’s an example of what that looks like using a customer journey analytics platform like Woopra.

Using data like this gives you a bird’s-eye view of each customer touchpoint end-to-end so you can understand the customer journey on a granular level. This brings us to our next point.

Identifying Friction Points That Lead to Drop-off

By having customer journey analysis data, you can see exactly where leads are dropping off in the sales process.

Say, for example, there’s a higher-than-average drop-off from the sales demo to the free trial signup. There’s a smooth transition from one touchpoint to another throughout the rest of the customer journey, but your data shows that not as many leads are signing up for your free trial as there should be.

This would signify that your sales demo could use improvement. As a result, you could zero in on your sales demo further to figure out what’s wrong and come up with a solution. Then, once you optimize your sales demo, this hiccup in the customer journey should be resolved, and an increase in conversions should occur.

Identifying Strengths in the Customer Journey

Besides spotting friction points, you can also use customer journey analysis data to determine what you’re doing right.

Say that a higher-than-average number of leads are moving from your pricing page to requesting a demo. This would indicate that the core elements of your pricing page like design, informational structure, layout, CTA, and so on are working well and leads are responding favorably.

In this case, you’d likely want to leave your pricing page alone, as it’s already getting results. Also, you could analyze your current pricing page so you can pinpoint precisely what’s working for future purposes.

For instance, you could take screenshots and share this information with new members of your sales team.

Using Key Data to Enhance SaaS Sales Performance

There’s no denying the impact that data can have on SaaS sales performance. Companies that use it intelligently have a much greater advantage over those that merely “rely on a hunch.”

By understanding tangible ways to put data to use and which areas to focus on, you should be able to get the most from your SaaS sales team and make everyone’s life easier, while simultaneously creating the best possible customer experience for the ultimate win-win.

To build an elite sales team, register with HireDNA today. This software uses cutting-edge, science-based technology to find the best of the best salespeople.

High-Performing SaaS Sales Teams Are 2.3x More Likely to Use This Technique

A term you’ll hear me use a lot on this blog is trusted advisor. In our modern era, leads no longer respond to high-pressure sales tactics where reps aggressively push products on them. 

It’s just not something most people will put up with. Rather, they respond positively when a rep assumes the role of trusted advisor, with 88% of leads saying they’re “only willing to buy” under this condition. 

And this brings me to the focus of this post. High-performing SaaS sales teams use one particular technique above all others to be seen as a trust advisor — guided selling.

Two Eye-Popping Stats

In her post 26 Sales Statistics That Prove Selling is Changing, Tiffany Bova of Salesforce drops two stats that I found incredibly interesting. 

First, “high-performing sales teams are 2.3x more likely than underperforming teams to use guided selling.” And second, “over the next three years, sales teams at all performance levels anticipate that guided selling and coaching capabilities will grow by 98%.”

Mic drop. 

The numbers speak for themselves here, and this data clearly shows the correlation between guided selling and sales teams performing at an elite level. Those that use this potent strategy outperform their non-guided selling counterparts by a wide margin. And all sales teams, regardless of performance level, expect guided selling to grow by a staggering 98% over the next three years. 

Keep in mind Bova wrote this post in January 2019, so the end of the three year span she mentioned will be in early 2022.

The bottom line is:

  • Using guide selling has been proven to get massive results
  • Most top sales teams currently use it, while most under-performers do not
  • The implementation of guided selling is growing like crazy

What Exactly is Guided Selling?

While you probably have a general idea of what guided selling is, it’s a technique that can be a little murky to some. Just so we’re totally clear, allow me to explain exactly what it is within a SaaS context.  

Simply put, guided selling is a process that helps SaaS leads find the optimal software product based on their specific needs. 

“In today’s completely saturated markets full of similar and competing products, combined with the mass amount of information freely available, buyers are easily and quickly overwhelmed with data,” explains revenue acceleration platform ringDNA. “This huge amount of information, which can be both honest and dishonest, may lead a buyer down a path towards a product that is not the best for them.”

And that’s where guided selling comes in. 

It “connects the buyer with a genuine consultant that delivers to them the products and services that are the best possible fit for their needs.”

Rather than sales reps offering SaaS products based on what they merely speculate the lead needs and using obnoxiously aggressive tactics, they take a consultative approach and work alongside the buyer to guide them to the right product that’s the best fit for their company. In other words, it’s about closely examining the buyer’s situation to help match them with the right SaaS product instead of just going for the “fast sale.”

The Essentials of Guided Selling

The practice of guided selling has evolved a lot over the years. This graphic from digital transformation brand Brillio provides a brief overview of how it’s gone from the pre-sales tool era where reps based their selling on the personal understanding of customers, to using basic sales tools, to using sales intelligence, to where it is today in the age of customer experience. 

Now there are incredibly sophisticated AI and ML-based tools that allow SaaS sales reps to provide a next-level personalized experience and match leads with the absolute best products for their business. 

But here’s the thing. Tools like these are nice and can have a big impact on your sales team’s performance, but I don’t personally believe they’re necessary for guided selling.

At the end of the day, being successful largely boils down to following three key tactics. 

  1.  Ensure Your Reps Know Their Stuff

Perhaps the most important part of guided selling is making sure your salespeople know your products inside and out. If there’s any confusion as to which SaaS product is best for which demographic in which circumstance, your reps are going to struggle. 

That’s why they need to be subject matter experts and understand how everything comes together in your sales ecosystem. Nailing that is half the battle.  

  1. Be Radically Transparent with Leads

As I said earlier, the whole purpose of guided selling is to create a process that enables a buyer to find the product that best suits their needs. And a big part of that is being transparent. 

Sales meeting scheduling app Chili Piper, for example, gives their leads a side-by-side comparison of their different products, along with specific features and integrations. 

That way leads can see firsthand if a lower priced product will be sufficient for their needs. Other brands even go so far as to offer a competitor’s product to provide a more thorough understanding — something that when executed correctly can be a major trust builder. 

  1. Give Leads What They Truly Need, Not What Necessarily Generates the Most Revenue

This may go against the fundamentals of best business practices, but hear me out. Guided selling is all about the long game where you build trust, which not only increases the odds of making an initial sale, but often leads to repeat sales, less churn, and deeper loyalty. 

So when you think of it like this, you see the value of pointing leads to the best product for them rather than what’s going to lead to the largest immediate sale. 

Aligning Your Sales Strategy With What Top Performing Teams Are Doing

Sales has evolved dramatically in the 21st century, with guided selling being one of the most undeniable trends. With high-performing SaaS sales teams being 2.3x more likely to use it than underperformers, it’s obviously worth your attention. Understanding the essentials of guided selling and adhering to a few core concepts should help you make the transition to this model more easily and position your sales team for success. 

Looking to build a stronger sales team from the ground up? See how HireDNA can help you attract and recruit A+ candidates and eliminate 96% of hiring mistakes. 

Top Skills Sales Managers Assess Based on In-Depth Data

In my last post, I discussed that having the ability to close was the number one skill top sales managers assessed in salespeople. This was the most important metric for 70% of sales managers. And it’s easy to see why given how critical closing deals is to profitability and the overall success of a company. 

I got my data from a survey conducted by digital learning and enablement platform Allego. Their data is incredibly robust, and while the ability to close was one of their main points of emphasis, there’s still a lot left to unpack. 

So for this post, I’d like to dive even deeper and go over all of the top skills sales managers assess, which is eight in total. Let’s jump right in. 

The 8 Top Sales Skills

In Allego’s survey, they determined which specific sales skills were most essential to sales managers, both when considering potential candidates for new hires, as well as assessing current team members. “We looked at the eight key aspects of sales competency including sales planning, prospecting, qualifying pipeline, pitching to prospects, negotiating contracts, closing deals, managing customers, and retaining customers,” they explain

As I mentioned in the intro, having the ability to close was the number one skill assessed by 70% of respondents. 

But just after that was the ability to prospect new opportunities at 69%. 

This indicates that the beginning and end of the sales process are the most critical areas of sales competency to measure. The best salespeople are able to effectively prospect new leads, move them efficiently through the sales cycle, and ultimately close. 

After that is the ability to retain existing clients at 59%. 

Churn is an inevitable part of running any type of business, especially a SaaS company. But it’s obviously something that needs to be kept in check, and sales managers will invariably want to seek out salespeople that help them retain the maximum number of customers. 

If you’re wondering, a retention rate of 35% over an eight-week period is considered elite for SaaS and e-commerce companies, so that’s a good number to shoot for. Here’s a graph that perfectly illustrates minimal churn (SaaS is the blue line and e-commerce is the orange line). 

Next is the ability to pitch a solution at 53%.  

Let’s be honest. Pitching isn’t easy, and there’s a serious art to it. Although having detailed product knowledge and providing salespeople with a formula and script to go off is a huge help and something I personally recommend, some reps are naturally better at it than others. 

When it comes to cold, hard selling, I honestly believe there’s only so much you can teach a rep. That’s why I consider having innate selling skills to be more important than extensive industry/product experience. Anyone can learn a product, but few people are A+ rockstars. So, it’s not surprising that having the ability to pitch is such a coveted sales skill. 

After that is the ability to qualify new deals at 52%. 

A qualified prospect is someone “who has a high probability of becoming a customer,” Zorian Rotenberg of HubSpot writes. “An opportunity should have a pain point your product or service can solve and an interest in the offering. Salespeople should ensure the opportunity is a good-fit for what they’re selling.”

Otherwise, your rep is basically wasting their time, which is why this is another key skill sales managers assess. 

This is followed by the ability to negotiate and the ability to plan strategically, which are both at 50%. 

When it comes to negotiation, reps will often be placed in tricky situations where they may need to adjust pricing, features, etc., on the fly to successfully close deals while at the same time remaining within the accepted parameters of your company. Because this has such a strong impact on closing deals, it’s easy to see why it’s such a major metric for sales managers. 

As for the ability to plan strategically, it’s a competency that affects virtually every aspect of a rep’s sales approach. From determining how to effectively qualify leads to building a script for pitching products to communicating with customers post-sale, reps need to have a clear strategy in place at all times. 

Finally, there’s effective time management at 46%. 

You may have heard the stat that nearly 65% of an average rep’s time is spent on non-revenue generating activities, such as administrative tasks and downtime activities like checking social media. While I personally think that number may be a little inflated, it definitely illustrates the importance of effective time management, which is why this skill made the list. 

Let’s Recap

The top eight skills sales managers assess in reps breaks down like this:

  1. Ability to close – 70%
  2. Ability to prospect new opportunities – 69%
  3. Ability to retain existing clients – 59%
  4. Ability to pitch a solution – 53%
  5. Ability to qualify new deals – 52%
  6. Ability to negotiate – 50%
  7. Ability to plan strategically – 50%
  8. Effective time management – 46%

While there are a ton of factors that determine how likely a salesperson is to succeed, these eight skills are the ones top sales managers focus on the most. So, if you’re looking to identify the best of the best metrics for gauging candidates during the hiring process, or if you’re assessing the performance of current team members, these are excellent metrics to examine.

Looking for a surefire way to find elite level sales talent to close more deals and take your business to the next level? Check out HireDNA today. Brands that use HireDNA are able to eliminate 96% of hiring mistakes, and 92% of candidates recommended through it are top performers within their first year. 

Track the Most Important Aspects of Your SaaS Sales Team’s Performance with These Essential KPIs

Data is power in the SaaS sales world. It’s really that simple. 

“High performing sales teams (the top 24% of more than 2,900 sales professionals surveyed) are 1.5x more likely to base forecasts on data-driven insights,” explains Tiffani Bova of Salesforce. On the other hand, low performing sales teams are 1.7x more likely to base their decisions on intuition. 

To extract your SaaS sales team’s full potential and truly fire on all cylinders, you’ll want to be meticulous about tracking their performance. Here are the most essential KPIs to pay attention to. 

Average Lead Response Time

I think one of the most overlooked, yet vitally important metrics, is average lead response time. 

Here’s why.

78% of customers buy from the first SaaS company that reaches out to them. 

It’s not rocket science. The first vendor that initiates contact is the first company a lead seriously considers. They learn about the brand’s products, offerings, UVP, and so on, giving the company a chance to create valuable trust and rapport with the lead before anyone else does. 

Look at how lead conversion rates increase with the less amount of time that elapses before the first outreach attempt. 

Calling within an hour improves conversions by 36%, which is okay. 

But look what happens when you call within 30 minutes. It jumps to 62%. Call within 3 minutes, it climbs to 98%. Call within 2 minutes, and it’s 160%. 

And here’s the kicker. Call within 1 minute, and it’s a face melting 391%! 

This straight up shows the importance of A) knowing your sales team’s average lead response time and B) doing everything you can to increase it. For advice on how to do this, check out this previous post I wrote on how you can easily beat 55% of your competitors by improving your lead response time. 

Lead to Customer Conversion Rate

The SaaS customer journey can be broken down into two main phases. There’s the visitor to lead phase, which your marketing team is primarily responsible for. And there’s the lead to customer phase, which falls into the hands of your sales team. 

It’s the latter that we’re interested in here. One of the absolute most important metrics is what percentage of leads your SaaS sales team converts into customers. 

This is a reflection of:

  • How good they are at qualifying leads
  • The quality level of core sales activities like follow-up emails and phone calls
  • How well they give demos
  • Their ability to build trust and rapport
  • How good they are at moving leads efficiently through the sales funnel

To calculate lead to customer conversion rate, divide your number of conversions by your total number of leads and multiply that number by 100. If, for example, you had 100 leads and 5 ended up buying, your lead to customer conversion rate would be 5%. 

By the way, if you’re wondering, the typical SaaS conversion rate for most companies ranges from 3-5%, while top performing teams reach around 8%. 

Average Sales Cycle Length

Next, there’s how long it takes your SaaS sales team to close a deal. Needless to say, the quicker they’re able to move someone from being a lead to a paying customer, the better. Not only does this positively impact overall revenue, it means your reps can move onto other leads, and in turn, make ever more sales. 

So, you’ll want to monitor how long it takes, on average, for someone to go from being a lead to buying your product — a KPI known as average sales cycle length. 

Note that the average sales cycle length gets longer with the pricier a SaaS product is. According to SaaS Metrics, benchmarks break down like this:

  • Deals ~$2,000 typically close within 14 days
  • Deals ~$5,000 close within 30 days
  • Deals ~$25,000 close within 90 days

Monthly Recurring Revenue

At first glance, monthly recurring revenue (MRR) may not seem all that relevant to a SaaS sales team’s performance. After all, MRR doesn’t kick in until after customers hang around a while. 

But it’s an extremely vital metric for the simple fact that it shows what your sales team’s long-term progress looks like. If there’s a noticeable increase in your MRR, for example, it shows your reps are nailing it and reaching or exceeding their quotas. Otherwise, if your MRR flatlines or declines, it’s tangible proof that adjustments need to be made. 

In terms of factors that contribute to MRR, some of the biggest are your number of new customers and how adept your reps are at upselling and cross-selling. Along with that, it can provide insight on how strong their relationship-building skills are because the churn rate and number of referrals contribute to MRR as well. 

And this metric is super easy to calculate. Just multiply your total number of active customers by the average amount billed. 

Note that most experts consider 10% month-over-month MRR to be strong. But if you can hit 15-20% for six months or longer, then you can pretty much bet that you’ve got a winning sales process on your hands. 

Taking Your SaaS Sales Team’s Performance to the Next Level

Like I said earlier, top tier SaaS sales teams rely on data-driven insights to continually improve and refine their strategies. Low performing sales teams rely on a hunch. 

With a wealth of data available, it’s possible to track virtually every aspect of your team’s performance. The specific KPIs I suggest focusing on are:

  • Average lead response time
  • Lead to customer conversion rate
  • Average sales cycle length
  • Monthly recurring revenue

This should give you a bird’s eye view of what their current performance is like and help you identify precise areas for improvement so everyone can collectively level up. 

Looking to recruit the best of the best SaaS salespeople in your industry? Learn how HireDNA can help you build a stronger sales team using a verified network of sales recruitment experts, along with science-based assessments and intelligent matching. 

Tips to Cut New Sales Rep Ramp Time by 50%

How Long Does it Take the Average Sales Rep to Reach Their Maximum Potential?

Sales rep development can be both costly and time-consuming. Training alone costs an average of nearly $1,900 per salesperson for companies with less than 500 employees. 

And when you factor in the time spent recruiting, onboarding, and ongoing development, it’s clear that getting a new sales rep up to speed can be quite onerous. So, a common question many companies have is, “How long does it take the average sales rep to reach their maximum potential?”

Let’s find out by synthesizing the findings from a few different studies. 

Looking to the Data

One study by independent research firm, CSO Insights, found that it takes a minimum of seven months for salespeople to reach full productivity. Of the businesses surveyed, 61% said it takes at least this long for investments they make in reps to pay off. 

A second study by the Sales Management Association (SMA) found that it takes a bit longer at just over 11 months for a new sales rep to become fully productive. 

And a third study from sales training and consulting firm, RAIN Group, found that it’s even longer and takes more like 15 months. Although it takes around 9 months for a new sales rep to become “competent to perform,” it takes well over a year before they hit their full stride. 

Ask different experts and you’ll get different answers, but after crunching the numbers, we can surmise that it takes around 11 months or so for the average sales rep to reach their maximum potential. 

11 Months? That’s a While!

I was personally a little surprised that it takes this long, and I’m sure many other companies feel the same. But it makes sense when you consider all of the steps a new salesperson has to go through to get in the groove. 

They have to:

  • Not only learn your industry and product but eventually master it
  • Understand the greater context of how your product fits in with the needs of prospects
  • Learn your brand’s core values and philosophy
  • Master the product demo
  • Build initial rapport with your customers
  • Nurture relationships
  • And so on

When you unpack everything, it’s easy to see why it takes nearly a year for the average sales rep to reach their full potential. 

How to Accelerate Sales Rep Development

So, what can you do to hasten the process and get a salesperson firing on all cylinders more quickly? 

Mike Schultz, president of RAIN Group, boils it down to focusing on two main things — strengthening your onboarding and sales enablement. 

“With a strong onboarding and sales enablement process, this timeframe can be shortened considerably,” Schultz writes. “We’ve seen ramp-up time cut by greater than 50% when companies hone in on improving in this area, increasing seller effectiveness, and correlating turnover of sellers for whom getting up to speed was taking too long.”

In terms of specific actions, you’ll want to first identify the skills that are most essential to your sales team’s success and make those focal points during onboarding and continually reinforce them during the subsequent phases of a rep’s development. Schultz also suggests systematically teaching additional skills as a rep becomes more comfortable in their position. This allows you to effectively distill foundational knowledge and gradually build upon it over time. 

Finally, Schultz emphasizes the importance of holding sales reps accountable when using those skills. One of the best ways to do this is to use tangible metrics such as a leaderboard like this that shows performance.

This creates a high level of transparency, while at the same time creating some friendly competition — something many reps thrive on. In fact, research found that 55% of salespeople enjoy a competitive environment. 

“A well-built curriculum not only shortens ramp-up time,” Schultz says, “but also transforms sellers into top performers.”

Besides developing a strong onboarding and sales enablement process, there’s one last thing I’d like to suggest, which I’ve personally had a lot of success with. And that’s hiring sales candidates with amazing selling skills over those who simply possess a wealth of industry knowledge. 

From my experience, I’ve found that most people can be trained on products, but very few people have naturally outstanding sales talent. Unfortunately, many companies hinder the growth of their sales team because they zero in solely on finding candidates with X years of industry knowledge. 

Like I said in a previous post, as long as someone knows how to sell and will sell, their skills are usually transferable, and they’re likely to thrive in less time than it would take if you have to teach someone to sell from scratch. 

So, this is definitely something to keep in mind. 

Building a Framework to Help Sales Reps Succeed

Although the findings vary somewhat from study to study, research suggests that it takes most sales reps somewhere around 11 months to really get going. And that’s longer than what I think most sales leaders would prefer. 

That’s why it’s important to consciously look for ways to expedite that process — something that can usually be done through a strong onboarding and sales enablement process. That alone has the potential to cut salesperson development time in half. 

Also, don’t get so fixated on industry knowledge that you pass up A+ salespeople with transferable experience. These types of reps should be able to climb the ranks faster and have a much higher ceiling than their counterparts who simply possess a ton of industry knowledge but are only mediocre at selling. 

sales rep ramp time

A great way to do that and find the best of the best is by using a hiring tool like HireDNA. It uses science-based assessments based on 21 core selling competencies and intelligent matching that analyzes 20 key data points to help you filter through the candidate pool and find high-level salespeople, while saving you a ton of time.

How to Onboard New Salespeople 100% Virtually

Largely fueled by COVID-19, a growing number of companies are making the shift to a fully remote workforce. According to a recent Willis Towers Watson report, “Employers expect 19% of their workforce to be full-time employees working from home post-COVID-19” — nearly three times what it was in 2019 at just 7%.

Just like with any other type of position, new salespeople who will be working remotely need effective onboarding. Here’s how to tackle this process 100% virtually and set your salespeople up for success

Start By Amassing the Right Combination of Tools

The success and efficiency of your digital onboarding largely hinges upon the tools you use. Therefore, you need to find the right combination and make adjustments along the way. 

One of the best platforms for creating a streamlined onboarding process is Kissflow. It allows you to easily manage every aspect of onboarding and make it systematized for a homogeneous experience for all of your reps. 

Or as they put it, “Keep the onboarding process paperless and free from human intervention with online onboarding and workflows.”

Among its many features, there’s an employee self-service area where new salespeople can submit documents, find information, speak with other team members, and more. 

For basic communication, there’s Slack which allows you to conveniently send messages, share files, and keep new salespeople in the loop. Create different channels and ensure new reps are on the same page with your sales leaders every step of the way. 

And for all of your video conferencing needs, there’s Zoom, which is the most popular option with nearly 43% of the market share as of mid-2020. This is the perfect platform for holding video calls during the onboarding process and building strong rapport (something we’ll discuss in more detail later on). 

For an exhaustive list of other tools you can use to facilitate smoother virtual onboarding, check out this resource from Time Doctor

Send Out a “What to Expect” Email

Since there will never be any in-person interaction, it’s easy for miscommunications to happen. So, soon after a new salesperson has officially been hired, send them an email welcoming them to the team along with a detailed outline of what to expect from that point until they’re actually selling. 

For instance, you’ll want to include the exact date and time onboarding will begin. And you’ll want to provide an outline of what will happen throughout each day of onboarding. Here’s a quick example of how LinkedIn approaches their virtual program.

You may also want to mention the technology you’ll be using, both for onboarding and for day-to-day activities, along with login information so new salespeople can get familiar with it ahead of time. The more transparent you are, the smoother the onboarding should go and the less potential for glitches there will be. 

Create a Robust Online Learning Hub

Another essential part of providing streamlined onboarding is developing a robust online educational resource that’s available 24/7 to answer a new rep’s questions and direct them to helpful content. This is a growing trend where “many of today’s leading cloud-based companies, such as Uber, Shopify, Airbnb, Salesforce, and HubSpot, are strengthening their businesses with effective online learning resource centers,” explains Dan Westmoreland of eLearning Industry

Some common types of content that are featured in these hubs include:

  • Sales courses
  • Educational videos 
  • Webinars
  • Media files
  • Blog posts
  • eBooks
  • Answers to FAQs

Some companies even have discussion boards and forums where salespeople can share their experiences with one another and sales leaders can offer insights.

So, how do you get an online resource hub like this set up? Use a learning management system like TalentLMS or LearnUpon to create a fully customized library. 

Break Down Training Sessions Over the Course of a Week

Most experts agree that trying to jam a ton of in-depth training into a single day is ineffective, especially when it’s online. If possible, it’s much better to break down your virtual training into multiple sessions throughout the week. 

“Spreading the process over a longer period of time enables hiring managers to address issues and make improvements if something is not working,” says Vicki Chabot of The Enterprisers Project. “It also reduces the stress that a new hire might feel working from home, especially if they are juggling responsibilities with children, partners, and pets while also attempting to absorb new information.”

You might, for example, spend the first day going over the basics like a salesperson’s role, job description, and your company culture. From there, you could move on to more advanced topics like the products you sell, the specific sales techniques your company uses, and so on. 

Have Sales Leaders Speak Regularly with New Salespeople Through Video

Earlier, we touched briefly on using Zoom as a platform for video conferencing. While email and messaging apps like Slack are generally fine for basic communication, experts recommend making it a point to have sales leaders maintain contact with new reps via video throughout the duration of the onboarding process.

That’s because “using video can improve engagement during calls and helps managers/trainers pick up on non-verbal cues (i.e. facial expressions and body language) which is important throughout training and gauging comprehension,” writes Angela Hughes of Acceleration Partners

Onboarding in a Remote Sales World

With nearly a fifth of all salespeople being fully remote in 2021 — and no doubt more in the future — many sales leaders need to make some radical changes to the way they onboard. And often that means making the onboarding process 100% virtual. 

Doing so effectively requires sales leaders to use the right combination of technology, set clear expectations right from the start, provide new salespeople with comprehensive online resources, spread out training sessions, and use video to stay in close contact with reps.

See how HireDNA can help you build a stronger sales team by using cutting-edge technology to find ultra talented reps. Book a demo today

An Employer’s Step-By-Step Guide to Developing a Sales Performance Improvement Plan

When a sales rep is noticeably underperforming, you have two choices. 

1) Let them go and find a replacement, or 2) create a sales performance improvement plan (PIP) to help them get back on track. 

Considering the average cost of hiring a new sales rep is about $15,000, plus $20,000 in training, choosing the latter option is often the best choice, especially when a person shows promise.

Here’s an actionable, step-by-step guide to developing a rock solid sales PIP to maximize a rep’s potential, help them boost their confidence, and coach them into a sales powerhouse. 

Step 1 – Examine Their Sales Funnel

In some cases, the main reason for underperformance is simply a leak in their sales funnel. If there’s a particular stage where a large number of leads are dropping out, you’ll want to identify it. 

Maybe, for example, you find that after providing a demo, the rep’s leads aren’t converting like they should. When done correctly, “a demo video can increase conversions by 85%.” But if it’s not hitting the mark and is low quality, doesn’t fully explain the benefits of your product, or is too long, it can result in leads backing out prematurely. 

Research has found that nearly 40% of leads lose interest once a video hits two minutes in length. 

So, the first step is to get a bird’s eye view of your sales funnel and see if there are any changes you can make to put your rep in a better position to succeed. 

Step 2 – Look at Lost Opportunities

Next, you can gain insight by analyzing key opportunities a rep has lost in the past. Examine at least five situations, and patterns should emerge. 

For instance, maybe there’s a trend where using a particular sales technique, like being too pushy and trying to force the sale, is turning leads off. 

Step 3 – Get to the Root of the Problem

The data gathered on lost opportunities combined with leaks in the sales funnel should provide you with a clear vantage point on the exact cause behind a sales rep’s low performance. 

Beyond that, you’ll want to see if there are any other factors behind it, such as:

  • The rep is experiencing personal issues that are negatively impacting their performance
  • They didn’t receive adequate training and coaching
  • They don’t have the right incentive to operate at their best 
  • Their confidence was shaken after losing a major deal 

To streamline the evaluation of your sales team, you can use a tool like HireDNA to identify weaknesses and generate concrete data for crystal clear insights. 

Then, put all of this information together to get to the root of the problem, as this will shape the specific path you take with the rest of your sales PIP. 

Step 4 – Set Quantifiable Goals

At this point, you’ll want to clearly state where your rep is currently at in terms of their sales performance and where they need to be. To do this effectively, you’ll need to set quantifiable goals so a rep knows what your expectations are. 

Here’s a simple example. Say that the rep has a volume-based sales quota, which is measured by the number of products they sell or the total revenue they generate for a particular period. They’re currently only selling an average of 30 products each month, but they need to sell 40. 

This would mean they’re only hitting 75% of their quota, so they need to increase their sales by 25%. Having a clear number like this shows a rep exactly how much they need to improve, which eliminates any ambiguities or confusion. To make this process more manageable, it’s wise to break large goals into smaller sub-goals.

Here are some examples:

  • Connect with at least 35 leads per week — 7 per day 
  • Show at least 10 demos per week — 2 per day
  • Spend at least 3 hours each day speaking with leads over the phone or on video conferencing software 

Step 5 – Provide Reps With the Right Tools and Resources

Once you’ve outlined the level a rep needs to get to, it’s up to you to help them get there. For instance, you could provide them with continuous sales training by assigning them a mentor and giving them access to an online education portal. This alone, can result in up to 50% higher net sales per employee. 

Or, you could give them a cutting-edge sales tool, such as a mobile CRM, that helps reps manage leads more efficiently, so they can spend less time on redundant tasks like data entry and more time selling. Research has found that for companies that use a mobile CRM, 65% of reps hit their sales quotas, whereas only 22% of reps reach their target without one. 

Step 6 – Motivate

Another integral part of the process is figuring out how to effectively motivate each rep. At the end of the day, much of their output hinges upon motivation, so you need to know what they’ll truly respond to.

According to The Harvard Business Review, here are some specific motivation strategies that work best:

  • Don’t place a cap on commissions – A study found that this keeps most salespeople motivated and increases revenue by around 9%. 
  • Offer quarterly bonuses rather than annual ones – “They help laggards contribute to the bottom line without detracting from the performance of other groups.”
  • Make employee recognition part of your company cultureNearly 70% of reps say they would work harder if they felt more appreciated. 

Step 7 – Measure

And finally, track their progress at logical intervals. For example, look at KPIs two weeks after implementing the sales PIP, after one month, after two months, and so on. 

This will let you know precisely how much progress a rep has made and if additional improvements are necessary. 

Developing a Winning Sales PIP

Firing a rep for underperforming is seldom a recipe for success, and is both costly and time-consuming. Instead, it often makes more sense to enhance a rep’s performance by creating a sales PIP. 

In many cases, this not only gets them up to par with the rest of your team, it allows you to extract their full potential, which improves your company’s bottom line. 

HireDNA is a platform that’s designed to optimize recruiting and build a stronger sales team. Learn how HireDNA’s assessment tools can help you perform individual performance evaluations, while taking a science-based approach.