In praise of the so-so salesperson
“If you can’t successfully build a business with average salespeople, then you’re really going to struggle,” says Kevin Beales. “Because there’s not that many rock stars out there.”
Beales is a co-founder of Refract, which tags video for coaching purposes. Coaching was a frequent task for Beales when he was a SaaS sales manager.
Since his sales days, Beales has started several Enterprise SaaS companies of his own. “You obviously aspire to recruit rock stars,” he continues. “But if you can’t make average work for your growth model, then you’ve got a more fundamental issue.”
Why you need an average salesperson
Beales argues that the business models and plans of most SaaS companies, especially those at the early stage, assume that you have better than average salespeople, and that they never leave. Business plans also seem to assume that nobody ever gets sick or takes a holiday, but that’s a different story.
“You need to manage out under-performance,” he says. “But the churn that you would have within a sales team of rock stars is going to ensure slow growth. A third of the people that we hire aren’t going to last six months. That’s not built into your model, but that obviously comes at a cost of money and time.”
Beales started The Test Factory, which provides online assessment tests, before Refract. “The very first sales employee, I’d worked with previously,” he says. “I would describe him as an average salesperson. I knew he wasn’t a rock star, but I equally knew he wasn’t an under-performer. I felt he was capable of getting me results and it was therefore a safe option at the most risky stage of a SaaS business.”
The average benchmark
Beales had another reason for hiring his rather mediocre colleague. He became the benchmark for average performance. “Whether it goes brilliantly well or not brilliantly well, how much is the product? How much is the market? How much is the person?” says Beales. “I knew the person was average, so therefore I knew I could take that variable out of it and that I could build and scale the model based on the product-market fit.”
Sometimes it’s good for business to be just ok.