A little ways back I put together a list of things sales reps recently said to me as a buyer of SaaS products … that killed the deal:

  • “You are wasting my time”. I don’t think many folks say this aloud to prospects, but many B-tier reps say it internally — and think this all the time. No.   A prospect’s time is always valuable. Sales is there to serve, and help a prospect find the best solution to their problem. If sales was routed the wrong lead, that’s the company’s fault, not the prospect’s.
  • “Our product does [key feature]” — when it doesn’t. If I’m buying a product I haven’t used before, the AE is my guide. If he/she tells me things that aren’t true to close the deal, I’m out. I’m buying a solution. I need to know for real if it solves my problem — or not.
  • Constant bashing of competitors. Not only does that make the company look insecure — it makes me want to go test the competitor instead. Even worse (see prior point) is when they say something about a competitor that isn’t true.
  • Forcing me to talk to an SDR first. SDRs are great, but oftentimes SMBs don’t want to be qualified.  Personally, I want to try, use, and buy. I lose patience here and move to a vendor I can just deploy without being forced to talk to an SDR that just wants to force me to get on the phone and screen me but doesn’t get me going now.
  • Wrong / painful economic terms, even if price itself is OK. I’m basically an SMB these days. I don’t like annual contracts, and I especially don’t like being railroaded into enterprise-type contracts — multi-year with no outs. I don’t have patience for any contract that is so long it requires legal review. Let the buyer buy the way they want. And let especially SMBs out if you don’t deliver for them.
  • “I’m turning off your trial” — and other threats. Yes, you have to do that. But a sales rep needs to do it the right way. Threats don’t work. How about “Your trial is about to end — I can extend it a week if that helps? Let me know what I can do to help you get going with us!” Then — I’m in.

We could make a much longer list together.  The meta-learning is how important training your reps is, especially after the first few.  The first few usually learn by osmosis.  You train them yourself.  Everyone’s listening to each other.  But as you scale, that doesn’t work.  New reps will just make things up if you don’t train them well.  Or worse.

So just a few thoughts here:

  • An untrained rep will kill a deal a trained rep can definitely close.  That’s the biggest takeaway for everyone.  Train the reps well in Week 1 — and that’s a lot fewer blown leads.  Most of us don’t train reps enough.  But the ROI here is huge.  It will increase your Revenue Per Lead substantially in the first few sales cycles for each new rep.
  • Use a tool like Gong to hear if your reps say stuff like this. Then — make sure they don’t anymore.  You’ll be surprised what your mid-pack and worse reps especially say.  They’ll often say terrible and wrong things.  Threaten prospects (see above).  You might think you’ve screened this all out in the hiring process, but oftentimes you haven’t.   You gotta listen to the calls.
  • Create clear rules and SLAs.  When and how discounting is allowed.  When trials can be extended.  When an untouched lead is automatically routed to another rep.
  • And you gotta read their emails, too.  Even some of your top performers (albeit to a lesser extent).  Read a subset of your reps’ emails, and make sure they are logged in Salesforce.  They’ll also type things that are simply wrong or troubling, especially as pressure to hit the number for the month / quarter mounts.

Take the time to make sure your top brand ambassadors — your sales team — are doing that job first.  They are the first human point of contact for your brand, after all.

Yes, sales has to close.  And yes, that’s hard.  But in SaaS, a great rep is an enabler for the prospect.  She explains if the product is a good fit.  Helps you think about how to onboard it and use, and mold it to your use case.  And even — tells you if it’s not the right fit today.  Because maybe later, it will be.

(note: an updated SaaStr Classic post)

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