Q: Dear SaaStr: What screams “I’m a terrible salesperson”?

A few telltale signs of a rep that isn’t going to succeed:
  • Immediate, massive discounting. Because they have no other idea how to close a deal or create urgency.
  • Doesn’t understand the product. Way too many AEs don’t even really understand, let alone use, the product they are selling.
  • Fear of the competition. This is different than respect. The best salespeople respect the competition, and see it as a game to beat them. Even sometimes where maybe they’d otherwise lose.
  • Blames others. They blame marketing, or the leads, or the lack of support. It’s usually all true, but still.
  • No updates or the exact same updates again and again. A terrible or even mediocre salesperson just plain has no updates to share.
  • Badmouths their boss. This accomplishes nothing. It’s really another type of excuse.
  • Doesn’t know. A bad salesperson doesn’t know who their key buyer is in a big deal. Or who the other stakeholders are. Or how far along the deal is. Or if or when it will close.
  • Doesn’t believe. It’s really hard to sell a product you don’t believe in. Sales is hard enough as it is.

When you see a lot of this behavior, it isn’t going to work out.  You made a mis-hire.  It’s time to stop wasting leads there.

Now … in an early-stage startup, a lot of this list may not be fixable.  But training can help, to some extent.  You need to try.  The #1 thing you can do is train your reps.  You have to at least train reps 3-300.  Most can’t train themselves.

Now next … let’s dig into the 9 things the best reps do here:

  1. Really, truly listen. Mediocre sales reps just start diving into their script, and try not to deviate from it. Great salespeople learn their prospects’ needs, issues, and pain.
  2. Adjust the pitch and story to suit the prospect. Every prospect is a bit different, and sometimes, a lot different. The best reps tailor the pitch, the demo, the functionality shares, the case studies, etc. to suit the needs of the prospect.
  3. Treat all prospects and customers as important. Reps make more money on bigger deals — but the best reps never make you feel that way. Somehow.
  4. Help you. For real. The best SaaS sales reps are mini-solution architects. They help the prospect figure out the best ways to use the product to help solve their problem. How to do a pilot. Who to socialize it with, and where to get buy-in.  Enterprise buyers love a truly great sales rep, because they make their life easier.  The rep is their agent.
  5. Know the product cold. You’d be surprised how many sales reps don’t.
  6. Create urgency. This is hard. No one really needs to buy anything today — at least, not usually. The best reps create urgency when really there often isn’t any.
  7. Prepare. The best reps prepare for a meeting. They research their prospect. Figure out what they might really need.
  8. Map out all the key stakeholders — and sell to all of them. In any bigger deal, multiple stakeholders will exist on the customer side. Mediocre reps just sell to whoever seems to be leading the initiative. Better reps get the buy-in from everyone that matters.
  9. Efficient with their time. The best reps just get more meetings, more demos, more interactions done. And that doesn’t mean working 4,000 hours a year.

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