So a lot of folks on social media talk about more work-life balance in SaaS, and I totally get it.  Every month, every quarter, the number needs to go up in sales.  Layoffs in some cases have been brutal.  The pressure can be intense, and even if it’s not intense, it’s just … there.  Especially in venture-backed startups with high growth expectations.  “Unicorn” sounded like a rite of passage in 2021.  Fast forward to today, being part of a “unicorn” can seem like a great weight on the shoulders.

One thing I’ve seen as a result is folks in sales truly willing to trade less comp for less work. 

For the first time in my career.

For years, reps all seemed to want top comp, period.  Work hard, play hard.  Leaderboards.  Internal competition.  Who made the most last month.  The big SKO blow outs.

And in 2021, all everyone seemed to want was higher and higher OTEs, often fueled by bigger and bigger venture rounds.  Some still do.  But others want a saner approach to sales, both at the AE and the VP level.

It first I think showed up in the explosion of side hustles.  We’ve also seen it in the deep appeal (if limited success stories) of solopreneurs.  Everyone for a while wanted to sell courses.

Today, it may evolve into just finding roles:

  • with lower OTEs — and lower quotas; and/or
  • at bootstrapped startups, which while just as intense in many cases, don’t have true VC pressures; and/or
  • working simpler jobs than before.

I’m not sure where this trend will keep going.  But 2021 was about The Ever Higher OTE.  2024 may be about, in part, More Time for Decent Enough Comp.

Startups or at least scale-ups may need to learn to accommodate this now, too.  Perhaps more reps, making less, with lower quotas.  Right now, I’m not sure,

But it does seem to be a trend.

The only advice I can give folks is you can’t have it all.  

Truly high comp requires high output.  Not always the maximum hours, but maximum output.  Be it closed deals, or pipeline generated, or features shipped.   But perhaps folks are realizing that now, and are more comfortable with lower comp for mid-pack output.

Just remember there are limits.  I recently chatted with a seasoned sales exec who was moving on to his next role.  He was well paid, respected, and more or less enjoyed his current role.  And we was leaving for a much lower playing role, with less autonomy.  So why was he leaving?  He said he needed more family time.  Understood. I asked him how much family time he had now.  “I work from home.  Too much.”, he said.

It’s complicated.

(Slowdown from here)

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