So over the past few weeks I’ve had discussions with 3 good revenue leaders and execs and 2 marketing execs that either left their roles or were let go.
None of these folks am I super close to, but all of them I’ve known just enough over time to know they are at least good. Great? I don’t know them well enough. But I do know they are good. Good enough to do well, make good money, and add real value in SaaS.
But they all came up short in their current roles. At first blush, the reason was “macro” or the economy or things got tougher this year. All true.
Since I knew these execs all a bit though, I pushed further. The one I knew the best was the first to admit it:
”I didn’t really get to know the product until it was too late.”
Now I push here again and again and I see this as a top cause of flame-out these days. In 2020-2021, you could sell and market a product you only sort of knew. The demand was already there, and often red hot. You could just run the standard playbook from your last job and it would almost always just work.
And what that meant is folks just sort of shoot from the hip when they took a new role. They didn’t dig deep, especially when the next company they worked at was:
- a more complicated product
- a different buyer / ICP
- a more enterprise or longer sales cycle
- a more competitive space
- a weaker brand to sell behind
And just like many employers stopped doing reference checks, and VCs funded startups in a week or even a day, sales and marketing execs stopped going the extra yard to really know if they truly understood the product and problem they were about to be selling and marketing.
I remember I first started to see this with one company I invested in where some folks described it as “Gong for XYZ”. That sounded great, and was very easy to understand. And it particularly appealed to SaaS execs because everyone knows Gong. The problem? It was only about 30% true. Yes, there was some overlap in technology for a different industry. But the sale is much more complicated, and different, and to a very, very different buyer. I began to see folks who joined and kept calling it “Gong for XYZ” … all fail. They never even really learned the product.
So in Tougher Times for Many, let me boil this down to one key suggestion. I know great jobs are harder to find. But … here it is:
Don’t Actually Take That SaaS Job Unless You Truly Know the Product First.
You can interview. You can talk comp. You can even get an offer letter. But don’t sign and please don’t start unless you truly consider yourself a mini-expert already.
Too many sales and marketing and CS execs just think they will pick it up once they start. Maybe. But even if you do, that will put you behind 60-90-120 days. No one has that time anymore. Numbers are harder to hit. And more likely, these days, you’ll just flame out.
Put in the time. Go to the webinars. Read everything. Ask the questions. Attend an internal meeting or two. Put together a list of 10 Things I Still Don’t Understand Yet and get those questions answered. Don’t skip the steps here. And whatever you do, be thoughtful about taking a job selling or marketing a product that is more complicated and nuanced than what you’ve sold or marketed before. You can probably do it, but not without working a lot harder upfront. Folks really miss this.
Otherwise, you may just never get there in today’s tougher environment. A sales rep, a marketer, that doesn’t truly get the product today? I often see zero points put up.
A related post here: