SaaS sales team structuring

Sammy is the Managing Director and Cofounder of Blossom Street Ventures.  Connect on LinkedIn or email him directly at, especially founders.


I just finished reading Strategies That Win Sales by Mark Marone & Seleste Lunsford.  It’s worth a deeper read, and below are some of our favorite excerpts.


Support depends on complexity.  “Organizations with highly technical products will require live support through distributors or in-house sales representatives, whereas those who sell less complex product sets may benefit from self-service channels.”


Make sure the sales team has a travel budget.  “Face-to-face will always have more intimacy. Customers will always tend to cut it short when you are on the phone.”


Channel sales requiring giving up brand control.  “While such partnerships can be a tremendous asset toward cost-effectively gaining greater market coverage and presence, they also can reduce control over the brand experience and ultimately inhibit an organization’s goal for creating intimacy with its end users.”


Channel sales aren’t a free lunch.  “Although a way to cost-effectively expand coverage, organizations should not underestimate the resources required to manage indirect sales resources. Once the decision is made to leverage these kinds of relationships, the selling organization will often need to support its partners with product knowledge training, marketing materials, industry information, and even sales or management skills training. Furthermore, these relationships frequently require a sales resource to manage them.”


Customer Success should not be responsible for upgrades.  “The biggest issue is that the service personnel often are not comfortable with the idea of selling and can be very resistant to it. Additionally, compensation and performance evaluation can be barriers. Many times customer service agents are evaluated by their ability to resolve customer issues quickly. So it can be confusing as a service representative to be instructed to try to get a customer off the phone as quickly as possible and at the same time cross-sell them.”


Sales teams are constantly evolving.  “What was consistent was that almost every organization we talked to was in the midst of restructuring their sales force and, furthermore, the constant changes in customer expectations, solution sets, and channel strategies render it very unlikely that any sales force deployment strategy could be considered permanent.”


Selling by product line is inferior.  “Deploying a sales force by product line is one of the most traditional ways to go about allocating resources. It is beneficial in supplying high levels of product expertise to buying organizations. As organizations merge and extend solution sets into numerous lines, however, it becomes less common as a primary strategy.  As a result of these mergers and investments, some of the sales organizations we studied found themselves in situations where they were deploying multiple sales representatives into the same customer account, each selling a different set of products. This created inefficiencies.  It is beneficial in cases where the product sales and implementation may be highly technical or a great deal of product detail is involved in the buying process.”


Vertical sales strategy is best.  “Deploying sales resources against specific customer segments that exhibit common characteristics can be useful in creating specialization within the sales force and supporting organizational initiatives around customer centricity.  Vertical strategy offers many advantages by being able to link solutions to specific business issues that will resonate with members of an industry and give organizations an advantage over generalist competitors.  Sales resources deployed against vertical structures are usually deeply embedded in the industry having worked in it prior.”


Geographic sales can work as well.  “Segmenting sales teams by geography allows for extensive coverage, increased face time, and local responsiveness to customer issues. This strategy works best in situations where the sales force is tasked with selling a relatively homogenous product set to a broad customer base.”


AE’s and SDR’s are becoming common.  “Some organizations are returning to a method of deploying sales resources based on their activity or role in the sales cycle. The most common method is called “hunters/farmers.”  From the human capital perspective, it requires a detailed skills assessment and the creation of job profiles, as well as revising performance management and other systems.”


Sell a solution, not a product.  “Within a consultative sales cycle, all sales conversations revolve around a customer need. This is a marked departure from the “product push” approach that still dominates many sales calls today. More specifically, the core of a sales call will be a mutual exchange of information where the salesperson uncovers and develops an understanding of customer needs (or helps the customer become aware of a need). Thus selling becomes a two-way street.”


Again selling a solution is far more effective.  “The language the salesperson uses to provide information to the customer should be benefit-orientated – not feature-orientated – and linked to these needs. It’s the difference between a digital camera “with 3 megapixels and 3×2 optical zoom” and one that “will allow you to take high-resolution pictures of your upcoming cruise vacation.” Both are accurate statements but the latter helps the buyer see how the product will help meet needs.”


The RFP was structured by a competitor if not by you.  “Unless a salesperson becomes involved with an account prior to the RFP being released, there is a significantly lower chance of winning the sale.”
Customer Success is critical and valuable.  “According to the study, customers said they would pay more if they could get excellent after-sales service, and they placed premium value on service and product reputation. In fact, service was the most important factor they valued from their vendor organization.”