The structure of a business-to-business sales team will vary greatly from one company to another. And to make it more complex it’s often the case that some members of the sales team may have a dual role, such as a Branch Manager, Technical Specialist or Consultant.
Sometimes the composition of the sales team has developed organically as the business has grown, or as a result of the technical expertise required for the products or services being sold. In this sort of ‘organic’ environment, without any specific guidance from management, individuals may have been left alone to develop their own style, which isn’t always a productive approach when it comes to the overall effectiveness of the sales team.
For B2B SaaS sales
A challenge with SaaS sales is the client (‘client’ is nicer than ‘user’) will usually need to change their way of doing things to utilise the new software. After all, that’s the point of moving to SaaS or cloud services, to change existing processes.
Sure, the client may be better off by making that change, but any change requires extra management attention and creates possible risks. This can increase friction in the sales process. Hence the need for SaaS providers to focus on sales relationships, not just be selling a software solution.
In particular Sales Managers in SaaS companies need to recognise the traits within their team that will help them navigate the various client relationships in their industry to achieve their account growth, Annual Customer Value, churn and MRR targets.
SaaS sales teams are often structured around basic roles of:
- Lead generation – which is a marketing activity
- Sales Development Rep (SDR), outbound or inbound – to qualify the lead
- Business Development Manager (BDM) or Account Manager (AM) – to provide a demo, presentation or review and gain commitment
- Customer Success Team – to ensure smooth on-boarding and adoption
Even though the roles may be clear, the style of individuals on the team can vary widely.
The 4 sales styles
From working with many sales teams it has been observed there are four likely styles you may find on a business-to-business sales team. As a Sales Leader, the real questions to ask yourself are, “Who do I need on my team?” and “Do I have them?”
The four sales styles are:
- The Hunter
- The Farmer
- The Shopkeeper
- The Hippie
The need for each style will vary from team to team and will also vary based on the degree of sales responsibility that sits with each team member. However in most cases the need for proactive sales activity means there are two styles which are usually more productive in any team. Read on to find out which ones they are.
The challenge of overcoming initial inertia, breaking through the status quo barrier, and creating activity where at first there was none, is something that will excite the Hunter style of seller. They will respond positively to the time pressures of getting results sooner rather than later.
Once the momentum is happening the Hunter will start to get bored. That’s to be expected! Time for a new challenge – they’ll find another prospect and get them moving.
Good Hunters are quite independent and can easily separate from client relationships when needed. This is important as the Hunter will probably need to pass on the account once the initial agreement and momentum is achieved.
The Farmer style of seller takes on the newly active account and nurtures the relationship. They’re expert at taking the momentum established by the Hunter and unearthing future opportunities. They develop an advanced understanding of the client so they know what their goals are and how they can best help them as individuals. Effective Farmers take control of the account in a professional, ‘trusted adviser’ manner.
In these relationships there is usually a mutual understanding of goals and requirements of the customer, and a large amount of cooperation between the Farmer and customer over an extended period of time.
For larger accounts Farmers may even develop a Major Account Plan to guide the future path of communications.
Shopkeepers love to have all the latest products sitting on their ‘shelf’ (for SaaS that is having as many product features as possible). They love the feeling of having something to offer everyone. They might even ask the boss to purchase more products with better/different features, or give the dev team a stream of suggestions, in an effort to add to their current stock holding. After all, they think, it’s easier to sell when you have exactly what the customer wants.
However, as Shopkeepers they have a tendency to wait… They put their stock of products (or features) on the shelf and wait for customers to ask for it.
And, if someone does come in through the shopfront (in person or over the phone) and asks about one of those products the Shopkeeper can recall volumes of information about it, reciting performance data and specifications. But they usually hesitate to ask questions that could advance their understanding of the customers situation and potential needs.
Unfortunately, whilst Shopkeepers like to think they have good relationships with customers because they offer great ‘customer service’ and plenty of information, they often do little, if any, proactive work to foster that relationship.
How do you know if a team member has a Hippie mindset? They love to develop free-flowing relationships with others including colleagues and especially clients. They likely do a lot of talking with clients, try hard to be their friend, and strive to create a safe zone for communications where there is no sales pressure, where they and their customer are fully at ease.
In the context of a sales team the Hippie can be defined as:
- Seeking spontaneity, preferring to react rather than think/plan ahead
- Rejecting or avoiding established expectations and processes, preferring to find their own way
- Wanting to develop strong personal relations even at the expense of sales results
However, because Hippies want to be caring, friendly and supportive, they are rarely proactive or bold in their approach, and as a result new sales opportunities easily pass them by.
Who to have on your B2B or SaaS sales team?
Of the four styles discussed in this article, only the Hunter and Farmer roles are consistently proactive, each in their own way. Importantly, you need all team members to have business acumen and emotional intelligence to maximise their potential to positively influence clients and create the best outcomes for your company.
A word of caution about stereotypes:
The labels of Hunter and Farmer have been in the sales lexicon for many years. The Hunter has been stereotyped as being aggressive, urgent and “in for the kill”. Whilst the Farmer has been characterised as taking a softly-softly approach and “planting seeds” for future harvest.
However the modern version of these roles is far more complex and nuanced. Hunters must be more sensitive to the longer-term impact of their actions, decisions and promises. Farmers must get results sooner whilst still developing a strong relationship with the client.
What about Hippies and Shopkeepers?
In a modern B2B sales team you’ll probably struggle to find a useful place for a Hippie. These days customers expect more, and the competition is usually offering it if you don’t. If you already have a Hippie on the team you’ll need to assess their suitability, willingness, and capability to transition into another role, likely as a Farmer. The other option (as harsh as it sounds) is to consider removing them from the sales team, as it is highly unlikely that a Hippie will have the inherent personal traits to successfully transition into a Hunter role. Maybe they could excel in a customer service role?
With regard to the Shopkeeper, there may be a place for the Shopkeeper within your company, possibly in a sales enablement or sales support function (especially in a SaaS business) where the focus is more on working with features and specifications of your products or services, to support the sales team with accurate information.
What will work for your team?
It is recognised that each company will need their own mix of styles on the sales team that works for their customer relationships and business operations. When it comes to managing your SaaS or business-to-business sales team there is rarely a simple one-size-fits-all solution.
If you would like to discuss the effectiveness of your sales team you’re invited to get in touch and arrange a complimentary review session.