Hiring effective people that compliment an efficient team is one of the greatest challenges faced by SaaS companies. As such, onboarding has become one of the most critical growth steps for new businesses. Here's exactly what you need to do when you're looking for new hires...
The SaaS world is constantly evolving and lead generation, sales, and customer support is more critical here than in nearly any other enterprise. Accordingly, SaaS businesses must be extremely discriminating about who they hire.
But what does that mean?
Experience shows that hiring the optimal team for your SaaS business doesn’t necessarily mean hiring top-percentile graduates from the most prestigious colleges; it doesn’t mean hiring the person who looks best on paper. Instead, building the perfect SaaS team depends on hiring the right personalities for your business.
At the end of the day, your company is built on people and character, not on resumes.
This strategy may go against the grain of some traditional hiring practices, but just like SaaS is constantly maturing and developing, so too must team who supports your business. While there is plenty to be said of the applicant who looks perfect on paper, relying only on these proofs is an error that will erode your team, your process, and ultimately your business.
Plus, if you’re a SaaS founder reading this article, it’s likely your business is a startup or is still in the early stages of establishing roots in your market. In the majority of cases, that also means you can’t afford a fortune-500 sales rep. But, honestly, that’s good for you. A fortune-500 master-of-sales wouldn’t fit your business and neither party would be satisfied with the results.
Instead, you need people with characteristics that look a lot like you and your startup-- you need tooth-and-nail, self-starting, firecrackers that sense big opportunity in your big idea.
So, instead of checking boxes based on fluffy criteria, here is a sassier hiring strategy that will help you bring the best people for your business onto your team. These are the real-life traits you need to look for from the people you hire.
We Need to Talk About Your Process
Interviewing and Onboarding are Super Important
As it turns out, the most important element of finding the perfect people for your SaaS team is your process. Yep. It all comes back to you (and hiring mistakes are NOT the fault of the people you hire-- they’re yours).
This means your hiring process determines the effectiveness of the individuals you hire, and so does your onboarding/training process, and so does the team structure and work process into which you place your new people.
So, like so many other things in SaaS, when hiring the optimal team, you need to start at the very, very start of things, aka your hiring process.
SaaS Hiring Strategy (in a nutshell)
Do Everything With Intention
Pre Hiring: Know exactly what you want at the outset of your hiring process. This means, know what you want from your process, too. Create a document outlining what you need to do to recruit the right people in the right position.
That document should be flexible, and should grow with you as your business and your experience evolves. Take note of things that worked great, eliminate things that didn’t, and add new strategies as appropriate.
What else? You also need to have a plan in place for your new recruits. You need training materials, product information, timeframes, and clear expectations. You need to create an atmosphere that good people are excited to work in, and a structure that assures good people that there are good things in store for them at your company.
Remember, you build the team and the team builds your business.
Hiring by Position (in a nutshell)
Hmmm… The word has kind-of an “off” flavor. But only because so many people do it wrong. Don’t be one of those people. Instead, bring people onto your sales team that possess the following...
100%, Backward-and-Forward, Total Comprehension of Your Product
Duh, right? That seems like a thing that shouldn’t need to be said, and yet we’ve all talked to that sales rep who has effectively zero comprehension of the product or service he’s trying to get your money for. And that sucks.
Before you unleash your new sales reps into the real world of selling your product to real users, give them adequate time, materials and resources to understand it.
But that’s not all. To truly sell something, your team needs to know and appreciate the VALUE of the thing they’re selling, too. So your sales team must not only know your product literally, they must understand the root, transformative benefits your product offers ideal clients.
This leads us directly into the next point…
Intimate Understanding of the Consumer (for 2 reasons)
- 1 - Have you ever been talked at? That thing where someone just yammers at you without any regard for YOU? That’s painful and no one on Earth enjoys it.
If, instead, your sales people can talk TO your prospects, if they can speak their language, and identify and understand their pain points, consumer response is staggering.
When your sales team can authentically communicate to prospects the unique benefits your product will deliver, how those things will improve their lives, and do so in a way that resonates with them personally, they will close sales. Boom. They’ll seal-the-deal and your new clients will feel awesome about it.
- 2 - When your sales team understands your consumer, they will also understand who’s not your consumer. And, like it or not, you don’t really want to sell to someone who doesn’t NEED your product. If someone doesn’t need your product, they’re not going to benefit from it and they’re not going to keep it.
As you can see, selling to that person is ultimately a waste of time and resources. It results in churn and reduced customer retention. That’s bad.
But selling to people who do truly need and benefit from your product results in higher customer retention, more satisfied users, and greater long-term value of each new client.
Passion for and Proficiency with Tech
To sell software, you have to be really excited about software. Not just the service you’re selling, but you have to know the market. A person might be able to sell motorcycles better than any other person alive, but he might really stink at pushing software. It would be a bad fit.
The person selling your SaaS is talking directly to a very technical market, and if they can’t keep up the consumer, your consumer is going to walk away.
This seems like another no-brainer, but your sales team is often the face of your company. Make sure they can represent you properly in both written and spoken communication.
Often this position is lumped into sales. And sometimes that’s okay. But as your SaaS company grows, your team must grow with it, and a solid customer success team is vital to the overall success of your business.
In fact, investing in a customer success team will improve your business. A lot.
Why? Because ultimately the success of your SaaS company is about the success of your users. And the lifetime value of your customers increases when your users are happy. It’s simple; the more successful your customers are, the happier they are with your product, the better your business is going to perform now and over time. This also leads to greater customer retention.
As you go forward, a customer success team can also help you with product development and product validation. There’s really only one thing more powerful than that for your business and that thing is deep, resonant relationships with your clients. Your customer support team does that, too.
So they’re super important. Here’s what to look for to ensure you trust the right people with that level of responsibility…
Of course, you want experience across the board, but in customer support experience makes an incredible difference. Look for someone who has previously succeeded in customer relations, someone who has handled messy situations and understand how to turn them into opportunities.
Attitude is everything; especially so in a customer success role. You need to be sure your product is represented with good energy, positivity, and by good people with genuinely helpful temperaments. Smiles really are contagious, and your clients will be more loyal to a company that they feel happy working with.
Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
In a customer success roll, you need people who can walk a mile in your clients’ shoes. You need people who can form bonds with your clients, and who will go out of their way to improve client experience.
You need people who can read a “vibe” and ride it or repair it as necessary.
You need to find someone who is great at engaging with other people. Ultimately, THAT is their job. Be sure you hire people that are strong communicators, good listeners, and pleasant socializers.
You won’t gain exposure without a good marketer. But being “good” at marketing is a lot more than just understanding the goal, it’s fully grasping the process by which that goal is achieved.
For marketers, this means getting deeply personal with your prospects, with their goals, their values, their beliefs and their pain points. Accordingly, you should require the same innate characteristics in your marketers that you do from great customer success agents.
In addition to optimism, empathy, high emotional intelligence, and excellent communication skills (especially written, here’s what you need to look for when you’re ready to introduce a marketing department to your SaaS business…
Marketing is almost singularly about building trust in your brand and creating more interest in your product than your prospect will have for any other product on the market. That’s a tall order, and great marketers need to be dang clever to get into a person’s psyche, make best-friends with them, convince them of new things (including spending their time and money on your product), all while making that prospect feel like they’re making the smartest decision of their lives.
Oh, and in a culture where people require instant gratification and have the attention span of a finger swipe, marketers usually have to do all of that within a piece of media your prospect will be exposed to for one second. Maybe even less...
Needless to say, you need a scrappy, creative, super deep-thinker to achieve that. Often the best marketers are the ones who, creatively, go against the grain.
Getting attention is hard, and while it can be beneficial to be flamboyant, it’s never okay to mislead prospects. Marketers must always use the truth to gain leads, and must always deliver on promises.
Marketing is a lot about getting personal with your market, but it’s also about reading the metrics. Great marketers need to be able to measure their results and test new approaches. If your marketers can’t find or understand the data to inform and measure their efforts, they’re just going to chase their tails.
Similarly, marketers need a grasp on social media, how it works, and how to engage prospects in various social platforms. Each major social media platform works differently and people behave differently within them. Great marketers will understand why, and what assets will be most beneficial or effective in any given channel.
Marketers Need to Ask “Why?”
Lastly, a truly great marketer will want to know “why” for just about everything. And that’s a good thing. Why is the most important question a marketer can ask...
Why do you like this and not that?
Why did this work and that didn’t?
Why does that thing exist?
Why does someone want this thing?
Why do you believe this or that?
Why did this thing affect you?
There are so many “whys,” and knowing the answer will help marketing do everything more effectively.
Hiring great engineers at any level is tricky, but there is no role as important to fill properly as that of your CTO. Depending on the stage of your SaaS business you or a technical co-founder may currently be fulfilling the CTO duties (which are many), but eventually, you will need to delegate that position.
When that time comes, here are the things you want from a formidable CTO…
While it’s said there are exceptions to every rule, you do not want to hire a spring chicken as your CTO. Instead, you need to find someone with senior experience. In a perfect situation, you can promote your own senior developer.
In either case, pursue a senior engineer who is willing and ready to take the next step in his career. Find someone hungry enough to take on the managerial pressures of this role but mature enough to understand the responsibilities of acting CTO.
Speaking of pressures… if possible, it’s also wise to seek a CTO who has been part of a growing team. Scaling a SaaS is complex, and it’s difficult. If you can find a CTO who knows the ropes, he’ll be a lot more worth his salary and, he might even make you more worth yours. Having experience on your side will round-out teams and help you grow more sustainably.
The enemy of progress is someone who thinks they already know everything. Don’t hire a CTO who believes they have all the answers. Instead, look for someone with an inquisitive character, someone who pursues understanding and resourcefulness.
There is no room in SaaS for someone who doesn’t evolve, adapt, and ask questions.
A coder who uses only one language or is only skilled in one technology is already outdated. Pursue a CTO that is versed in multiple languages and comfortable working in multiple environments.
Similarly, your CTO can’t be afraid of calling the shots with your dev team. This is an executive level position, with high-stakes consequences; new CTOs need to step up the the task. This isn’t just pay raise, it’s a role with tremendous influence.
A good CTO is always learning. In this position, you want someone who is still titillated by new tech, and still pushing themselves to discover new things. Otherwise, you have a dud devising your technical strategy and that’s bad.
If you need to hire coders in addition to a CTO, try looking to a fellow SaaS business-- a team you can hire on a subscription basis who delivers working software regularly. A team like DevSquad. Learn more about how that works here.
Oh, SaaS Founder! This is a hard one because usually the head-of-product and/or product development is you.
But if you’re looking to hand-over the reigns or expand this area into a department, you need to hire people who unequivocally fit the desired culture of your company. Especially as you start scaling your SaaS business, you and your product team need to be 200% aligned. You need to be soulmates. You need to work together, travel together, breathe together, brainstorm together, and absolutely trust each other.
At the end of the day, you need your product manager to speak for you. You have to bring-on someone with whom you perfectly jel. Not just kinda jel, perfectly jel.
Furthermore, a product lead or product development team needs to be the bridge between your vision and the rest of your SaaS team. This means they need to be able to speak for both halves of the fold-- they need to articulate your vision to the team and, when necessary, they need to be able to communicate to you what is or isn’t possible for your team to achieve.
When discord arises between you and the product manager/team, things can get really ugly. Hire wisely, and always be accountable for your half of the relationship.
You see, hiring great people for your SaaS business is all about people. It’s about characters and personalities.
When you’re crafting your hiring process, your training/onboarding process, and your work process, seek to find and empower the people who make your business possible. Of course you can still look for the bullet points you need on a resume but, ultimately, you should select the people who’s individual traits will best support your SasS business.