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Six Common Reasons SaaS Sales Plans Fail

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Are you going to hit your 2016 sales goal? If not, do you know why? As you finish planning your 2017 sales goals, here are six common mistakes you can easily avoid with a good plan for your sales organization.

1. Setting quotas too high

It’s great to aim high, but if you build your hiring plan and sales goals around unrealistic quotas (and quota attainment percentages), you put yourself at risk of not hiring enough reps. And by the time you realize this, it might be too late to catch up. Lots of sales planning advice is based on high-ACV enterprise sales where quotas are often $1M or higher. But if your ACV is lower or you are in the early stages of figuring out your sales process, realistic quotas will likely be significantly lower. SaaS-focused VCs Jason Lemkin and Tomasz Tunguz do a great job explaining the numbers behind quotas in the $3k-20k ACV range.

2. Not accounting for how long it takes to hire

One of the most common mistakes is underestimating how long it will take to hire people. Once you have your hiring calendar figured out, make sure you start the process well enough in advance so you can get staffed up in time. Otherwise you’ll be playing catchup all year. The importance of this is echoed by many SaaS experts.

3. Assuming all hires are fully productive

In a growing startup, your sales team will always be a mix of people ranging from brand new hires to experienced veterans. And it’s going to take time before they all become fully productive. Make sure you take this into account in your planning so you’re always hiring in time to have enough fully productive team members when you need them. And invest in your on-boarding and training programs – getting employees fully ramped up faster will have a material impact on your ability to make your goals.

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4. Not planning for attrition

This one is very simple, but often overlooked. Some sales employees don’t work out and need to be let go. And some employees will leave for different opportunities. Don’t forget about this when developing your hiring plan for each role. On the flip side, don’t accept high attrition rates as a given. Jason Lemkin shares some great thoughts on that topic.

5. Not adequately staffing up non-quota roles

Sales is a team sport. SDRs (or BDRs or LDRs) are needed to generate and qualify leads. Sales Engineers are often needed for demos. Sales management is needed to guide the team and priorities. Customer success/support is needed to keep customers happy and churn rates down. It’s very common to see sales plans focused on hiring the right number of quota-carrying sales reps/account execs, but neglect the supporting roles. Which can lead to a bottleneck in the process, unhappy customers, unhappy sales teams, and missed plans. Make sure you understand all the resource dependencies in your organization and plan for them as well.

6. Not generating enough leads

It doesn’t matter if you have the best SDR team qualifying leads and the best reps closing deals if you’re not generating enough leads to fill the top of the funnel. Otherwise your team will be spending time prospecting that could be better spent moving deals through the funnel. And make sure you monitor and adjust this over time. As you increase the scale of lead generation efforts, your lead quality may not stay at the same levels. This means you may need more leads than initially planned – realizing this as early as possible is key to keeping the sales machine running smoothly.

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How to prepare and build your plan so you don’t make these mistakes

This all comes down to having the right sales capacity at the right time. It doesn’t matter how well you execute if you don’t have enough resources in your sales organization to reach your goals. And good planning is key to understanding which hires you need and when you’ll need them. Here are some excellent resources to help you get started building your plan:

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© Mattermark 2017. Sources: Mattermark Research, Crunchbase, AngelList.
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