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Sales, Training

Stop the Sales Hacking

Jacco van der Kooij

Written by Jacco van der Kooij

Founder, Winning by Design


Okay now that I got your attention – I don’t really mean to totally stop it.  What I mean is that we have to stop using it as if it is the only sales tool.

Occasionally hacking can be provocative and it will bring you some results – however many SaaS companies employ inside sales teams, who without training and powered by the latest sales tools, have exclusively turned to sales hacking as their only sales growth strategy.

Sales Hacking is a sales tactic not a growth strategy.

Over the past week I presented to CEOs and Marketing & Sales leaders in Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, and San Francisco and shared the following insights.


#1. The 20/80 rule does not apply in most SaaS Sales

In B2B Enterprise Sales we traditionally perform based on the 20/80 rule, where 20% of the staff is responsible for 80% of the number.  As long as you have a big enough staff you will have at least 1 superstar, also known as a rainmaker or A-performer.

These superstars outperform everyone else.  This is the person that “keeps the lights on” and losing that person will make you lose your mind.  Coincidently these are also the toughest, most stubborn people to manage. Rightfully so.

In SaaS sales however its more like 80/80.  Meaning that in SaaS to hit the monthly targets we are dependent on the other 80% of the sales staff to hit target.

In SaaS we are dependent on 80% of the B-performers to hit quota!

#2. Weeks on the job SDRs are tasked to call on a CxO 

In traditional B2B sales, it takes a sales professional years to master CxO sales.  Today we are expecting inside sales teams, weeks on the job, to call on a CxO to setup meetings.  This approach does not bring great results.

As a result the SDRs turn to the internet where they find best practices on stalking powered by the latest sales tools.  This does bring results but at a horrible efficiency rate.  And worse, this industrial grade stalking, is discussed as having adversely impacting the results!


#3. Shortening employment of SDR/AEs require a new approach

The right way to solve this is for sales managers is to train the SDR and AE sales teams. However employment length of SDRs and AEs are challenging the fabric of sales organizations on training and enablement.  The average employment length in Bay Area SaaS companies has dropped to 9-12 months for an SDR and 12-18 months for an AE.

You can’t train someone for months, to only see them move on a few months later.

We need to adopt a new training model. This problem is not unique to B2B sales organization, and solutions to this problem can be found in other areas that experience the very same problem. Here is the shortcut to the solution that provide detailed insights how you can Stop the sales hacking.

#4. Sales organizations traditionally lack training infrastructure

Most sales organizations lack a structured design to cope with such a change.  Today sales organizations are build block by block, with each block based on best practices, there is no blueprint behind the design.

As a result many sales organizational structures look like a piece of art.  In these organizations training is an after thought that happens once a year at the Sales Kick Off.  90% of the knowledge is lost within 30 days.  As a result we lack RoI for a sales training.  Chicken let me introduce you to the egg.

#5. Lack of training results in Sales Hacking

What do young inside sales professionals do to solve their problem? They go online to seek a solution to “how to develop leads”.  Here they find lots of insights how to hack, and in particular volume based sales tactics.

In these volume based sales tactics we treat sales as a black box, all leads are equal, we apply scripts to the leads and “voila” 1 out of a 1,000 turn into a “Sales Qualified Lead”.

Dear {{first name}}, we can personalize emails for you at {{company}}.

This is NOT personalization – this is SPAMMING.  With as many as 200 leads “processed” each day, 3 days a week (Tue/Wed/Thu) a single SDR likely needs thousands of inbound leads per month. Multiple this by SDRs = WTF!


#6. Faking it leads to a downward spiral

To improve these results under deteriorating quality of leads Sales Hackers have developed tricks – e.g. how to:

  • fake to have insights,
  • fake to know you,
  • fake to care,
  • fake to have had a conversation.

Seasoned emailers (all of us) have turned a deaf ear to all this noise, or worse hold a grudge against the company that does this to them saying “I will never do business with a company that fakes me into..”.

Due to declining results, an uneducated sales organizations determines they need more SDRs to hit the desired outcome (SQLs), replaces untrained staff etc.  This cascades into an increase in demand for SDRs, which in turn is driving up the demand = driving up the price for an SDR.

We’ve encountered several $100,000 SDR compensation packages over the last weeks.  However quality of those SDRs continues to fall off.

Early 2014 an outbound SDR* generated about 20-25 SQLs per month.  Today this has dropped to about half (12).

*This applies to an SDR using outbound selling a platform service

Same result. Different problem.

We now once again, see unpredictable sales results from the sales organization.  The untrained sales leader mistakes this for the “inside sales model is not working“, and fires the leadership, and starts brutally managing SDRs on performance.  In reality this is all due to “operator error“.


How do we fix this?

The answer on how to fix this is simple, we need to train todays sales teams.  By clicking on the picture below you will get 5 simple lessons I’ve learned the hard way in training inside sales organization.

Click here to learn how to fix this “Stop the sales hacking“. Hint – it’s not the model. You need to train your staff, but this is a lot easier than you think!

Do you want to learn more?

These and many more insights on how to build, and operate a scalable SaaS organization can be found in the book, Blueprints for a SaaS Sales Organization“, available on Amazon.

This hardcover coffee table sized book (144 pages) provides a series of highly detailed blueprints on how to design, implement and launch a scalable SaaS Sales organization, and is based on insights gained from working with 50+ companies in the past 24 months.