Your business is starting to grow and need to ramp your hiring. It is critical to get the right few people at the start in important leadership roles because they will be responsible for building out their respective teams in turn. Better choices at the beginning will make for a better team from top to bottom.
But SaaS businesses also have a number of differences from other startups, especially around managing sales and customers. So your customer support and sales teams are of special importance. There are also nuances to engineering, infrastructure and product that you should be aware of.
When it comes to building out and structuring SaaS teams, sales, customer success and support are going to be your biggest and most critical teams.
It’s important to emphasize that customer success is going to be part of the role every single hire you make in a SaaS business. An overview of the steps along the way from employee training, pre-sale content and visuals, onboarding engagement and retention maintenance are critical to success.
Finally, insights into the team structure will assist in determining what functions and in what numbers you should hire. Breaking down the needs in the areas of product development, engineering, marketing, sales, services and finance/administration will best educate the overall employee headcount and where most support is required.
Once you’ve got some idea of where you need to hire it is time to move onto the specific characteristics you need to look for in each role. We’ve broken that advice down into sales hiring, CTO, marketing and product hires below.
Hiring for a sales leader and for sales reps in a SaaS business is key because you need people who understand that they are selling a long-term value proposition and a relationship rather than just a product.
An SaaS salesperson should not only be fluent in the company’s technology and understand the value of the product but also understand the ideal customer and keep their long-term success in mind.
Finding the right person to fill the critical role of VP of Sales is worth putting time into to find the right fit. A great resource for this decision can be found at SaaStr where an entire section is devoted to highlighting things you should consider for this critical role.
As for landing the right person for the critical role of VP of Sales to oversee the department, it can be a
On the engineering side, you have a number of roles to consider but the critical one is your CTO. A great CTO can help you fill the development and infrastructure and all of the other critical slots that you will need. You may already have this role filled by a co-founder or it may be you that are planning to fill the role Even in that case it is still good to be aware of the need because down the road as you grow you are going to need to delegate.
Customer Support and Success
This is another critical area in which to hire and it is even more important because your customer success and support teams also need to understand the specific space in which your particular SaaS platform operates. A Customer Success Manager (CSM) is a vital addition to management to help build strong customer relationships. This rapport is valuable during all stages of business development but especially in the initial days when the bulk of kinks are being worked out.
Despite a frequent feeling that marketing is a soft discipline, the reality is that marketing is a key component of demand generation and success around awareness and sales. If you don’t start out strong here you have just as much risk down the line as with any other discipline. Marketing goes well beyond placing ads and coming up with promotional items. SaaS business should set themselves up with a VP of Marketing that works closely with the sales team to help develop solid leads as well as have a solid understanding of lead nurturing and web demand generation programs.
Last up on this list is product – partly because this is a role frequently held by founders for a significant period of time. But the reality is that great product management has skill sets that go beyond what a founder may typically have, even if the founder is the true expert on the product they are building. So don’t neglect this discipline either. A good head of product should bring together the company’s visionaries with the engineers to produce a sellable end product.
All of this advice is just that – advice
Owen Linderholm is Senior Content Strategist at WePay. He has previously held content and editorial roles at Yahoo, Microsoft, IDG and the BBC.