7 Behaviours High-performing SaaS Sales Professionals All Share

Stef De Cuyper

Talent Director @ Headlight

Having talked to thousands of sales professionals in my career as a sales recruiter, I’ve learned a thing or two about which behaviors top performing SaaS sales executives have in common. Albeit they may be at the beginning of their career as a sales development representative (SDR) or business development representative (BDR), or an experienced account executive (AE) striving to become a VP sales.

In this article I’ll be discussing 7 key abilities & behaviors I’ve witnessed among top performing SaaS sales executives.

In your early career it’s therefore crucial to find the career path that you prefer. Not knowing about the different paths in sales will leave you with missed opportunities and an unsatisfying career, because you never found your personal preference.

After helping hundreds of SaaS sales professionals find their career, I have identified 4 determining factors that can help you in having a fulfilling career in SaaS sales.

1. Self-Awareness & Internal Focus of Control

All successful SaaS salespeople have one particular ability in common: they have a very high level of self-awareness. They know their strengths, weaknesses, and how they respond in certain situations.

Though self-awareness does not only refer to your current set of skills, but also knowing which skills you need to improve to eventually take that next step.

Most successful SDRs, for example, precisely know which competences they lack in order to progress to that next step as an AE. Therefore they don’t just say to their manager: “I’ve been in this role for 2 years now, it’s time I become an AE”. No, they will know exactly when they’re ready, possess the right skillset and only then tell their manager that they’re ready for the next step.

Self-awareness also implies that you’re not coming up with excuses all the time, taking responsibility for your actions and performance. It’s important to be aware of what your responsibilities are and what YOU can control in order to land a sale, and never make excuses for the things you control.

It might sound obvious, but let’s explain with a short practical example:

You’re in a sales meeting on a Friday, and your manager asks you if you called Mr X from company Y. If you didn’t, don’t say you did. If Mr X didn’t pick up, that’s an ‘external’ excuse. Make sure you’ve done everything in your power to do the task you were ought to do. That way you can be self-confident about the fact that you didn’t get in touch with Mr X. So it will be more like: “No, I tried calling him several times, wrote him an email and contacted his secretary and did everything in my power to contact him.”

You can see that it’s not about the end result, but about being self-aware of the effort you’ve put in, how you’re reporting and communicating. This is also known as the Internal Locus of Control. To believe you’re in charge of your own life, your own environment and what causes things to happen. 

2. Leverage the power of LinkedIn

Get active on LinkedIn! It’s often said that Linkedin is changing and some may even say it’s becoming more and more a platform like Facebook or Instagram, where people share too much irrelevant or non-business related content. Regardless of what you think, it is still a powerful tool when hunting for a job, sourcing for clients, expanding your network etc.

Research has been done, where they looked at three low months in terms of views on Linkedin and three high months for views and compared leads and sales. There were quite a few interesting takeaways.

First, there was a correlation between views on posts and sales via social media. High-view months, during which the observed people posted at least twice a week, created about double the leads and sales from social vs. the low months.

The study confirmed the recency and frequency effect. It’s way more effective to post multiple times vs. one time. Even though that one post was carefully made and outperforms all the other posts. Apparently, it’s more important that people see you out there on a daily basis than just once a month, even if that monthly post is highly successful.

We can categorize most LinkedIn activity within the awareness stage of marketing. In this awareness stage frequency is key. It’s all about getting people to hear about you enough, so you achieve name recognition. It will surprise you how many people I call for the first time and say: “Yeah I’ve actually seen your posts on LinkedIn, I know who you are”, and I’m not even posting twice a week yet.

Thirdly, it was found that engagement is more important than views. Under engagement we categorize comments, likes and shares. Therefore it’s a best practice to construct your posts in a way that they invoke engagement by other LinkedIn users.

Some people might find it hard to come up with the right words or to think of something original to post about. Personally, I would recommend keeping a document with ideas. This way you gather ideas while you feel creative and can use them whenever you have to post something new.

Don’t just write about what you sell or which solutions you offer. For instance, you can make it personal from time to time by talking about what you experience as a sales professional. Subjects like: what keeps you awake at night? Which struggles are you facing? Which books do you read? Who do you follow?

When you’re posting regularly, you’ll be creating a lot of traffic to your profile page. Therefore, make sure that it is optimized for whatever your goal (e.g. teasing prospects, impressing recruiters etc.) is.

Here are a few practical tips for your profile:

Talk in numbers and accomplishments in your experience section.
Just as on your CV, make your accomplishments tangible and talk in numbers. For example: average target completion of 120% over the last 4 years. Don’t be modest here, be proud of what you have achieved.

The golden 500
In terms of connections, add new people until you get to the golden 500 connections. This matters more than you think. Social proof is attractive and the more you have it, the more effective you appear to people.

Start posting at least twice a week
Focus on topics that are related to your field of expertise and topics that could interest your ideal customer. Show you have an opinion worth listening to by creating well thought out content.

However, be aware that growth on LinkedIn takes time. Don’t expect instant gratification.

3. Sales as a career, not just a job

High-performing sales professionals look at sales as a career, rather than a job. This mindset shows itself in different manners.

First of all, they know where they want to be in their career five years from now and know what it takes to get there.

In addition, you can see this in the way they approach sales. They will always avoid short-term wins, if this might endanger long-term performance.

It also translates to the way they use LinkedIn as a way to sell. They interact with people and content, because it genuinely interests them, they aren’t active on Linkedin just because it’s expected from them.

This mindset even has an impact on what they do in their free time. They read books about sales, listen to podcasts and in general try to stay up to date with news that is relevant to them.

4. Understand how business works

You’d be surprised just how few salespeople actually think “understanding business” is an important skill in SaaS sales. After all, shouldn’t a good tech sales professional prioritize knowing as much as possible about how software works? The short answer is: no.

You’re not selling lines of code, a server or even a platform. What you are selling is a solution that will help your customer either make money, save money, save time or reduce risk. It just happens to be that the solution they need comes in the form of the tech you’re selling. This misconception can often be seen when talking to sales professionals without tech experience.

A strong understanding of how a prospective client’s business actually works – and how they generate a profit – will help software sales professionals link their solution to the client’s business goals.

Especially on an enterprise level, business acumen is crucial. It’s key that you can hold a peer level conversation both with people from the C-level, down to middle management. Likewise it’s important to know how their company makes money and how their different jobs help in making the company money. Do you know trends in their industry? How does their latest earnings report affect your prospect? Can you tell them they’re wrong in a respectful way? Can you educate them?

In other words, you must get a good understanding of the interactions between the different departments of your prospective clients and, even more important, how they work together to contribute to the overall health of the enterprise.

Having this business acumen is such an important skill. Yet, so few sales people actually take the time to learn how business works. The more you know, the more you’ll understand your customers’ motivations.
You’ll learn how to speak the language of business, not the language of tech.

5. Control the controllables

As mentioned earlier, as a sales professional, it’s crucial to be in control of the sales cycle, where you CAN be in control.

Things you cannot control are things like economic circumstances, lay-offs, bankruptcies, what your fellow colleagues do, performance that’s in the past, etc. Like said before, focus on the things YOU can control.

There are a few things that are 100% within your control and where it’s your responsibility to manage them:

Knowledge of their own data and stats
Good sales professionals know their stats and dare look at their own numbers from time to time. They try to see patterns in their performance, take control of their own sales cycle and even formulate and measure their own KPIs. In short, they are their own sales managers.

Good sales professionals always come prepared. It doesn’t matter whether it is an internal sales meeting, a job interview, a prospect meeting or a follow up call. Since they know their numbers, they have the necessary ammunition to prepare for each situation. By always being prepared, you are more in control of getting what you want most of the time.

Be organized
Sales people are known to be chaotic & heavily prioritize everything that delivers revenue now. However, it’s important to really set your agenda. Don’t start your day thinking: “Okay, what am I going to do today, let’s see…”. No, good sales people organize their agenda and manage their time. A best practice is to define time blocks for all your responsibilities like: prospecting, meetings, admin, etc.

Your attitude
Always be kind to everyone from every level, you never know what this person will mean to you in the future. Besides, that attitude is linked with your mindset. I strongly believe in a growth mindset, where you’re always eager to learn from others and be open to people’s input.

To conclude: take full responsibility over the aspects you can control. For the things that are out of your control, accept them and let them go.

6. Specialization is key

Pick your niche! If you have a passion for HR tech, stay there and build on your past experiences. This might be the best advice I can give to any tech sales professional: specialize in a niche.

Being a specialist in an industry will help turbocharge your career. As a specialist, you will be sought out for your knowledge and expertise by customers, employers and even your peers. Besides that, as a specialist your value rises exponentially.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to be trapped forever in a certain tech space. It just means that your level of expertise will be most valuable to the sector where your knowledge and experience is the greatest.

Grow your expertise in an area or even sub-sector you are most passionate about and you’ll never go wrong in B2B sales!

7. Mental & Physical health

Last but not least, have good mental & physical health. This one might seem a little odd, but it’s my absolute favorite.

In recent years, the role of the salesperson has undergone a significant shift. While it was once common for sales professionals to engage in frequent in-person meetings, lunches, and other social activities.

In SaaS sales the majority of sales executives’ time is in front of a computer, with limited time at the office. This can quickly be detrimental to one’s health, and it is therefore essential for salespeople to prioritize their well-being in order to maintain the energy and focus needed to be successful.

Here are a few of my personal favorites that I do myself, that are easy to implement and will make a huge impact on your daily life:

Have a cold shower every morning
Cold showers will not only make you feel better and lower blood pressure, but also prepare you for winter and help you improve your thermoregulation.

Get out of your chair.
Every hour, try to elevate your heart rate. This one is unknown to most, but it’s way more important to get your heart rate up than just stand up and walk around for a few seconds. Do some squats, push ups, walk up the stairs, whatever floats your boat. The World Health Organization used to advise to work out 150 minutes a week at a moderate pace.However, in a post-COVID era, they now advise 300 minutes a week. So, get that exercise in!

Take control over your sleep.
Go to bed every night at the same time or at least wake up every morning at the same time. This is very important for your circadian rhythm. We all know those blue Mondays where we had a rough weekend and don’t feel like cold calling people. Sleep is one of the most important factors for our physical and mental recovery. Before bed, avoid blue light, don’t drink any liquids 2 hours prior to bed, sleep in a cold room and meditate or stretch before bed. These simple changes can make a big difference.

Start a to-do list or a journal
Journaling can clear your head. As a sales person, everyone has had it before: you wake up at night thinking about something they should have done, still need to do or just something you’re worrying about. Write it down. Not on your phone, not on your computer, but on paper. This will clear your head and put your mind at ease.

Naturally, these 7 behaviours and abilities are not the only ones that high-performing sales possess. There is more that separates them from the pack. Nevertheless, this is a great point to start and build from in the future. So, switch on your growth mindset and start making your improvements on a regular basis.