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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Hiring a salesperson - any advice?

I've been running a SaaS business (http://www.sniphq.com) for about two years. So far I've done all the sales myself, which has gone fine, but I need to be working ON the business, not IN the business.

I'm slowly but surely improving my online marketing (I have a ton of room for improvement, as you can tell from my website), but I don't want to wait for growth if there's no reason to.

I was talking to a co-worker the other day who used to run a SaaS business and he said they hired a commission-only salesperson to sell one-year licenses. This seems to make perfect sense to me: it costs the business owners nothing, the salesperson gets a fair commission, and the business gets a paying customer.

I see no reason not to pull the trigger on this idea, but is there anything I'm missing? I've never hired a salesperson before. Obviously I don't want to hire just anyone at the risk of tarnishing my company's reputation. Anything else I should be aware of? Thanks in advance.
Jason Swett Send private email
Monday, April 15, 2013
FYI, your sig links to sniphq.com (without the "www."), which is not responding.
Dmitry Leskov @Home Send private email
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
"they hired a commission-only salesperson"
The only difference between this and finding a sales agent is that your salesperson has no other source of income.  That might work with a real estate agent with a decade of sales experience who is itching to make deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (and already has leads on those kind of deals) .  If you actually find someone to accept your job, they will a) take commission for existing customers and put their effort into finding another job, b) try to steal an income from you or c) never spend a minute working for you, just pretend to be your employee.

Your customer base see sales reps for all kinds of products and services on almost a weekly basis.  Get to know some of them, and ask if they want to sell your service as an agent.  There are lots of things to keep in mind when contracting with a sales agent, but that isn't your topic.  If you decide to hire a 100% commission salesperson for an online hair salon booking service, be prepared for an epic fail.

"I need to be working ON the business, not IN the business."  Aren't you putting the cart ahead of the horse?  Just can't wait to put your feet up on a big oak desk, smoke cigars and make executive decisions?
Howard Ness Send private email
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Howard, great advice, I bet no one would say better.
Jason, I'd also suggest to read or watch this for some inspiration (if you didn't do that yet): http://businessofsoftware.org/2013/02/gail-goodman-constant-contact-how-to-negotiate-the-long-slow-saas-ramp-of-death/
Sergey Pozhilov Send private email
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
That's a great video to watch, my jaw dropped when she mentioned her annual revenue.
Tony Edgecombe Send private email
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Any good salesman(woman) has plenty of jobs to choose from. Why would they choose a commission-only job for a software company no-one has heard of? Not trying to be mean - but look at it from their point of view.
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Recruiting sales people is harder than hiring programmers. And you don't have FizzBuzz to filter out the worst of them.
Tony Edgecombe Send private email
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
I don't know much about salespersons, but getting your site to work with Internet Explorer will probably have a significant impact on sales for very little work and expense.

IE has about 30% market share (depending on who you believe)

GreenBean Send private email
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
>IE has about 30% market share (depending on who you believe)

Probably more amongst hairdressers. ;0)
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Your website is rather screwed up when viewed in Firefox - blog is one small, very long column, the navigation overlaps with the content, margins are off, ... Doesn't inspire much confidence for a web product.

Apart from that, don't bother hiring a commission-only sales person. The only ones who will agree to that are the desperate, no-good ones. How many customers do you have? There is no pricing information on your website that I could find, but I'd estimate that at 100 customers, you should be able to afford a salaried salesman. If they can make 10 sales a month, you should be able to afford a base salary plus commission (guesstimating monthly cost at 75$ for LTV of 2700$).

And if you don't have 100 customers yet, don't hire anyone but get those first customers yourself.
Joske Vermeulen Send private email
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
A lot of good points here.

The idea of getting a salon distributor to work as an agent is a really good one. Somebody else actually gave me that idea before, and I had plans to do it, but since then I got distracted by other things and somehow forgot about the idea entirely. Yes, it's probably much better to let a distributor supplement their income by selling Snip than to try to get someone to work full-time for commission only. And it's probably easier to find candidates that way, too.

And yes, if I do get distributors to hawk my product for me, I'm probably going to have stylists and salon owners looking at my website, and it would probably be wise of me to make sure it works in all popular browsers. (In my defense, none of my current customers ever looked at my website before signing up, because my sales process was so high-touch that it didn't require it. I had my first customer before I even had *a* website. So it historically hasn't been a priority.)

To answer someone else's question, I have a very modest 4 customers. I'm trying as hard as I can to get more, but as the numbers show, I'm not very good at that yet.

Looks like the boring but correct conclusion is that, before I do anything else, I need to make my product and website look more professional and work properly in all popular browsers. Then the next step is probably to find a distributor and try to strike an affiliate marketing deal.
Jason Swett Send private email
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
And by the way, thanks for all the feedback. I had somehow forgotten that I had chosen some time ago not to support IE, which was fine when the scope of my efforts only included "don't lose my current customers", but I've happily outgrown that phase now.
Jason Swett Send private email
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
After the website spruce up, it may be worthwhile investing in some direct marketing, as you are in quite a vertical market.

It would be relatively easy & cheap to mail a 1000 fliers out, with some sort of offer code, and guage what percentage succes rate you get. If it turns out to be viable then it's a doddle to repeat.

Good luck, whatever you decide to do,
GreenBean Send private email
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Probably not an answer, but have you read the blog of http://www.kalzumeus.com ? patio11 is a popular denizen of hacker news with good general sales advice.

He mentions exploring selling a similar product about half way through: http://www.kalzumeus.com/2013/04/24/marketing-for-people-who-would-rather-be-building-stuff/
Morris Johns Send private email
Monday, May 13, 2013

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