Sales Segmentation Could Be Costing You Deals. Here’s How to Ensure It Doesn’t.

August 5, 2019

On paper, the segmented sales model that many SaaS businesses use seems great – who wouldn’t want to copy the success of Salesforce?

But there’s a trend I’m seeing that’s making me wonder whether this segmented sales model is actually good for us.

My network is filled with content, posts, comments, etc. from people who are not having good experiences with it as buyers, coupled with my own experiences as a buyer:

Here’s the thing – I don’t believe any sales process is inherently wrong or right, segmented or otherwise.

Having an SDR/AE combo split the full cycle could be great for your business, or it could be terrible too.

It just depends on your buyers and whether it meets them where they are or not.

Here are 4 ways I see the segmented model fail to do this and how you can ensure that this isn’t happening with your sales process.

Incentivize the right behaviors

One of the biggest reasons I see segmentation fail is a disconnect between leadership and the SDR.

The wrong expectations, metrics, and therefore behaviors are being incentivized by focusing on things like call appointment volume instead of meaningful outcomes like deals closed.

This teaches them to just book appointments for the sake of checking off a box rather than focus on only booking the right appointments (that will actually show up).

And this ends up reducing revenue efficiency because your AE’s are spending more time with less qualified prospects.

Instead, it works better if the SDR is focused on outcomes that correlate to the final quota number.

That way, SDRs can stop worrying about hitting vanity metrics and focus on finding the leads that will drive real revenue.

A simple way to do that?

Align the SDR/AE teams with a shared goal they’re responsible for and have them manage their own pipeline together to get there.

Handle call transitions better

Buyers typically do a lot of research online before they ever reach out to a company and talk to someone. Because of that, they come armed and dangerous with a well thought out list of questions they bring to the call.

That or they’re ready to cut to the chase to see your software.

And that’s one of the reasons why the handoff from the SDR to the AE can often feel so choppy for buyers – SDRs often aren’t as smooth as they need to be in meeting buyers where they’re at and making that critical transition.

I’ve been on many SDR calls where the transition felt forced, like the SDR was just doing it because they had to!

Alex Boyd, Founder of RevenueZen, gave a great example of how to fix this:

This is situational, but training your SDRs and AEs to be better at reading where buyers are while correctly positioning the transition will create a more seamless experience for your buyer.

And that’s the key – creating a seamless experience that doesn’t make me feel like I have to wait on you to get what I want.

Train SDRs to go all the way…or make AEs available in real time

One of the absolute worst parts about the segmented sales model for me is when I’m having a great call with an SDR and then I have to wait a week+ to talk to an AE knowing I’m going to have to repeat much of what I’ve just shared.

I’m hooked, so why kill the momentum?

Marc Bodner nails why this kills deals:

Marc points out a simple solution here – ensure that SDRs can take it all the way if the momentum is there. Others are taking this approach too:

However, another equally valid solution to this problem is to simply make sure AEs are available real time to make the transition on the spot.

There’s even tech out there to make it easy should you want to go this route:

Bottom line here – don’t lose buyers by slowing them down with your process when they’re ready to go fast. Find a way to equal their pace!

Nix segmentation where it doesn’t work

There are times where having a single person run the full cycle is simply a better choice. Even former SDRs notice this:

Speaking from experience, there is enough on the line with enterprise buyers (potential $ earned and reputation) that it makes sense to hire a full-cycle seller to handle everything.

The trick here is to not cut corners on who you hire. Spend the money to get the right hire, make sure they’re equipped to do what you need them to and that they can go the distance through the long sales cycle.

Far too often clients come to us to help them recruit heavy hitting enterprise salespeople after they’ve tried the segmented model, cut costs to hire SMB AEs dressed up as enterprise sellers, or someone that hasn’t done the job they need them to do, and seen it implode as a result.

Hire true enterprise salespeople with proven full-cycle results at this level and the stage your company is at or put the hiring process on the back burner. Otherwise, you’re assuming an awful lot of risk that can hurt your business and then some later.

Final thoughts

The sales process is like a machine. One with more moving parts can sometimes achieve things that a simpler one couldn’t, but it also means the potential for things to break increases.

The additional complexity of the segmented model may improve efficiency and provide greater predictability, but it also means more opportunities for turning your buyers off and for deals to slip through the cracks.

The key here is to let your buyers guide the decisions you make (active listening will serve you well).

Many startups blindly follow the segmented model because “that’s the SaaS sales model.” This mindset is not customer-centric and will cause you to lose buyers.

Do what works best for your buyers, not what everyone tells you works for their business!

Founder and CEO of Avenue Talent Partners

With more than $100MM in revenue sold, a LinkedIn Insider and Top Sales Voice, Founder, Strategic Advisor, and LP at Stage 2 Capital, Amy Volas is a sales fanatic turned entrepreneur. She was bitten by the startup bug many moons ago and couldn't imagine spending her time anywhere else. She created Avenue Talent Partners to help grow early-stage startups through some of their most valuable assets - executive revenue leaders.