Getting Titles and Salaries Right

Robert McLaws
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What’s in a title? A name is just a name, right?


The titles you select for your key sales positions can be critically important and can help determine the future growth of your company. And, of course, compensation can make or break your cash flow and revenue.

Titles are Critical to Recruiting and Retaining the Right Talent

Most professionals today look for jobs online. And, if you give positions cryptic names or mismatch the title to the responsibilities, you’ll struggle with finding exactly who you need when you need them.

Make sure you’re matching your titles to the ones people are looking for. Although coming up with creative titles can be fun and quirky, you don’t want highly qualified candidates passing you by as they scratch their heads and think, “Huh?” Once your professionals are onboard, you can have as much levity as you want internally. A fine line exists between creativity and clarity.

But before you even start to fill those open positions, make sure your capacity plan is tight and that you’ve crafted accurate job descriptions, responsibilities, and expectations.

Start at the Top

The VP of Sales is the hardest job to fill, but as soon as you can afford it you should bring that person on board. Not only will they play a key role in company growth but they will also assist the CEO and executive team in finding, training, and motivating the sales team that will build your company’s relationships and revenues -- short and long term.

Be sure that you’re compensating that professional according to current trends. You don’t want that person to walk in the door feeling shortchanged or disgruntled.

If you’re not quite ready to fill that senior position, build an infrastructure comprised of diverse sales talent that will serve the needs of your customers and prospects.

Be sure to have your ICP (ideal customer profile) defined. You don’t want to be paying people to engage prospects who don’t fit your target market. Be sure too to screen for types of experience. Throwing a rep who has only sold small-ticket products to SMBs into an enterprise sales environment can be a formula for disaster.

Here are Some of the Most Common Sales Titles and Roles Today: From “Bottom to Top”

As the SaaS industry has evolved, some new types of positions (or at least new types of titles) have emerged. We’re just dealing with sales titles here, but you should think seriously about all titles within your company at every stage and map out roles of individual professionals as well as collaborative goals. For example, if marketing and sales are not in lock-step, even the finest funnel and best of leads will fall flat. Above all, do not ignore customer service and retention. Make sure your infrastructure and job descriptions are designed not only to bring in new clients but to ensure they stick around.

You’ll find lots of articles with tons of titles. But we’ve distilled them down to the major categories here:

  • SDRs and BDRs are typically entry-level positions in the tech world. Some of them may be recent grads and others are late-life career changers. keep an open mind when recruiting and make sure your team is diverse and inclusive. Whereas an SDR (Sales Development Rep) typically focuses on qualifying inbound leads, a BDR (Business Development Rep) does the research to find new prospects.
  • Sales Managers and Account Managers are mid-level positions. They often comprise analytics as well as relationship-building duties. Sales managers are the “hunters” and account managers nurture the relationship once a customer has come on board.
  • Sales Directors and Account Executives typically lead and train the Managers, BDRs, and SDRs. Someone could be a fantastic sales professional but suck at leadership and training. Be sure that as you craft your job descriptions and recruit that you are screening for team-builders and mentors and not just sales rockstars. Resentment will quickly build when someone’s boss is just an order-giver or is only out for themselves.

As you build out your organization, team chemistry is critical. Be sure you involve team members in the recruiting process and pay careful attention to red flags. Make sure you are very clear with every person in your sales organization about objectives, hold regular performance reviews, and define what each person needs to do to make it to the next rung of the title ladder.

But don’t assume that promotions are vital to every employee. Some people enjoy the consistency and lack of pressure of a BDR, SDR, or Manager job. Don’t assume everyone wants to be a VP someday.

The Title is Great...But What About My $$$?

Although some candidates may be turned on by the prospect of an important-sounding title, that doesn’t pay the mortgage. You’ll get a good sense during the interview process of how important earning potential is to a candidate.

Work with a recruiter or stay on top of trends to get a handle on what average salaries are in your industry and for each position. If your company offers unique benefits make sure candidates know what they are and highlight them during the interview process.

Open-book management is a popular trend in today’s business world. If your entire team knows where the company stands financially, they may be less likely to complain when you have a rough quarter and are unable to hand out huge raises and bonuses.

That said, you should always be good to your word, even when you’re struggling with cash flow. The fastest way to lose a top performer (and get nasty Glassdoor reviews) is to screw someone out of a bonus that has been previously committed.

Role Clarity + Compensation = Top Talent and Teamwork

Hiring, writing job descriptions and objectives, and managing compensation is both an art and a science. It will evolve as your company grows.

Start with a clear company strategy, ICP,  top-quality capacity plan, and a commitment to recruit and retain the best people in the right roles for your stage and industry.

Even with a great product or service, if you don’t have the right talent you’re just talking to yourself!

We’d love to help you build that capacity plan! Get in touch with us today.

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