Why This CEO Will Never Hire Another Salesperson
January 20, 2015

Why This CEO Will Never Hire Another Salesperson

by Brian de Haaff

I have many good friends who work in sales. That’s why this post is going to hurt, but let me say in my defense that I have already spoken with many of you about this. My friends work hard and love what they do. But it does not change the fact that I will probably never hire another commissioned salesperson again.

Salespeople have often been the growth engine of business — but I believe the tide is turning. I think this is true for many industries, but particularly relevant for emerging high-tech companies. 

So, consider this the first volley in a healthy debate.

The traditional sales role is endangered. Today’s buyers have access to endless information and peer feedback like never before. New data on B2B sales shows that 60 percent of a typical purchase decision is made before talking to suppliers and up to 90 percent of the buying cycle is done before buyers speak with sales reps.

At Aha! we purposefully do not have a sales team nor do we pay commissions on new customers. That is because we believe it drives the wrong behavior and outcomes.

Instead, we have a Customer Success team that takes a consultative approach to engage product managers and their teams. They are well compensated, benefit from profit sharing, and are owners in the business. This means that they are free to focus on the only thing that matters — the customer’s success.

What does this mean for traditional technology sales teams? They are no longer required — and likely are hurting profitable long-term customer relationships and growth. It’s not them though — they should not be blamed. It is how they are motivated that’s all wrong.

Here are four reasons why emerging technology companies will not look to commissioned salespeople to drive their business.

Growing a business is about fostering trust and relationships, not pushing product. The goal is to show the value of the product and build a relationship with the customer. The only thing that matters is the customer’s success.

People crave honest suggestions and can tell when someone is pushing an agenda. They do not want to be cajoled to buy something, especially a product that is a poor fit. Being authentic accelerates personal and business growth and the value that is created for everyone involved.

It is much more exciting to collaborate to understand the customer’s needs vs. making a disjointed pitch when there is a bad fit. At Aha! we hire experienced product managers who love helping customers build product strategy and visual roadmaps so they can build what matters. It is a rewarding two-way street that leaves both parties feeling energized.

Today’s customer can easily research an entire marketplace in minutes. This brings transparency to a process that was previously veiled. And this applies to everything from buying a car to new software. They don’t need someone to connect them with products anymore. What they do need is to be engaged, surprised, and delighted on their own terms.

We are players in a new world where innovation is being industrialized and every aspect of daily life is being impacted. We all have the opportunity to influence the future — and it is just not clear that commissioned sales people will be part of it.

Do not get me wrong. There will always be people who work with customers, but I doubt that in the most successful companies that their compensation will be tied to the deals they close.

What do you think? Will we see commissioned sales people disappear?

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Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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