Starting to Grow: How To Build Out A Great SaaS Team
Your SaaS business is starting to grow and need to ramp your hiring. It is critical to get the right few people at the start in important leadership roles because they will be responsible for building out their respective teams in turn. Better choices at the beginning will make for a better team from top to bottom.
But SaaS businesses also have a number of differences from other startups, especially around managing sales and customers. So your customer support and sales teams are of special importance. There are also nuances to engineering, infrastructure and product that you should be aware of.
Some great general advice on building out and structuring SaaS teams comes from SaaStr in a great article about what your typical first 100 hires will look like: https://www.saastr.com/what-your-first-100-hires-will-look-like/. It confirms that sales, customer success and support are going to be your biggest and most critical teams.
Confirming that analysis is the KISSmetrics blog (a great blog for understanding marketing) which argues that customer success is going to be part of the role for every single hire you make in a SaaS business. https://blog.kissmetrics.com/saas-employee-customer-success/
Finally, the InsightSquared blog takes a look at aggregate lessons about team size from 11 different SaaS businesses and provides some insights about what functions and in what numbers you should hire. http://www.insightsquared.com/2015/08/saas-company-structure-learning-from-13-more-companies/
Once you’ve got some idea of where you need to hire it is time to move onto the specific characteristics you need to look for in each role. We’ve broken that advice down into sales hiring, CTO, marketing and product hires below.
Hiring for a sales leader and for sales reps in a SaaS business is key because you need people who understand that they are selling a long term value proposition and a relationship rather than just a product. InsightSquared has a great piece about the 7 characteristics a SaaS salesperson should have. http://www.insightsquared.com/2015/10/7-traits-of-a-great-saas-sales-rep/
SaaStr thinks hiring your VP of Sales is so important that they have built a section consisting of sixteen articles just to go over all the things you should consider for this critical role. https://www.saastr.com/how-to-hire-a-great-vp-of-sales/
On the engineering side you have a number of roles to consider but the critical one is your CTO. A great CTO can help you fill the development and infrastructure and all of the other critical slots that you will need. You may already have this role filled by a co-founder or it may be you that is planning to fill the role Even in that case it is still good to be aware of the need because down the road as you grow you are going to need to delegate.
The Stride blog has a piece on how to hire a CTO with some good points of consideration. http://blog.stridenyc.com/blog/7-steps-how-to-hire-a-cto-for-your-startup/
If on the other hand you really don’t have much engineering experience, CoFoundersLab has a great piece on how to hire a CTO if you aren’t technical yourself. https://cofounderslab.com/discuss/how-to-hire-a-cto-if-i-am-not-a-programmer
Customer Support and Success
This is another critical area in which to hire and it is even more important because your customer success and support teams also need to understand the specific space in which your particular SaaS platform operates.
Client Success has a great piece with four reasons why a CSM should be one of your first hires. https://www.clientsuccess.com/blog/4-reasons-why-a-csm-should-be-an-early-saas-startup-hire/
SaaStr has some really great advice about your customer success team and why you should hire it with real goals – not squishy ones – in mind. https://www.saastr.com/customer-success-managers-hire-early-and-no-squishy-goals-its-all-about-the-numbers/
Finally, Groove has a great piece about how to write a customer service recruitment post that will succeed in getting the candidates you really want. https://www.groovehq.com/support/customer-service-job-description
Despite a frequent feeling that marketing is a soft discipline, the reality is that marketing is a key component of demand generation and success around awareness and sales. If you don’t start out strong here you have just as much risk down the line as with any other discipline.
KISSmetrics has some great advice about how to hire a world-class marketer for your SaaS business. https://blog.kissmetrics.com/world-class-marketer/
SaaStr has an even harder-hitting article about the importance of the VP of Marketing hire and how to do it right – as well as the cost in blue pens of doing it wrong. https://www.saastr.com/hire-the-right-type-of-vp-marketing-or-youll-end-up-with-a-bunch-of-blue-pens/
Last up on this list is product – partly because this is a role frequently held by founders for a significant period of time. But the reality is that great product management has skill sets that go beyond what a founder may typically have, even if the founder is the true expert on the product they are building. So don’t neglect this discipline either.
Forbes has a piece about when and how to hire your head of product – note that the when is as important as the how. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ronhirson/2016/03/25/startups-when-and-how-to-hire-your-head-of-product/#6db3d65b6e45
Eran Aloni wrote a great piece on how to hire the best product managers. https://eran-aloni.com/4-tips-on-hiring-great-product-managers-2aa152c28d8c
All of this advice is just that – advice. It’s your SaaS business and your responsibility to hire your team well.