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Job Search
Recruitment musings

How to run a successful SaaS sales job hunt: a sales recruiter’s advice

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  Lately I have been doing a lot of automation, outsourcing and offshoring of the more repetitive recruiting tasks. One job that is harder to offload is the advice that I give to candidates embarking on a search. With candidates that are in my wheelhouse (SaaS Sales and Sales management in very specific industry areas like marketing, commerce and enterprise workflow technologies) I can give them very specific job search advice in addition to showing them real job options from my clients. I love doing this and will continue to do so. When candidates are not in my sweet spot, I can still give them advice but that advice is definitely more generic in nature. Most of the latter category of candidates love the common-sense guidance that I give them, but, truth be told, most of that advice is fairly ubiquitous across all job seekers and, at least for me, highly repetitive. Over time I have passed on this advice in blogs and postings – 36 articles to be precise here on linkedinone of which has over 35k views. I have never summarized the advice from those articles in one place. This is my attempt to do so and, in doing so, I am hoping I can save hearing myself repeat the same advice! So consider my low tech version of Repetitive Process Automation – a blog post with standardized advice! If I sent you here this is what I would have otherwise told you verbally. So here goes…

The advice

So, if you are starting out on a job search here is what I would advise you to do. Every job search should have 3 steps

  1.  The preparation 
  2. Reactive approach. Where you set yourself up to be found
  3. Proactive approach. Where you target specific firms and jobs directly.

Let’s take each in turn…..

1. The Preparation

a. Reverse Psychology Before you start your job search, it is worth taking the time the understand the mindset of a recruiter. There is real logic behind recruiting in sales and recruiters follow pretty distinct behavioral patterns. The general gist is they want to see a functional fit and an industry sub-sector match (or at least want to see that you are in an ecosystem area that is highly coupled to theirs) OR a vertical match (compatible rolodex) BUT preferably both. Internal recruiters and hiring managers are also generally very conservative – rarely taking risks with sales candidates outside of their industry or vertical. They also are somewhat wary of resumes that come to them blind without any vetting from either an external recruiter or personal referrals. Therefore it is good to avoid that route and get your resume in the hands of the people that matter through intermediaries that they trust. Read more on how to do that here. Understanding this logic and behavior helps you to reverse-engineer your job search and be more effective in the process.  b. Resume Preparation You will also need to update your resume.  To save time and space, here’s is my prior advice on resume writing for sellers:

Avoid trying to cover all the bases in your resume (because covering all the options doesn’t help you – it actually hurts your chances by making you WAY less memorable). More on that here.

2. Reactive approach. 

This is where you sit back and relax and wait for recruiters (internal and external) to come to you. That sounds ridiculously easy but, before you ease into your Lay-z-boy, you have to set yourself up to be found. That means working on your online presence and notifying 3rd party recruiters that you are in the market. Let’s take each in turn. a. Online profile preparation For the online presence piece, you need to work on your online presence. For sales pros in the US that means a robust Linked profile. I wrote in the past about 7 tips to make yourself findable to recruiters on Linkedin. You need to have the right keywords, a consistent and clear function with titles that match that function (this helps you avoid looking like a Jack-of-all-trades (heres why that’s a bad idea). Make sure you look the part in your profile pic (not a given – advice on that here) and, only show the past 20 years of experience. you can summarize the rest under “other experience”. Why limit your experience if you have more than that? Firstly it isn’t relevant to show beyond this – especially in the technology arena. Second you reduce the risk of age-ism. Most importantly, set your Linkedin “Open to opportunities” option to “on”. You can learn how to do that here. Recruiters outside of your current employer using Linkedin’s “Recruiter” platform will get to see that status and, trust me on this, they will definitely go for the lower hanging fruit of someone who is looking rather than the elusive passive candidate that is not. b. Recruiter outreach  When it comes to recruiters, their benefits should be pretty obvious but in case you need a refresher, read my blog post “5 reasons why External Recruiters are invaluable to candidates“. If you don’t know any recruiters, ask your ex-colleagues for suggestions on trustworthy recruiters that can advise you long term over your career. In sales, you need to focus in on specialist recruiters that concentrate on that function and represent firms in your industry and your vertical orientation. When you have already worked with recruiters in the past, and when doing the proactive search approach outlined below, try and spot which of your recruiter connections are most connected to the firms you are interested in. On Linkedin they will appear more regularly as intermediaries to your targets. Work those specific recruiter relationships long term.

3. Proactive approach

I have written in the past about how Ironic it is that sales pros don’t proactively hunt for their jobs. There are 2 ways to do it however. a. Ecosystem-based target research Firstly decide what industry area you want to work in next and what size of firm you want to work for – do you go big or go niche? Are you ready to go from Corporate to startup sales? Are you getting type-casted in selling in one industry space or to one vertical where you need to increase your range? If so, read this for advice on mixing it up (within reason) to give yourself more range. Once you have done that, you should use industry ecosystems (such as the lumascapes or chief martec diagrams in marketing technology – there are lots more for other areas like HR tech, sales tech etc) to pinpoint the ecosystems that you want to work in and the specific firms in those ecosystems that look like they have the right momentum (funding, sales), the right culture and the potential for you to be successful in sales .  So come up with your target list of firms factoring into account the logical fits to your background, identify the position those firms have available, and, rather than apply for the jobs themselves directly, ask a recruiter or trusted 3rd party to refer you into the hiring manager for that specific role. The tools are there for both the research and spotting the connections (Linkedin) as well as the outreach (Linkedin’s InMail, data.com, Jobjet etc) so you should take advantage of both and control your own destiny with your job search. b. Activating your network You should also socialize your search with people of influence that you trust that might be able to get you a job directly or indirectly. Some of these people will give you generic advice, some will directly refer you into positions (helping you avoid the dreaded inbound pile mentioned above). when you do this it is crucial that you are crystal clear in what you want to do in your next role – and clearly articulate a specific function, industry and vertical interest. They may not have the right job for you right then but, by being specific, they will remember you when the time is right. Be memorable for them. So that’s my advice for your job hunt. If you follow this advice you will have completed a logical and targeted job hunt and will have set yourself up to be found by the right recruiters and jobs for you. Best of luck with your search. Although out of scope for this particular article, here’s the rest of my blog-based advice for the next stages of the process. Before you interview  Vetting your prospective employer in earlier stage SaaS firms – LINK Interview prep Interview tips – 8 pointers to nail that mock sales pitch – LINK Advice on Salary negotiations Balance in Sales comp negotiations: Candidates take note, it isn’t a free for all! – LINK  Salary Negotiations – base/OTE ratios & the perils of being overpaid – LINK Evaluating Salespeople’s historical performance with NYC’s new Salary Fairness law – LINK Reference checks Candidate Reputation Management: Plan for back-hand reference checks! – LINK   Image credit – ccPixs.com