Survey results from 342 B2B SaaS companies on key inside sales metrics including group structure, ramp and retention, quota and compensation, activity & technology and leadership.
The SaaS model has become mainstream, and is everywhere. Gone are the early fears of data privacy and security, and now even late adopters are using SaaS for a variety of functions. Software as a Service didn’t just change the delivery mechanism, business model and associated metrics, it also changed the way software is sold. In most SaaS companies, the model of choice is Inside Sales (occasionally coupled with a smaller team of field sales reps).
Lower price points, less upfront capital, and no IT involvement have all led to a far lower risk purchase, which in turn means fewer decision makers, and shorter sales cycles.
In parallel with these changes, we’ve seen the Internet dramatically change the customer buying journey and resulting sales process. As everyone now knows, buyers are completing 75% of their buying journey before even talking to the company. New marketing and sales technologies have evolved to address the challenges, bringing measurability to both marketing and sales. This has given rise to the data driven funnel. And at the same time, the data driven sales manager.
Savvy sales managers now measure each micro step in the sales process, and use the resulting data to identify which reps aren’t performing a certain task well. They can also spot the reps that are best at that task and use them to provide coaching to weaker performers.
Given the new data driven approach, more and more sales managers seek to benchmark their data against their peers to see how they stack up. What does best in class look like? What are the best practices? The annual Bridge Report provides answers to these questions, and is an absolute treasure trove for anyone managing an inside sales organization.
I am a huge believer in the power of data to drive improvement, and that is why I have collaborated with The Bridge Group to help produce the report, and have asked readers of forEntrepreneurs to contribute their data. Inside this report, you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions for sales managers: how are inside sale functions organized, and compensated? What kind of results are they able to produce? What percentage of reps can be expected to reach quota? What level of experience is typically seen, and how long will it take for them to ramp? What is the average tenure of a rep? Etc. etc.
My sincere thanks to Matt and Trish Bertuzzi of the Bridge Group for their work in producing this invaluable resource.
To learn more about The Bridge Group, Inc., click here.
About the companies who participated
A large and diverse group of SaaS companies participated. This year’s research involved 342 B2B SaaS companies.
Respondent demographics are as follows.
How are territories assigned?
While the occasional company uses 2, or even 3 factors, the vast majority (81%) use a single factor to assign territories.
For all companies surveyed, we found the following:
As you can see, geographic territories remain the leading approach. That lead, however, is eroding.
In 2010, 20% of companies reported deploying no territories or round-robin. That number has nearly doubled, now sitting at 39%.
Round-robin is an approach most often adopted by companies with lower price points and/or selling into more mature markets. These companies are, in all likelihood, filling the sales funnel with inbound (marketing-generated) opportunities.
Setting equitable, geographic territories in an inbound environment is like a Rubik’s cube – you can spend a lot of time on it and get nowhere. It is much easier to set uniform quotas, go to a round-robin approach, and remove the potential for human error or bias.
Some companies take this approach outbound and adopt no territories. This can be deployed in many flavors:
- Pack leader
These companies give their “best” leads to their best salespeople. In essence, reps must “earn” the highest quality leads.
- Shark tank
Another approach allows reps to claim ownership by remaining ‘active’ in an account. If they fail to do so, the account is redistributed away.
- Account sprinkler
Where accounts are randomly assigned in an effort to remove any human error or bias. This is essentially round-robin for a universe of fixed, named accounts.
To give more context to the types of companies adopting these approaches, here are a few things to consider:
Companies with lower ACVs are more likely to adopt no territories or round-robin.
How many accounts are owned per rep?
Reps own an average of 207 accounts. This number decreases as ACV rises.
It is no secret that right-sizing territories is a bit of a dark art.
Give too few accounts and your reps are forced to chase anyone with a pulse. “Bad breath is better than no breath” strategies lead to wasted energy on non-ideal prospects. Give too many accounts and your reps will skim the cream via a Goldilock’s ‘too hot/too cold’ tendency leaving money on the table for your company.
Two professors at the Kellogg School of Management published an interesting paper on this dilemma.
Only you can decide how best to balance the need to increase productivity per territory and reduce the likelihood of mutiny and in-fighting, that comes from territory re-aligns.
What % of pipeline is sourced by Marketing?
On average, 44% of an inside group’s pipeline is generated by Marketing.
This is down sharply from our 2012 finding of 57% and much more in-line with our non-SaaS (software, hardware, other B2B technology) average of 38%.
Notice that the percentage of Marketing-sourced pipeline decreases as ACV rises.
Are the groups front-ended by an SDR team [ADR, BDR, LGR, etc.]?
Nearly six out of ten companies front-end their closing reps with an SDR team. Excluding companies below $5M in revenue, that number rises to 67%.
Much as you would expect, as ACV rises, so does the percentage of companies deploying the SDR function.
Unfortunately, there is no glaring dividing line between “Never!” and “Always!” for building an SDR group to support the closing team.
We will say this: at roughly $20-40K ACV, the scales tip in favor of the “Yes SDR!” camp.
In the chart below, each blue diamond is the percentage of companies specializing (in $5K ACV increments). The black curve is the trend line.
How many ‘leads’ does each closing rep receive?
Fair warning: the definitions of ‘meetings’ and ‘opportunities’ vary from organization to organization.
For those teams supported by appointment setting SDR teams, on average, 14 meetings are received per rep per month. For those groups supported by SDR teams generating qualified opportunities, on average, 7 opportunities are received per rep per month.
As you might expect, this number ranges widely based on ACV.
Thanks to respondents who provided both meeting and converted opportunity counts, we are able to calculate an average Meeting-to-Opportunity conversion rate of 43%.
Conversion rate was remarkably consistent across ACV, size of company, and other factors.
Do you segment into ‘hunters’ and ‘farmers’?
For all respondents, 49% of companies separate hunters and farmers. Excluding companies below $5M in revenue, that number rises to 58%.
We found that two factors were highly correlated with the decision to segment: ACV and average contract length.
1. The higher the ACV, the more likely companies are to keep their closing reps focused exclusively on new logo acquisition.
2. The shorter the new contract length (e.g., month-to-month), the greater the likelihood of a dedicated farming team.
How many reps are involved in prospecting, closing, and growing a new customer?
As we saw above, 67% of companies segment SDRs and closers while 58% segment hunters and farmers.
So how many companies do both? Turns out, roughly 4 out of 10. These organizations have triply specialized roles: prospector, closer, and farmer.
This degree of role specialization has cost of sale implications. It follows that a larger ACV would be required to “afford” a three rep team.
As you can see, at lower ACVs, three rep teams are rare. At higher ACVs, they’re the norm.
At lower ACVs, the sales cycle is typically very short. An initial call can lead from uncovering needs, qualification, to and through demo. Adding another person adds needless complication (and cost).
Unfortunately, there isn’t a definitive number that cleanly divides the yes’s from the no’s. Each company needs to weigh their customer acquisition costs and customer lifetime values, to best balance the economics of their operations.
Ramp & Retention
What do you require as experience when hiring?
Average experience prior to hire is 2.6 years. This is up slightly from 2.5 years in 2010.
Not surprisingly, as ACV rises, more sales experience is required. Companies with ACVs greater than $50K require nearly double the experience of those with ACVs below $5K, 3.5 years and 2.1 years respectively.
How long until a new rep becomes fully productive?
Average ramp time jumped sharply from 4.2 months (2010) to 5.3 months (2015).
The long-term trend shows a steady rise in the percentage of companies with 5+ month ramp time.
Companies with ACVs greater than $50K report average ramp time of 6 months while those with ACVs below $5K average 4.8. That’s 25% longer.
You might think that insignificant, but recall that higher ACV companies are hiring more senior reps. It appears that more experience alone isn’t able to offset the complexities of a larger ACV – with longer sales cycles, more buyers, and assorted other challenges.
What is the average tenure of your reps?
Virtually unchanged since 2010, average rep tenure sits as 2.5 years.
Interestingly, as ACV rises, average rep tenure grows.
Companies with ACVs greater than $50K experience 17% longer tenure than those with ACVs below $5K.
Would you be surprised to learn that companies hiring less experienced reps have shorter average tenure? We didn’t think so.
Less experienced reps leave faster. They are often in search of their next big thing.
Providing a rep with their entrée into the wonderful world of sales doesn’t prevent them from jumping ship. They have their eye on the prize and they are being recruited heavily.
As you’ll see in the following chapter, for each additional year of sales experience, fair market base pay jumps. Additionally, the more experienced you are, the more attractive you are to companies with higher ACVs – those companies tending to offer the largest OTEs.
Every Sales Leader wants a stable and predictable team. As you build out future plans, take average tenure into account.
Average months at full productivity
Despite the longer ramp times we shared above, companies with higher ACVs are experiencing greater months at full productivity (defined as TENURE minus RAMP).
An important question remains: do more months at full productivity correlate with better company performance?
The only yardstick available for making this comparison is percentage of reps at quota. Here’s what we found:
Companies experiencing 20+ months at full productivity had roughly 10% more reps achieving quota. Neither insignificant, nor earth shattering.
A more pronounced difference emerges when comparing quota attainment and turnover.
What is average annual turnover?
Excluding internal promotions, we found average annual attrition to be 34%. Involuntary turnover makes up nearly two-thirds of that number.
The distribution of attrition rates surprised us. Notice the spike at the right — more than 1 in 10 companies experience turnover rates in excess of 55% annually. Wow.
Impact of turnover on quota attainment
Again, we must ask ourselves: does lower attrition correlate with better company performance?
Using our yardstick of percentage of reps at quota, it appears it does.
Companies below 25% in annual attrition have 12% more reps at quota than those with 25%+.
Compensation & Quota
What are BASE Salary and OTE?
Continuing a five year trend, average Inside Sales compensation rose to record highs in 2015.
We found an average base salary of $60K and average on-target earnings (OTE) of $118K. This reveals a roughly 50% : 50% (base : variable) split.
Although a smaller subset of respondents shared customer success compensation, we found average farmer compensation as follows.
As a general rule, Customer Success reps earn lower OTE with a higher percentage of total compensation delivered as base.
Notice the small delta between hunter and farmer OTEs. At one point in time, hunter compensation far outpaced that of farmers. It appears that in the SaaS world, the role has evolved from “relationship / implementation” to “success / upselling / expansion.”
Companies are seemingly investing in talent than can go beyond retention and deliver revenue expansion (i.e., negative churn).
What Percentage of reps are at quota?
In a given group, 67% of reps are achieving quota. This is down from our 74% in 2012.
What are revenue quotas?
For those reps holding an individual number, average quota is $705K.
There is wide variation in quota based on company ACV.
Companies with ACVs over $100K set quotas 140% higher than those with ACVs below $5K.
Recall that earlier in this chapter, we reported the delta in OTE between the two was only 55%. It is clear that the relationship between quota and OTE isn’t linear.
At 100% of quota, what is the commission rate?
The average commission rate for new business is 10.1%. Unsurprisingly, we found a lot of variation in commission rates. However, roughly two-thirds of companies pay between 6% and 12% of ACV.
We found no correlation between ACV, OTE, size of company, or other factors and the commission rate.
Activity & Technology
What daily activity metrics?
We found an average of 33 dials per day. This is down from 38 in 2012.
For many closing groups, dials per day is a problematic measure and there is much debate over its value. However, it remains one of the few levers that reps are able to pull. Remember, dials are 100% under your reps’ control – conversations, demos, and meetings are not.
A more popular metric is conversations per day. On average, reps are having 6.6 conversations per day. This is down from 9.5 in 2012 – that’s nearly a 34% drop.
We aren’t willing to offer a cause for this drop. But we will caution – this matters.
This year and in each other report we’ve produced, we have found that more conversations per day is correlated with higher quota attainment. (And yes, we did find statistical significance p= .05.)
Thank you for reading, and please click below if you would like to download The Bridge Group’s full report which includes further insights into compensation, leadership, use of technology, and SaaS resources.