Bridge Group 2015 SaaS Inside Sales Survey Report

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.

Intro

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.

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 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:

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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%.

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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.

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How many accounts are owned per rep?

Reps own an average of 207 accounts. This number decreases as ACV rises.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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2. The shorter the new contract length (e.g., month-to-month), the greater the likelihood of a dedicated farming team.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

ramptime_fix

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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.

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What is the average tenure of your reps?

Virtually unchanged since 2010, average rep tenure sits as 2.5 years.

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Interestingly, as ACV rises, average rep tenure grows.

Companies with ACVs greater than $50K experience 17% longer tenure than those with ACVs below $5K.

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Would you be surprised to learn that companies hiring less experienced reps have shorter average tenure? We didn’t think so.

SaaS2015_SKOK_0205_pptx

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).

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Although a smaller subset of respondents shared customer success compensation, we found average farmer compensation as follows.

SaaS2015_SKOK_0205_pptx

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.

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What are revenue quotas?

For those reps holding an individual number, average quota is $705K.

SaaS2015_SKOK_0205_pptx

There is wide variation in quota based on company ACV.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

Click here to download the full report

About the Author

David Skok

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  • Jordan

    Another gem. These reports, with such relevant and wide-ranging data, always become the centerpiece of important management discussions at our company. We couldn’t be more appreciative. Thanks for the great work.

  • Michael Tan

    Hear Hear!

  • http://www.thebln.com/blog marklittlewood

    David,

    Some fantastic data here. Thanks for sharing. Are there any companies that you would view as ‘outliers’ that perform exceptionally – benchmark data is very valuable but there are some very high performing companies that would take different approaches?

  • Arjun Bhimavarapu

    +1 here, David.

    I’m curious – what companies do you know of that are at the top range of every metric here (high ACV, low ramp time / rep, marketing sources all the leads, etc).

  • http://www.forentrepreneurs.com David Skok

    The survey was done with the promise of anonymity, so there is no way to name the specific companies that were at the top of each performance category. Sorry.

  • http://accede.com.au/our-services/ rob herr

    Your reports show how your company grows and continues to grow.

  • http://www.coreyquinn.com/ Corey Quinn

    Great report David. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.sunstonecommunication.com Kenny Fraser

    Thanks for sharing. Looks like it will take a while to digest but some great insights.

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  • http://www.twitter.com/ebellity Emmanuel Bellity

    Very interesting data. Curious which survey software you used ? If you want to use SurveyNuts next time (http://surveynuts.com, I’m the founder) I’d love to help.

  • Ken

    Excellent work! Thank you!!!

  • http://www.forentrepreneurs.com David Skok

    Thanks for the kind offer.

  • Mila S.

    Hi David – this is very insightful. Do you happen to have any more data behind the territory assignment question. For the companies that don’t use territories or stated “other” what are all the alternative methods of assigning sellers to accounts? I know you listed a few methods such as pack leader and round robin. Did you find any other criteria such as deal size, company size?

  • http://www.forentrepreneurs.com David Skok

    Other than the data that we posted, there was no additional data. Sorry.

  • http://AgilePayments.com/ Wayne Akey

    Thanks David. As I read your post I wondered when is it best to go with a round robin approach, and when will it better benefit a company to claim a territory? The aspect of both approaches appear to be extremely viable, but they obviously will not both work for all companies. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

  • agilepayments

    This sales survey report was certainly thorough. I especially appreciated the data and analysis regarding territories and noting the continuing shift towards round robin and no territory set ups. However, I wanted to ask about the sample for the data in this report. Obviously, when it comes to data collection and statistics, there’s never a perfect sample in the real world. But, I found it a bit odd that almost half of the SaaS companies used in the sample for this report reported an annual revenue of less than five million. Is it possible that this imbalance skewed the data?

  • http://www.forentrepreneurs.com David Skok

    It’s not only possible, but also highly likely. I personally prefer the idea of assigning geographical territories to reps as the company gets larger, as they can then develop territory plans, identifying the best accounts in their territory, and creating a plan for how to win each of them in a prioritized fashion. I’m guessing from your comment you may feel the same way?

  • https://www.agilepayments.com/ Gene Krause

    Got that right David. Your strategy is extremely sound. Looking forward to reading more from you.

  • http://www.forentrepreneurs.com David Skok

    Hi Wayne, I am very much in favor of going to a territory-based approach as soon as a company starts to hit the scale where it is no longer handling a large influx of leads from marketing, and is instead working hard to create new leads. The benefits of a territory approach is that both the reps and the SDRs (Sales Development Reps) can start to think about developing a plan for their territory that would involve things like building a list of the best potential target accounts, and then figuring out ways to get into these accounts.
    I think the reason the data was so skewed in this survey towards other approaches is because so many of the survey respondents were below $5m in revenue. I hope this helps.

  • http://AgilePayments.com/ Wayne Akey

    It does–thanks for the reply

  • yjwang

    Hi David – Thank you for this report! What does geography look like in the sample group? Was this a US-only survey, or was it extended more broadly?

  • http://www.forentrepreneurs.com David Skok

    It was overwhelmingly a US respondent group – 90%+. The rest mostly European.

  • Shiva Kumar

    Great Collection David Skok

  • paolo 10

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  • http://senatorclub.co/ Ian Adams

    This is brilliant David. Thanks very much for sharing. I clearly need to have more conversations per day.

    Ian

  • http://www.salesprocessengineering.net/ Justin Roff-Marsh

    I suspect call rates are going down because all of the non-call stuff that organizations are having their people do. I was at the Inside Sales Association conference the other week, and industry leaders are suggesting that inside salespeople should be doing all kinds of stuff including blogging!!

    In the (typically technical) inside sales teams we build, inside salespeople consistently average 20-30 meaningful selling interactions a day (including email and chat).

    But that’s because opportunities are served up to them with no additional research required and all they need to do is perform activities against those opps until they are either won or lost (calls, web conferences, etc). They do NOTHING else.

    If field visits are required, they push these to field specialists (often via a field scheduler). And if quotes are required or orders are forthcoming, both are pushed to customer service for processing.

    You’d think that the movement of the locus of sales from outside to inside would be an opportunity to embrace division-of-labor (and close the 50 year gap on the rest of the organization) but sadly this isn’t the case.

    Most organizations are replicating the field-based ‘lone-ranger’ model inside. This model doesn’t work particularly well in the field but inertia stands in the way of radical change.

    It’s a tragedy, though, IMHO, when organizations build inside sales functions and then insist on replicating the worst of field sales inside, when there is no good reason.

  • http://www.forentrepreneurs.com David Skok

    Justin, thanks for adding to the conversation. You’ll see that I agree with your division of labor comment in my Outbound Prospecting slide deck (http://www.forentrepreneurs.com/outbound-prospecting/).

  • http://www.salesprocessengineering.net/ Justin Roff-Marsh

    Very interesting.

    Our experience with inbound marketing parallels yours. Inbound does enable us to test and fine-tune propositions–which makes outbound massively more effective.

    With a typical client, we have a research team that compile lists. We then have a campaign coordinator who chokes the release of Sales Opps to inside salespeople. Campaign coordinators mass-generate inside salespeople’s opportunities, generally in batches of 10-15, daily.

    This way all of salespeople’s activity is captured in the opportunity module and the qualified / not-qualified debate is eliminated!

    With good research and well-designed offers, we don’t generally need SDR’s–though sometimes junior inside salespeople will schedule web conferences–and loop in more experienced colleagues (or SME’s).

    We then have salespeople push field visit requests to field specialists (when absolutely necessary) and we also have customer service generate all quotes and do order processing.

    In this environment inside salespeople can *easily* average 30 meaningful-selling interactions a day.

    Also, in our environments, we eliminate commissions. Both activity levels and sales are mandatory, not optional! As in production environments, division-of-labor and piece-rate pay are mutually exclusive (local optimization is NOT global optimization).

  • Bob More

    I read this when it first came out and back for seconds. Even better this time. As you get beyond SDR’s and into more of the direct field reps (selling at $300k ACV and 36 month terms), do you have any insight on productivity ramp time? Clearly it would be more than the SDR’s and the enterprise nature of the sale bumps it up significantly.

    Thanks for all the great stuff and keep it coming.

  • WillemBrandeler

    Completely agreed, this is priceless! Thank you.