Descriptions of the various sales roles in a typical B2B SaaS organization.
If you’re unfamiliar with the SaaS sales world and are considering entering it, the various sales roles you may hear can become quite confusing.
It’s also worth noting that often times, in small startups, a person will hold two of these roles.
For example a ‘Full Cycle Account Executive’ is a combination of pre-sales and sales role.
Likewise at a small startup, a lone Account Executive may manage 2 to 3 SDR’s, which would be a management and sales role combined.
8 Types of Sales Roles
- Account Executive
- Outside Sales Rep
- Sales Development
- Post Sales Account Management
- VP of Sales
- Sales Manager
- Sales Operations
- Sales Engineer
1. Account Executive
This, of course, is the central role to the whole sales organization. If you are a SaaS Account Executive, you are the one interfacing with clients as they come closer to making a purchasing decision.
Whether or not they sign, and whether or not your company makes money, ultimately depends on your ability to align your company’s services with your potential client’s needs.
Account Executive Avg. Base Salary (via Glassdoor)
SaaS Account Executives can make anywhere from $60,000 to $500,000 annually.
How much you actually end up making depends on the following factors:
- How much demand is there for your product?
- How skilled are you at selling your product?
- How expensive is your product?
- What is your commission structure and base salary?
The most common job title for this role is ‘Account Executive’ and its variants (i.e. Enterprise Account Executive, SMB Account Executive etc.).
2. Outside Sales Rep
This role is basically an Account Executive who doesn’t work in the main company office regularly (or at all).
Outside sales reps pursue deals with a company’s largest potential clients. They work ‘outside’ because they are meeting in person with their clients rather than over the phone.
A company based in SF may hire experienced Outside Sales Reps in NYC, Chicago, etc. to pursue business with companies in those areas.
This is a great role for people who like to be independent.
It’s a role where if you’re hitting your quota you can do whatever you want with your day, because you’re not in an office full of co-workers and managers.
Outside Sales Rep Avg. Base Salary (via Glassdoor)
Outside Sales Reps for SaaS companies are almost always well paid, earning an average base salary of around $50,000, but with OTE’s can earn between $150,000 and $300,000 annually (some can make up to $500k).
3. Sales Development
As most B2B software companies know, marketing alone is far from enough to substantially fill the sales pipeline.
Enter the sales development team. You need highly skilled SDRs in order to scale your outbound sales process.
Salespeople, in order to deliver on revenue goals, need enough qualified opportunities.
SDRs are responsible for cold calling and emailing various potential clients, to spread awareness of the product and try to produce a meeting between said potential client and someone on the sales team.
Sales Development Avg. Base Salary (via Glassdoor)
This role is typically a gateway towards an actual sales role. Compensation, including commissions, typically range between $50,000 and $80,000 in the SF Bay Area.
The most common job title for this role is ‘Sales Development Representative (SDR)’ or Business Development Representative (BDR)’.
4. Post Sales Account Management
Once a contract is signed, a SaaS company must work to maintain the business relationship with a client. This is very important because cost to gain a new client is often so high (marketing, sales commissions etc) that there is no profit from an initial year of doing business but only from a second year if there is a renewal.
In addition to technical support staff to fix bug related software issues, SaaS companies employ sales-minded professionals to maintain business relationships post initial sale.
These ‘Account Managers’ are responsible for checking in on clients, teaching new team members of the client how to use the product, and identifying up-sell opportunities. In some teams the Account Managers will be responsible for executing these up-sell opportunities as well, thus they engage in actual sales too.
Account Manager Avg. Base Salary (via Glassdoor)
SaaS Account Managers typically earn anywhere from $50,000 to $130,000.
5. VP of Sales
Sales leaders have a manifold job. While a salesperson is responsible for her own revenue, the Head of Sales (titled variously as VP of Sales) is responsible for the entire company’s revenue!
VPs of Sales are primarily responsible for creating a strategy that will enable all individual salespeople to be successful.
This may include tasks like messaging strategies for the product, determining which customers to target, organizing the team across verticals, and much more.
At a smaller startup the sales leader will also be responsible for hiring, as well managing the entire sales team.
This means holding sales people accountable for quotas, training and coaching salespeople etc.
At a large company the sales leader will manage several sales managers, and focus more on strategy and less on actual management.
Additionally, for very large and important deals, sales leadership may roll up their sleeves and get hands on involved in some selling. This is rare but it happens from time to time.
VP of Sales Avg. Base Salary (via Glassdoor)
The compensation for sales leadership varies widely. High level sales leadership at companies like Oracle and IBM likely earn close to seven figures in salaries. Yet sales leaders at startups who gain equity stand to earn a hefty payday if and when their company is acquired or IPO’s. Expect to earn at least $120k if you land this role, with the potential to earn 300k and above.
6. Sales Management
This role, when it is distinct from Sales Leadership, usually happens at medium sized companies or larger. This is because the sales leader can usually manage up to 10 people personally.
As a company grows, usually, the first sales manager they’ll hire or promote that is separate from the sales leader is the SDR Manager, responsible for the SDR team. SDR Managers can generally earn up to $120,000 – $180,000 annually, that’s with bonuses and commission included of course.
As a company grows more the sales team becomes split along verticals. These verticals can be based on company size (SMB, Mid Market and Enterprise) or on industries (Insurance, Manufacturing, Retail etc). Often times each vertical will have its own manager and these various managers will report to the sales leader.
While sales leaders create the strategy for the sales team, sales managers implement this strategy. They work with the individual contributors and combine encouragement, education, and pressure to make the team deliver.
Sales Manager Avg. Base Salary (via Glassdoor)
Sales managers for SaaS companies will earn between $100,000 to $200,000 annually, with commissions and bonuses included.
7. Sales Operations
Support staff for the sales team in SaaS companies typically fall in two categories. The first category is those who work in ‘Sales Operations.’
At larger companies, sales leadership may not have the bandwidth to fully analyze all of the different procedures on the sales team.
In this case the operations team will, with the sales leadership, evaluate how things are done on the sales and pre-sales team to maximize effectiveness. The operations team is essentially responsible for making sure things are run smoothly.
Sales Operations Avg. Base Salary (via Glassdoor)
People who work in sales operations often earn between $80,000 and $100,000 annually.
8. Sales Engineers
For companies that sell highly complex technical products, Sales Engineers will accompany sales people on client meetings to answer certain client questions and to run product demos.
While the Account Executive will address business concerns and implications of using their product, the Sales Engineer will speak with the client’s engineers about their technical concerns.
Sales Engineer Avg. Base Salary (via Glassdoor)
These folks are often paid as high as software engineers, earning between $100,000 and $250,000 annually.