The Hybrid Salesperson

256px-HybridFor early stage SaaS/cloud companies selling to the enterprise, the most common sales role is one I call the hybrid salesperson, whose function lies somewhere between a field sales and inside sales rep.

What are the Classic B2B Sales Roles?

Larger and more mature companies selling technology to enterprise will typically have three roles
1. Field Sales
2. Inside Sales
3. Lead Generation

These will be supported by sales operations personnel and sales engineers, the former to manage CRM administration, paper, contracts and processes and the latter to run demos and act technical experts on the offering being sold. Additionally, a larger company will have channel managers who handle partners and this role can sit inside the sales team or in marketing, as a lot of what a company does to drive sales through its channels is marketing-focused. I will not address these roles in this post.

Traditionally, field sales’ total comp is above $200 K, she will travel 60 – 80% of the time and works like a rock star, handling high level relationships and gets heavy support from sales operations and engineering. These are expensive people to employ.

Traditional inside sales reps work pitch and close deals that can be closed over the phone, dealing with a limited amount of complexity and working on a shorter sales cycle. This is the formulaic, productized sale, with the rep closing deals in the $2 – 25 K ACV (Annual Contract Value) Range.

Lead generation teams make outbound calls and qualify inbound leads and feed them to the inside and field sales teams. They work off carefully crafted scripts and are measured dials and qualified lead yield.

The Hybrid Salesperson

When a company is larger some combination of these sales roles may make sense, but this traditional sales structure is too complex, expensive and inflexible for an early stage company. Instead, I recommend that you hire sales people that can generate leads, run presentations and demos themselves and close a significant percentage of deals over the phone, while also working on larger, more complex deals. In essence, you take the three traditional roles and collapse them into a single person.

This hybrid sales person needs to be sharp, articulate and flexible – you will like change what you offer on the fly, adapt pricing and ask her to pitch something new on short notice. They must be able to work on large, complex deals (the domain of the traditional field sales rep) and bang out smaller, “cookie cutter” deals over the phone.. This a quite difficult combination of skills to find and you need to interview carefully to do so.

You will adjust compensation for this hybrid role so that it sits between what you would pay an inside sales and a field sales person (See my recent post for specific sales comp figures and one from couple of years ago on how to think more generally about sales comp.)


  1. Robert Cassard says

    Great post Hugh. Voodoo Viral is fortunate enough to employ more than one hybrid sales person. From my own experience, these folks thrive on the variety inherent in the hybrid role. They love being our from under the corporate thumb! As an added benefit to a startup, they also tend to value autonomy and the trust of the leadership team almost as much as they value cash in their comp packages. They don’t want or need a sales supervisor breathing down their neck telling then to generate meaningless activity in a CRM. Instead, let them do what needs to be done their own way with the tools they choose and they will deliver!

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