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How HR Tech Sales Works

HR and TA practitioners should know the basics of software sales in order to make the right purchase

Phil Strazzulla
HR Tech Expert, Harvard MBA, Software Enthusiast
January 8, 2020
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We wanted to shed some light on the sales process of most HR Tech vendors in order to arm HR and TA professionals with the knowledge they need to save time and money when buying new hr software. Our goal is that you’ll be able to buy tools with more confidence, and know the answers to annoying questions like why sales people never tell you what you want to know on first calls.  

Here’s the video version:    

Your First Sales Call

When you ask for a demo, or download an eBook, or get reached out to cold, the person on the other end of the phone is an entry level sales person, typically a “Sales Development Rep” (SDR) or “Business Development Rep” (BDR).

Their job is to find, engage, and qualify new prospects for their business.  By “qualify” we mean they are trying to figure out if you have Budget, Authority, Need, and a Timeline (BANT).  In simple terms, they are trying to figure out if you are worth the time of the more senior sales person they feed leads to.  

A BDR is typically compensated based on the number of qualified meetings they can book per month.  They are booking these meetings with an Account Executive (AE), this is your second sales call.

You can save time by simply telling that first sales person over email that you do indeed have BANT, and that you want to skip to a demo.  Trust us, they’d rather skip this meeting as well as they get compensated based on the number of qualified demos they book for their AE, not whether or not they got on the phone with you.

Your Second Sales Call

Your second sales call will typically be with someone who is compensated based on closing new business (a quota bearing sales rep).  They have titles like Account Executive, or Regional Sales Manager.  They talk to your peers all day long, and so the best ones are full of valuable information and best practices, just tinged with a little bias towards buying their software.

Their job is to show you the product, figure out how you’d use it, and then move you towards buying it.  They’re going to “discover” your pain, learn more about your internal org, and hopefully act as a trusted advisor throughout the rest of the buying process.  

While they’re definitely going to have an agenda that they’d like to stick to, don’t be afraid to take over and start doing your own discovery of their company.  Figure out if this is the right organization for you to partner with, and quickly get to the potential deal breakers.

Remember, this person is compensated mostly as a percentage of the new recurring revenues they bring to the business.  Therefore, if there are non-recurring revenues (like setup fees) in the contract, they may be ok with throwing those out.

Here’s a pro tip: bad sales reps (late to calls, overly aggressive, don’t follow up, etc) typically work at bad companies.  If they were good, they’d work at a company that had an amazing product, because this is the main way they can sell a lot, crush their quota, and make a big bonus.  So, pay attention to the quality of your rep as a proxy for the experience you’d have as a customer!

The Account Manager

Congrats, you’re now a customer and have been assigned an account manager.  Maybe it’s the same person who demo’d you the product, but probably not.

This person has the most incentive of anyone in the world for this new solution to be a success - even more than you do!  They have a playbook that’s worked before, know the key stumbling blocks, and most likely how to get around them.

The bottom line is that you should trust this person and lean on them heavily to ensure a successful implementation of whatever you just bought.  The only wrinkle is that they may have an up-sell quota to hit and so be aware of new products they are putting in front of you.  These products may very well be worth purchasing, but like any sale it’s on the buyer to properly vet.

Hopefully this overview on how HR/TA software sales teams work is helpful to understand, and gives you more confidence in dealing with these teams.  Let us know what questions you have in the comments!

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Phil Strazzulla

Phil is the founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, a website dedicated to helping HR and Recruiting teams find and buy the right software through in-depth, expert advice. He has bought over $1 million worth of HR and Recruiting tools. Additionally, as of 2022, nearly 3 million HR professionals have relied on his advice to determine which business software they should buy.

Phil studied finance at New York University and started his career working in venture capital before getting his MBA from Harvard Business School. His in-depth understanding of the Saas landscape, especially HR Tech, stems from nearly a decade of researching and working with these tools as a computer programmer, user, and entrepreneur.

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