The 360 Account Executive role in B2B SaaS sales is a challenging position often viewed as being critical. This role is responsible for managing both the sales and the business development process for a specific set of accounts, vertical or territory; making it a key driver for growth in a company. However, despite its importance, many sales leaders and founders struggle to find the right person for the job, and those who do take on the role often find it to be incredibly demanding.
Why are 360 account executive roles so challenging for AEs themselves?
One of the biggest challenges for 360 AEs is time management. They are expected to close deals and also allocate time towards outreach and lead generation activities. This often leads to an imbalance between the amount of time spent on sales activities and the time spent on business development activities at the expense of efficiency and ultimately, revenue.
As a result, 360 Account Executives often struggle to find the right balance between hitting targets and consistently building strong relationships with prospects. The burden grows larger once you factor in the increasingly high levels of product knowledge required in order to create valuable, high calibre-sales customer experiences. AEs need to intimately understand the nuances of their product and the market they are selling into, in order to effectively position their solution to potential customers. This requires a significant investment of time and energy up front when they join a company and continually as both the product and needs of your customers evolve, making it even more challenging for AEs to balance their workload.
Why Sales Leaders and Founders shouldn't always offer 360 Roles
One of the misconceptions about 360 Account Executive roles is that having a time comprised largely of them provides a one-size-fits-all solution to growth. Conceptually, it makes sense that a single person can generate pipeline for themselves and then be responsible for closing it personally. It's why these kinds of roles became so prevalent, especially at the point where an SDR first makes the jump up to AE upon being promoted. They've been doing so much outreach to get to this point, now all they need to is learn how to close deals, right? Wrong.
A company thinks it's creating a talent factory but in reality, its more likely that they're setting their team up to fail. Think about it this way. You've promoted this person for a reason, they've assumedly performed well and show promise as someone that can win business. Now you're asking them to pick up a totally new skill that they (in most cases) have no experience in whilst also generating their own pipeline. How can you expect this person to hit their ramp targets whilst also having to make a standing start when it comes to opportunity generation? Oftentimes, the newly promoted AE in this situation has their problems compounded further from not being given enough marketing-generated opportunities due to them likely having a smaller target to hit. That means they have fewer opportunities to learn their craft at closing, drawing out the process and leading to missed targets early in their career as an AE. All in all, this situation is bad for both the individual and the company, and one that with proper planning could be avoided entirely.
But maybe you've got your heart set on a 360 team? The immense promise of this approach is alluring to founders and commercial leaders alike. It follows that, finding the right person for the job can be difficult as the role requires a unique set of skills, including a high level of technical / product knowledge, as well as proficiency at cold outreach. Moreover, given how difficult 360 roles can be the supply of quality candidates can be limited. In many cases, people don't want to take on such a challenge when there are other easier roles out there (especially if you're an early-stage startup with minimal brand awareness). This makes it difficult to find candidates who have the right mix of skills and experience to be successful in the role. And when you do find them? Don't expect them to be cheap.
Invariably, rather than considering whether their business is right for a 360 team of AEs, the company likely compromises on candidates either based on quality or experience. A tradeoff that has no resoundingly positive outcomes that could have been avoided if they'd considered other alternatives to the traditional hunter-gatherer approach to B2B sales.
Historically, the 360 Account Executive role has played an important role in driving growth, but has proven in more recent economic environments to not be as guaranteed of success as it once was. The role requires a unique set of skills and the ability to balance both sales and business development activities. The reality of the role is increasingly challenging for AEs themselves, especially inexperienced ones, which in turn makes it important for sales leaders and founders to carefully consider the resources and expectations required to effectively fill the position. Such questions can only be answered by proper commercial planning and understanding the unit economics of your specific business and how different performance metrics interact with one another.
Most of the time, not enough intelligence or science goes into divining the right approach. Corners being cut like this can be catastrophic, despite how innocently the original intention was. Ultimately, the success of a 360 account executive depends on the specific circumstances and alignment between the marketing funnel and sales process, the answers you need are in your data.
Planning around the lags and challenges of hiring can be a planning nightmare, and one that at Clevenue we believe can't be properly done in a spreadsheet.
Using technology to better predict all of the moving parts in sales capacity & hiring planning can help elevate business growth and profitability.
Q: What makes the 360 account executive role so challenging?
A: The 360 account executive role is challenging as you need to balance technical and product knowledge with good outreach and closing skills. It is a very demanding, multi-faceted role with a difficult to manage workload.
Q: Is the 360 account executive role a good solution for growth?
A: Not always. Hiring someone for this role requires a significant investment in time, resources, and money, and finding the right person for the job can be difficult. Additionally, the role is demanding for AEs themselves, making it important to carefully consider the resources and expectations required for success.
Q: What factors determine the success of a 360 account executive role?
A: The success of a 360 account executive role depends on a number of factors, including the alignment between the company's marketing funnel and sales pipeline, and the resources and expectations in place. Additionally, the success of the role is dependent on the skills and experience of the individual filling the position, including their technical and product knowledge and their ability to build strong relationships with potential customers.