Compensation trends emerging in 2024 reflect the evolution of tech sales and other go-to-market (GTM) jobs over the past few years. Salaries in 2023 exhibited dynamic trends, with increases observed in certain job titles and declines in others. The ebb and flow of rates within various subsectors of SaaS was influenced by both internal and external factors, contributing to a disrupted market landscape.
Betts has put together our annual Compensation Guide, updated with all of the data we collected over the past year and findings on key trends emerging in 2024. This blog will be the first in a multi-part series where we will go over the top developments we found impacting average salaries and benefits packages for sales, marketing, customer success and other GTM roles in tech.
Top Compensation Trends for Tech in 2024
The technology industry went through significant upheavals in 2023, from the Great Resignation to mass layoffs and then to the explosion of generative AI. We saw some of the biggest shifts since 2020 in the Betts network, with many SaaS companies scaling back on recruiting for open jobs as they responded to the effects of inflation and other economic challenges in their markets. However, the rise of the AI sector allowed many new disruptors to enter the scene, creating lopsided hiring trends throughout the world of venture capital-funded startups.
As a result of the factors above, compensation rates for sales, marketing, and customer success jobs in tech varied depending on subsector, role type and other categories. There were a few persistent trends, though, that we observed across the market and which will have significant impact on hiring throughout 2024.
The top common developments we found were:
- AI is changing the game everywhere and could take over some traditional job functions (like email outreach)
- The roles of SDRs and Customer Success are changing, and in many cases recruiting shrunk for these jobs
- Account Executives (AEs) are increasingly taking on additional responsibilities
- A need for specialization is growing among AE hires, as well as for Sales Ops and Revenue Ops
- Most tech companies are looking for their “unicorn seller” – the perfect fit, sales motion-aligned and industry-experienced sales hire
Evolution of CSM, SDR and AE Roles
Tech sales and other GTM job categories went through noticeable shifts over the past year, with these changes having a sizable impact on compensation trends for 2024. What really affected average salaries, however, was the role of each of these positions in the evolving sales motion of many organizations. Overall, we saw SaaS companies making several key pushes – growing headway into the enterprise side of their markets, a narrower recruiting search for more experienced GTM talent (often with technical knowledge or other specializations), and increasing adoption of AI tools.
Here is a breakdown of how this impacted key sales and customer success roles:
CSM (Customer Success Manager)
Things looked very different for SaaS CSMs a few years ago, and 2023 was expected to see renewed focus on customer success initiatives. Instead, overall recruiting for CX teams dropped by half, except for Enterprise CSM (ECSM) roles where investment continued. As a position that requires more experience and specialization, ECSMs can typically expect a higher average compensation than general customer success roles.
SDR (Sales Development Representative)
The role of the SDR has arguably been hit the hardest by the changes in the technology industry throughout 2023. Analyzing our data from 2022 into the following year, we found that the number of companies hiring SDRs – especially entry-level candidates – shrunk considerably year-over-year (YoY). Additionally, many companies also cut back on their sales development programs to various degrees as part of a broad reassessment of lead generation and outreach across SaaS. Which will probably have a greater impact in the immediate future as this was historically a gateway for new hires looking to move up to higher-paying sales roles.
AE (Account Executive)
Just as with CSMs, one of the biggest trends we have seen growing YoY for AEs is the growing demand for Enterprise Accounts Executives (EAEs). These are by definition more experienced sellers and with specialization to boot, so they usually receive a significant pay bump on the way up from mid-level AE. However, we are also seeing many of those same AEs take on more responsibilities as the traditional sales channels in SaaS break down and there are less SDRs to handle leads – which means that many AEs may start seeing a compensation increase for new jobs as their roles grow in importance.
Demand for Specialization in Tech Sales & Operations
Besides the growth of experienced Enterprise AEs and CSMs, we saw other signs of an increasing hiring demand for candidates that were able to fulfill specialized roles. Sales Engineers (SEs) were at the top of this list as the technical experts that could facilitate pre-sales conversations, demos and other product-centric functions needed to create and close deals. Sales and Revenue Operations roles also saw compensation increases YoY as SaaS companies gradually target prospects with more complex needs. In this case, specialization and the growing drive into the enterprise market will often end up feeding each other, pushing both trends forward.
Rise of the Unicorn Seller
What a unicorn seller looks like could be vastly different for every company, and this is a big roadblock emerging for many startups trying to hire without a dedicated talent acquisition team in place. The concept itself reflects where many organizations in tech are in the current market – unicorn sellers, in short, are that absolute perfect fit candidate that can walk right in the door and jump into the job with little to no additional resources or training.
Obviously, there are a lot of factors that have to align for someone to qualify for your unicorn fit, including:
- Experience with your sales motion
- Experience with your target industry
- Experience with your target buyers / decision-makers
- Relevant sales skills
- Fits with your sales culture
- Fits with your organizational culture
There are other attributes to consider, but in general a unicorn seller will come equipped with the soft skills you need for the role – those elements that are harder and more expensive to train for. Consequently, these perfect unicorn candidates can expect a significant bump over the average compensation rate for their role.
New Compensation Targets for Hiring Tech Sales in 2024
For every release of the Betts Compensation Guide, we include target salary rates which are the ideal sweet spot for securing top talent for those roles. However, with many of the factors outlined above throwing off this year’s average rates, we have a few new general Rules of Thumb to take into consideration when engaging with the current candidate pool:
2024 Target Compensation Guidelines for Tech
Below we outline adjustments to make for the target compensation rates included in our Guide, based on many of the dynamic and compounding factors mentioned previously in this blog. Keep in mind that our suggested target salaries are based on reducing Time to Hire (TTH) and consequently Cost-Per-Hire (CPH) over time, so be sure to account for these when calculating your final rates.
Unicorn Seller & Other Exceptional Candidates
Unicorn sellers – especially if they’re your first hire for your sales team – are obviously going to command a larger rate than average. Expect to reach up to 20% of the target compensation to be able to attract your perfect fit candidate with the level of experience and sales motion familiarity you need.
Currently Employed Candidates
For candidates that are currently employed, employers should expect to offer up to 10% of their current compensation. Many Great Resignation factors are still at play in the market, and candidates will want to see a tangible incentive if an offer is serious.
Standard SaaS Sellers
For candidates that have a background in SaaS sales, but are not unicorn sellers for a given organization, then compensation could decrease up to 10% of the target rate.
Laid Off Candidates
If candidates aim to secure new opportunities within a 60-day timeframe following a recent layoff, they may face a potential reduction of up to 10% in their next salary compared to their previous role.
Navigating the New Compensation Trends in Tech
Please keep in mind that many other factors will also impact salary and benefit demands among the talent pool, especially if candidates are experienced and retain unique skills. Refer to the Compensation Guide at any time to review average and target rates when you’re hiring – and reach out to Betts Recruiting if you need to refine your search. Our expert recruiters will help you define what your unicorn seller looks like, track down the right fit, and help you craft an offer that stands out from your competitors’.
Contact Betts today and get started on your search for your unicorn seller, armed with the latest compensation data and more to help you secure your perfect fit candidate.