By late 2024, tech startups will have to get serious about hiring Account Executives (AEs) again. A variety of emerging and predicted trends are going to offset the developments of the past year and create new opportunities as well as challenges for the technology sector. Factors like a slowly rebounding economy, widespread industry disruption and a lopsided talent pool for certain jobs will put new pressure on SaaS companies in the near future, but those that begin building their sales teams strategically now will have a better chance of getting ahead of these changes and position their organizations for success. Here are the top reasons why 2024 is the right time to hire Account Executives in tech:
Top Trends Affecting Account Executive Recruiting in 2024
2023 was a dynamic, yet turbulent year for the technology sector…but then again, so were the years before it. 2020, 2021 and 2022 all saw massive shifts for the industry as businesses across the world adopted digital transformation and migrated to SaaS at unprecedented rates. Then inflation and interest rates began rising, putting tech startups between a market more skeptical of new products and venture capital funding that began drying up. Layoffs soon followed and continued through much of the year, with enterprises like Salesforce blaming it on overhiring during the pandemic; however, that same company also began hiring again in Q4 2023, even trying to rehire some of the same employees laid off in Q1.
That last anecdote reflects just how quickly circumstances are changing for the technology market, as well as how easy it is to react to the developments of today and miss the trends of tomorrow. The biggest takeaway from all of this as well as other big shifts in the industry is that those who are able to identify and come out ahead of these types of changes will be able to take advantage of the new opportunities they bring. That is why tech startups need to begin refining their search for Account Executives now if they want to be able to secure the right kind of talent they need to achieve growth in the immediate future – starting with personifying your “unicorn seller.”
The Role of the “Unicorn Seller” AE in 2024’s Tech Resurgence
As Betts’ President, Patrick Kellenberger outlines in this past webinar, the concept of the unicorn seller is the future of tech sales hiring – a perfect fit candidate, defined by their existing skills, experience, and close alignment with your current sales motion and culture. The majority of startups in our network are focusing on recruiting this ideal, veteran salesperson, signaling a pivot in the industry over how sales teams will function going into 2024. While every unicorn AE will ultimately look different for each organization, there will inevitably be overlap for certain skillsets and traits between competitors in similar spaces.
AI is Disrupting Technology – and Hiring
Generative AI is bringing all eyes back to the technology category as a practical application, as well as venture capital dollars to startups breaking ground in this field. While other subsectors of tech slowed down or froze hiring in 2023, artificial intelligence companies are building up to the type of recruiting sprees we saw across SaaS back in 2020. Only time will tell if this surge lasts longer, but the data so far shows that many organizations are adopting AI with enthusiasm and it has already become a huge disruptor in the industry.
For tech startups not delving into Gen AI, however, there will likely be increased competition in the market from this disruption. That includes potentially fighting over the limited talent pool of experienced Account Executives – especially those with technical knowledge – as organizations like OpenAI and those who follow in their wake continue to grow rapidly. Startups focusing on artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions will obviously also be competing heavily with each other for the same sales talent, given how young the latest iteration of the technology is and the time it will take for AEs to become technically savvy in the field.
Digital Transformation Will Resume
With all of the cynical outlooks on the tech sector post-pandemic surge and post-Web3, it is easy to forget the progress that was made even before COVID-19. The renewed rise of artificial intelligence as a serious disruptor shows that digital transformation is resuming at the type of pace it proceeded at before the pandemic lockdowns, and will gradually become a priority again as AI opens new opportunities for automation. This means that market demand is going to pick up, especially once inflation stabilizes, bringing back similar conditions that led to increasing competition over AE hiring pre-pandemic.
Traditional Sales Job Design is Breaking Down
Betts has found through our market research that traditional job design for SaaS sales has been breaking down since 2023. The way roles were supposed to work looks like this:
- Lead Generation – Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) handle sales leads
- Sales – Account Executives sell to leads
- Management – Sales Managers (SMs) directly manage AEs and SDRS
- Scaling – The VP of Sales focuses on scaling sales teams
However, we have seen tech companies scaling back on SDR hiring, with many of the historical duties of this role being filled with AE or taken up by other members of the sales team. Of course, that means that SMs and VPs have had to step into parts of the sales process lower down the funnel to fill in as well. Here is where and how much those responsibilities are crossing over now:
- Lead Generation – AEs cross over to lead gen and qualification up to 70% of the time, making up for sales or business development gaps
- Sales – 80% of Sales Managers are on 50% or more of sales calls to help close those deals
- Management – Sales VPs are taking over managing AE teams 50% of the time
- Scaling – CEOs or other C-level executives are stepping in to help scale operations for the sales team
This presents challenges to long-term scalability, but more importantly it is slowly expanding or shifting the role of Account Executives as multifaceted sales professionals. If lead management is gradually added to the list of expected duties, then AEs will become an even more valuable hire in the next few years.
There Will Be Fewer SDRs to Promote to AEs
A follow-up to the previous point is that SDRs have often been treated as an entry-level job for people starting their tech sales career, with many being promoted to AE as the next step in their professional development. However, we found that not only are many companies decreasing hiring for Sales Development Representatives, but they also eliminated programs that facilitate this climbing up the ranks. That means that the already limited pool of experienced Account Executives will be even smaller by 2025, with new startups having to face increased competition for sourcing these qualified candidates.
The Shadow of the Great Resignation is Still Cast Over Mid Market Tech
Despite the widespread reports of layoffs in the past year, the factors driving the Great Resignation are still evident in certain segments of the technology industry. Mid Market tech companies are usually where the trend remains most prevalent, owing in large part to the fallout from those very same layoffs. Go-to-market (GTM) professionals in particular have become more scrutinous of their long-term prospects at any given company, and are more willing to engage with new offers if they feel unsatisfied with their career advancement or work-life balance.
Compensation Rates Will Jump Again in the Future
Many of the developments and trends already listed here preclude another one that has a clear precedent – salary rates for Account Executives will go up as demand grows. Although average compensation for AEs dropped from 2022 onward, that only came after rates spiked during the pandemic, and before that they had continued to rise year over year (YoY).
The only caveat for 2024 is that salary averages have been thrown off by many of the same factors above, namely layoffs and the hunt for unicorn sellers. Check out the Betts Compensation Guide for the latest information on current rates and trends that could impact hiring, along with our recommendations on how to adjust for these developments..
Redefine Your Account Executive Hiring for 2024 with Betts Recruiting
From many of the factors outlined above, it is clear that by 2025 or later, tech startups will be entering into “bidding wars” over top Account Executives and other sales talent that fit with their unicorn seller profiles. Experienced AEs will be at a premium that will only go up as demand grows for their expertise, tribal knowledge, and hard-to-train soft skills.
Betts Recruiting will help you refine your search and cut down on the time – and cost – it takes to find your unicorn seller AE. By taking advantage of our experience in sourcing GTM talent, our pre-vetted candidate network, our hiring platform technology and our cost-effective Recruitment as a Service (RaaS) model, you will be able to identify and find your unicorn candidate for Account Executive without the hassle and costs of a traditional recruiting agency.
Contact Betts here to get started on refining your talent acquisition for 2024 and begin your search for your ideal, experienced AE.