The SaaS industry is an exciting, growing industry with many opportunities. But on a personal level, work in 2020 can be a struggle. With COVID disrupting work life, being a rockstar in the SaaS world is extra challenging. Paul French of Intrinsic Search shares his advice on how to keep rocking in the SaaS industry well into 2021.
‘Big hair, lots of leather’?
The term ‘rockstar’ is used to describe top performers in the SaaS sector, explains Paul French. He is managing director of Intrinsic Executive Search, specialised in finding the best C-level Executives for SaaS companies all over Europe. Despite the term ‘rockstar’ being used in a professional setting, for French, it invokes images of 80’s bands with big hair, power stances and leather. A welcome change of pace compared to being stuck at home.
“Don’t know about you, but continual zoom meetings make my eyes go square.”
French says it is easy to lose the rockstar feeling when you’re at home all the time: “But whatever effect 2020 has had on us individually or professionally, we still need to be on our A-game.” With pretty much all personal and face-to-face engagement in the SaaS world being digital, he offers some advice to keep on rockin’.
Being a SaaS rockstar: it’s about the looks
As a C-level SaaS executive, you might feel the need to show up in suit and tie. French is eager to dispel the notion that this is the norm. “The dress code for SaaS has become far more casual over the years, and I’m good with that.” However, working from home, connecting through video does involve the risk of becoming complacent.
I always remember the advice given to me by a mentor 24 years ago. Well before broadband and video calls, she advised me that when working from home, you should look and dress the same as when in the office.”
It’s all about the state of mind, explains French: “Making sure that we have done all that we can to look professionally engaged means that we sound and feel professionally engaged. It is even more critical when we can be dragged into a Zoom call at any time.”
SaaS rockstars are always on time for their meetings, look the part, are engaging and make good use of modern sales, marketing and collaboration tools. French: “Each day needs to start with a disciplined approach, and this is far more important than the specifics of what you wear. At Intrinsic Search, we wear polo shirts with our logo, and this seems to be the norm and totally acceptable.”
Job interviews in 2020
A different type of meeting is the job interview, though. French sees that the market has been turbulent but generally hiring has continued. This being 2020, it is very likely such an important meeting will also be conducted online, through video. If there ever is an occasion for more formal dress, now is the time, says French.
Another aspect to think about is the environment where you present yourself. French: “Think about an appropriate background view. We’ve seen politicians and public figures show off their literary intellect with their book library behind them. That’s fine. For me, my things are sailing, snowboarding, and fitness so my backdrop authentically and professionally plays to that. For you, that might be personal as well, whether it’s the business books that have inspired you over the years or awards you have won.”
“As we are physically distant in a digital environment, think about how you want to present yourself authentically and how you would like to be perceived. Of course, when we are caught short or do not have a great background, Zoom and Teams provide some great digital backdrops. Just leave the bunny ears out.”
Elevator pitch important as ever
French adds an online job-interview is not just about what you wear or how you do your hair. That’s only the veneer. “Practice your personal one-minute elevator pitch that offers the interviewer a brief but concise overview of who you are, what you do, your aspirations and what they get if they hire you. Don’t make it drag on for ten minutes, running the risk you lose the interviewer. Less is more.”
Don’t be afraid to take some homework into the interview either. “How powerful to have a slide showing your principal achievements in the last five years? Or a list of logos of new business wins? If you are a V or C-level executive, how about major initiatives you have led, revenue growth numbers or fund-raising rounds for instance?” Keep it simple, says French: “Have a crib sheet and CV in front of you. So you don’t hesitate on critical dates or data. We are only human.”
Don’t zoom out during meetings
According to French, a lot of the same applies if you are selling to prospects, presenting to partners and meeting colleagues. “It’s far too easy for people that are zoomed-out in 2021 to start losing attention. We need to remain on point in front of all that we work with, influence or lead in the digital world. In fact, from an influencing or leadership perspective, a digital-only approach means that it is more important than ever to be sharp and present well.”
Monitor your presence online
Keep in mind that your online presence is not limited to those video calls. French considers business social media and specifically Linked in as the key to enhancing your rockstar status in the world of SaaS: “Authenticity remains, in my opinion, the single most critical consideration. An up-to-date picture is important, as is an overview that hits the mark. Find a balance between selling yourself well, but also demonstrating humility and modesty.”
Using social media professionally does come with some caveats. “The question remains as to whether or not you set your LinkedIn profile to ‘open to work’”, says French. “My take is that if you are in a job, but looking for a new role, then it is inadvisable. It is a different story if you are redundant or not working. If you set your ‘open to work’ publicly and you have short tenure in your current role, this may give the impression that there is a problem in your current job. It can be further exacerbated if there is a trend of short tenure and so does not define rockstar potential.”
Keep the personal personal
Besides LinkedIn, keep the other social media you’re using in mind, warns French. The wrong personal information could eat away at your carefully constructed rockstar image. “It’s amazing how many quite senior people have a lot of content that is only a few clicks away. This single aspect has caused challenges for many people in all industries. It even has had the effect of enhancing or destroying rockstar status for some.”
Be a rockstar? Feel like one!
However, French states that the best way to be a rockstar is to feel like one. To be clear, he doesn’t need you to grow out your hair and throw on some leather pants. “Everyone is different, but for me, I feel great about myself by being physically fit. So I start every day with a 45-minute fitness session. It becomes a habit and part of my working day.”
“My take is the fitter you are, the better you work. The better you work, the more successful you become. Pour in good stuff at the top of the funnel, and the good prevails. This includes rockstar status, eventually!”
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