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Hiring Your First Startup Sales Professional

Posted by Early Growth

November 25, 2013    |     4-minute read (676 words)

Blue Deer

Originally published on BlueDeer.

Great advice on hiring your first sales professional from our good friend Mike Moss at BlueDeer.

I attended a Mitchellake event hosted at RocketSpace called: Hiring Your First Sales Person. Panelist were from: Andreessen Horowitz, Yammer, Hortonworks, and Gigya. The take aways that resonated with me include:

Realistic self-assessment

    • Understand your needs. What type of market are you in? What stage of development is your product? Who are your clients? What are their needs? Do you have sales tools? Is your messaging aligned? How sales-minded your CEO? If you are early in the adoption curve, getting from your first 10 to your first 100 customers is different than getting to your first 10. This requires shifting from being reactive to customer inquires to proactively developing the market, which involves a different mindset.
    • Develop clear goals and milestones, and make adjustments as needed.
    • Fit the right skill set to your needs. Meet with as many candidates as you can to validate your ideas and to learn about different sales models and approaches.
    • Look for these skills:
—Somebody creative and dynamic. If they have a “playbook,: that is a red flag. There is no magic sales model.

—A good listener. Listening is critical and can open the door to extremely valuable prospect feedback.

—Somebody that understands the complexity of the sale, the approach, and can build high-quality long lasting relationships. Beware of turn-and-burn, deal chasing, closers.

—Enough intellectual horsepower and technical aptitude to close and to stay with the customer.

—Broader skill sets beyond just sales are more valuable than domain expertise.

—Finding somebody equally as passionate as you and has a genuine passion for customer success, and somebody that is a good cultural fit, and is value-aligned. Remember, they represent your brand.

—A 15 year veteran at a Fortune 500 usually isn’t a good fit as they don’t normally possess the skill set needed to be successful and don’t often thrive in a frenetic environment. I’ll add that account managers are usually not good initial sales reps either, as working an established install base is completely different than developing new business for a new company.

Interview tips

  • Have them sketch a 100 day plan. Behavioral based interviewing is preferred.
  • Don’t have them “sell” you something. Very few sales require on-the-spot selling.
  • Get references from customers, which are more helpful than from employers.
  • Consider hiring somebody on a trial basis. Make sure you are the right fit for each other. Have frequent check-ins.

Tips for success once you’ve hired

  • Leverage the intelligence generated in the field.
  • Talk to a bunch of people and validate your idea.
  • Articulate and test your value proposition.
  • Work on the message and on the product.
  • Support the effort
  • Realism, patience, and your ability to fund the effort. It can take 4 mos to know what to even measure.
  • Expectation alignment is key. Define what success looks like.
  • Develop a training program. Gain & share institutional knowledge, create Videos of demos, be okay with failing fast, adapting and innovating to find killer app. Find the repeatable value and process.
  • Provide air cover through an integrated approach. It’s not just a lone-wolf hunting, but a company-wide effort to understand, position, engage, support, and grow.
  • Provide a culture of no blame. This is a partnership to learn, adapt, and improve.
What do you think the key to hiring a strong sales person are? Tell us about it in comments below.

Mike Moss helps companies build and scale revenues. He brings 20 years of business development, sales and start-up expertise. He has closed $4m and $5m contracts and countless 6-figure contracts with the Fortune500 and built several 8-figure pipelines for his clients. His company, BlueDeer provides a 'plug & play' sales and marketing team for the cost of a single headcount. He loves talking shop, so contact him to discuss your growth goals.

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