How to Hire the First Salesperson for Your Startup
Few things are as important or as challenging to startups as landing that first salesperson to take your vision forward. Often you start as a solopreneur or as a small inner circle of founders wearing all the hats necessary to keep your firm lean and aggressively hungry. As you grow and scale operations, it becomes necessary to hire a strictly sales-focused team member. It can be the thing that really lets you shine and concentrate on the vision forward, or it can become the internal bottleneck that pauses everything.
Early Growth Financial Services is a company that aids startups in their financial management and actively advises its clients through the myriad of challenges during the rapid expansion years. Therefore, we have been fortunate to see some of the best practices, and as seasoned pros, we have the intuition to know what is needed. There are some basic ideas and reflective questions that will aid you in setting your course. The essential goal when taking on new people is maximum ease and minimal challenge, and these practices can help with this.
Define the level & style
For starters, you want to consider where your firm is at in sales.
Is the company still experimenting and fine tuning its offering or is the product ready to go? Will the sales person need to work internally to make those changes? Are you still experimenting with who is the ideal client, or are you clear on who your leads are and what your market is?
A salesperson needs to know what they’re selling and who they are selling to. If your offering has been through revisions, especially significant ones, it is important to make sure your sales team can appreciate those changes and reinforce the new offering as the best choice. Previous clients may need to be resold and re-evaluated, or new markets may need to be explored. Mapping out how much of the role is servicing existing sales, how much is growing new clients, and how much is raw business development is crucial.
Are you best served by someone with B2B experience or someone with a B2C sales background?
Style of communication can vary greatly in sales. What works best for those who service consumer needs can be problematic if you are a B2B focused entity. The reverse is true as well. Having the mindset and dialogue abilities for personal versus bureaucratic corporate speak makes a world of difference. Conversation is the beginning of everything, so make sure your salesperson can talk the right talk.
Your initial hire in sales needs to be comfortable with certain challenging aspects of lead generation, client management, and enthusiastic engagement. The ideal candidate should be eager, hungry, open, and willing to try new things. They must demonstrate that they are not afraid to cold call and can be ready and ambitious while doing it. The right candidate may be straight out of college especially if they are experienced in cold calling and have shown an eagerness to build the sales skills needed.
This is the internal evaluation of your success as a company that will be important in guiding your search.
Have you raised a seed round or are you Series A and beyond?
How deep your pockets are and, if applicable, what burn rate you are at will give you a strong start in picturing what kind of salesperson you are ready to take on. With your first hire in this area, you will want to be sure to minimize any false starts and do overs.
Compensation can vary widely from a fixed salary to totally variable pay based upon results. A good rule of thumb, in either case, is for the salary to be commensurate with the earned MRR (monthly recurring revenue) they bring in.
Following these guidelines, focusing in on quality and the cost to benefits ratio, making that successful first sales hire should be achievable. If you have additional tips we would love to hear them.