Maybe you’ve raised funding and need to scale, or maybe you’re hitting a plateau from organic growth and you’ve decided it’s time to bring in your first sales hire. But it’s an expensive hire, so it’s essential that you avoid it becoming an expensive mistake by approaching it thoughtfully.
If you haven’t come from a sales background then there are lots of elements to sales that might seem overwhelming but let’s break them down.
Where are you at with product market fit?
If you’re still trying to find your niche and you’re still rounding out the core of your product, it may make more sense for the founders to be doing the selling.
How’s your marketing engine?
If you don’t have plenty of inbound leads you’ll need salespeople to do prospecting to create their own. Outbound is a whole other skillset and not everyone is cut out for the extra challenge.
Who/where are your customers and how big are the deals?
Even though it’s easier than ever to connect with people online, field sales was still very popular but as we’ve seen recently, when there’s something that makes travelling to visit prospects or meeting with them in person, your whole pipeline could be obliterated. Inside sales also gives you better efficiency because you’re not on the road for so much of your day.
Thinking about these things will help you start to form an idea of how you need to approach sales in your company, and that helps you to start building a profile of who you’re looking for.
Before you post a job and start interviewing…
There’s something else to consider. Rich Mironov uses “thoroughbreds” vs “explorers” to explain an important distinction between the people who can do the job of charting a course and those who will excel when you’re already set up.
In the same way, you need to think about how relevant someone’s experience is – too many times we’ve seen a big brand company sales rep who “slams quota” and sells “hundreds of millions of dollars” of product flat out fail in a new company. Why? Probably the majority of their sales came from the brand. Thank you marketing 🙂
Can you imagine an IT director taking a cold call from “Billy Bob’s Computer Services”?
Probably not – but it’s easy to see them taking a call from DellEMC or HP right?
Besides that, if they are used to having teams of marketing people and sales operations and sales enablement they might not be prepared for everything they have to do to get a sales team off the ground in your company.
They need to understand your company culture, what you’ve done sales-wise already, how to take the messaging that worked to get the first 10, 20, 30 customers and craft that into something solid that works for volume. They need to create processes and add structure to your CRM, if you even have one. They need to identify targets to go after and they need to ensure there is a way to track the engagements in your CRM properly.
They can start to build a picture of what’s working, what metrics should be used to track performance, what messaging is resonating, what to double down on and how to grow the business.
They should add plenty of pipeline and have a strong qualification process so they are only adding qualified opportunities.
You need to have a person that can get their hands on the role, mould it, shape it, take ownership of it. They need to be comfortable with change as the messaging and targeting (and potentially the product) gets adapted. They need to be self sufficient so they can get moving quickly and they need to be pretty darn resilient.
So when you find that person who you think can take you to the next level of growth, don’t leave their success to chance. It’s tragic to see someone with lots of potential failing to work out after a few months. We have to ask – what have you done to onboard and train them, have you supported them with their collateral needs? Have you expected them to do it all with no support, and treated sales like an island?
The investment you make in their first few months will pay back in the long term. Taking everything we’ve just covered into account, you’ll be better equipped to avoid making that costly mistake with your first sales hire.