Startup Sales is Hard, But Hiring a Successful First Sales Rep is Harder

Hiring-a-Startup-Sales-RepThis week I had the pleasure of presenting at the Ryerson DMZ centre in Toronto on the topic of B2B Sales Strategy for Startups. The event featured a great group of tech entrepreneurs who came prepared with lots of sales related questions and were eager to learn.

Typically, the founders of tech startups tend to be highly technical or operational in nature, but are generally unfamiliar with the startup sales and marketing process. Like many entrepreneurs, they know their product inside-out but frequently struggle to articulate a meaningful value proposition. What’s the solution?

A big milestones for any growing company is the decision to hire a first full-time startup sales person. Unfortunately, many of these hires don’t work out and most of the time the founders are the most to blame as the biggest issue is a lack of internal preparation for the new salesperson.

Here are 6 major issues to avoid or address when hiring the first sales rep for your startup.

1. What Are The Steps In Your Sales Process?

A lot of young, growing companies are not sure of the steps or don’t have them documented. Outlining the steps in a formal document makes for a great guide on how to be successful with startup sales and marketing.

2. The Role Has Not Been Thought Out

Do you need an inside sales person, a more senior rep, or someone that will carry a bag (sell) and be the sales leader? Not having this, or the set of activities that make up the role, defined can lead to issues after the hire.

3. Sales Compensation Plan Problems

I knew of a company where the sales rep made more money on each sale than the company did. Great for the rep, not great for the business. In other cases, especially with 100% commission roles, a great salesperson could leave because the founder does not take into account the startup sales cycle and acknowledge that it often takes some time before revenues start flowing.

4. Poor Interview Process

Hiring for new roles that you don’t have good experience with is hard. For example, I used to be responsible for hiring technical resources for a tech firm that I worked with. Recognizing the need for more in-depth expertise, I brought in someone from the technical side to help with the interview. Ultimately, asking the right types of questions and digging into the answers can help ensure you get the right person.

5. Sales Tools Are Not In Place

At a bare minimum you should have a CRM and a document that outlines top sales tips.  This should include a value prop for emails or cold/warm calls, target accounts/verticals, key contacts, differences versus competitors, and a list of common objections the salesperson may face.

6. Onboarding Plan Is Missing

When you hire a new sales person, especially when they are a junior rep or new to sales, devote considerable time in the first 2-4 weeks to get them fully onboarded. This will benefit the salesperson immensely in terms of getting off to a productive start.

There are many more things to think about when starting to hire your sales team, but the points above are some of the most important items. If you are looking for other tips as you grow your sales team, download our white paper on Building a Startup Sales Team.