The startup world is one of excitement and chaos. It includes many sleepless nights but also jubilation—if you start to gain traction. Founders are tasked with taking on multiple roles which include product design, marketing expert, and sales representative.
It’s the latter that can be especially hard to master. Once you begin successfully conveying your vision, however, you start understanding the intricacies behind what works and what doesn’t concerning selling your product or service.
People buy into the idea of your company and, before you know it, the startup begins to grow—you’re better at being a salesperson than first thought. It’s at this point where specialized sales reps are likely to be required to enhance the company’s reach.
But how do you find the best reps if you don’t come from a specialized sales background?
Key Sales Traits When Looking for Sales Reps for Startups
One of your first decisions will involve selecting the type of sales reps that you want to hire. The job of a salesperson encompasses many aspects—but you don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself. Especially in the early lifecycle of a company.
There is no point looking for Vice President of Sales if the revenue isn’t surpassing $1 million. Instead, find reps who you will work closely while still taking a leading role. You have a method that has unearthed success, so it’s a good idea to find people that will help with increased demands.
The goal is to hire reps who become part of the company and help build a business. Ideally, they will then gain the confidence and understanding of the business to take over from you in the sales department and lead a team of their own.
First Sales Reps Through the Startup Door
There may be a temptation to go for inexperienced sales reps as your first hire, saving a few dollars in the process. If you don’t possess a vast knowledge of sales yourself, however, it’s best to avoid this route and go for more experience.
Your first reps don’t need to be A-star sellers, but they should be experienced in the art of selling and a good understanding of the sales process. Four to five years’ worth of experience is an ideal amount, as they will have a good grasp of what it takes to convert leads into customers.
No matter who you hire, having a sales process implemented before they come on board will also be of great benefit. Use software to create pointed steps that help move a lead through the pipeline, from initial prospects to a full customer.
The process can be tweaked with new hires, so everyone finds a system that offers the best chance of success.
Confidence is Key
While you want to hire reps with previous experience, it’s a good idea to avoid recruiting salespeople from Fortune 500 companies. Startup culture is vastly different from big branded organizations with substantial marketing budgets.
Reps at blue-chip companies have the safety net of the brand. That’s not to say they aren’t good sellers, but the environment of a startup with little brand recognition might mean they struggle to bring in customers.
Taking the risk on one could end up costing too much money because you need around six to nine months to see if they are successful. Such a lengthy wait might have significant financial ramifications for the company.
Look for reps who have gone through the struggle instead. They will have a greater appreciation for the grind of getting traction with a relatively new company, as opposed to those that have only worked at the top level.
Sales Reps for Startups With Hunger
Look for salespeople who are curious—not just about sales but life in general. Curiosity is a trait of someone that wants to learn, and the most successful people are interested in bettering themselves by learning new things.
Being curious will also help with finding and selling to good leads, as reps will show a genuine interest in solving their pain points.
A willingness to learn will see your hires absorbing everything you say, like a sponge. Such enthusiasm and eagerness will stand them in good stead for success. This is positive for them on a personal level, but also key to the future of the company’s success.
One Rep, Two Reps, Three Reps, Four?
Most founders might think that hiring one rep is the best way to start. However, hiring two will place you in a better position. From a financial standpoint, the idea of bringing two reps on board might be off-putting. But reps aren’t as expensive as many think.
Sales People don’t achieve their bonus (a significant proportion of their salary) unless they close revenue. And closing revenue means the company is growing. On paper, it’s a win-win.
Bringing two reps on board also allows you to A/B test. One rep means that you don’t have a surefire way of measuring failure. Even if they are successful, you can’t be sure whether it’s the process or their individual ability to close deals.
Having two well-performing reps is a better indication of a successful process. And a successful process will increase confidence when bringing new members of the team on board.
Create a Culture for Your Startup
Get the first hires right and create the foundations for a positive company culture, and word will start to spread. The result will see people showing an active interest in working for your company.
If success is forthcoming, and you scale successfully, the last task is hiring a VP of Sales. Whether you promote from within or hire externally is up to you. But it will be an indication of a startup company turning into a well-run organization.
And that’s when you will have successfully hired sales reps for your startup.
Bonus Tips for Hiring Sales Reps for Startups
- Don’t believe the Rolodex
- Don’t hire someone for their network
- People don’t buy a product because they know the seller; they buy because the product solves a problem.
- Trust your gut instincts when interviewing.
- You will not find the perfect candidate, but don’t underestimate any warning signs.
- Don’t think that because something is easy for you it is the same for other people.