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Startup Sales Hiring Part 1: When Should You Hire Your First Salesperson?
Categories: entrepreneurship, Sales

It’s time for another series! This time, we’re going to look at hiring for sales in a startup. We’ll break this down in the following set of installments (links will appear as these posts become active):

sales1For today’s installment, we’ll explore when you should hire your first salesperson. And the answer to this is quite simple: you should hire your first salesperson only after you have discovered and finalized your repeatable, scalable sales process.

What exactly does that mean? I’ll break it down for you. First of all, the grand implication of that statement is that you need to be the first to figure out what makes customers purchase from you again and again. In fact, it’s essential that the founders be the first salespeople in the company. Not only do you get excellent feedback from prospective customers that drives back into your product development process, but you also begin to understand intimately what customers respond to in terms of messaging and features…as well as what they do not respond to. That creates a process of elimination that hones your messaging and feature set to the point that you start to get a consistent, positive response from prospects. Perhaps most importantly, however, it eliminates the all-too-common founders’ search for the elusive “magic bullet” – in this case, that would be an incredible salesperson who arrives at the company and starts generating insane amounts of revenue and new customers. Unfortunately, all startups magic bullets are myths…including this one!

Developing Repeatability In A Sales Process

The next part of the above statement is that the sales process should be repeatable. I alluded to this in the previous paragraph by stating that startup founders should constantly be testing messaging and features until they find the ones that continually garner a positive response from prospects. Armed with this information, you can go into a new prospect and repeat the success from previous prospects, thereby saving lots of time and effort on your part.

Developing Scalability In A Sales Process

The final part of the above statement is that the sales process should be scalable. As we noted in our “Startup Sales Cycle” post, startup sales can sometimes take an incredibly long time to complete. Because of that, they aren’t always easily scalable. However, by honing in on the repeatable successes of your sales process, you start to create a consistent process that can become scalable. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that each sales cycle becomes shorter (although sometimes it does). After all, startup sales are not done sequentially, they are done in parallel (ie…you should be selling to multiple prospects simultaneously). Therefore, a scalable sales process is one in which the steps are well defined, and thereby allow you to run multiple sales in parallel without getting lost in the process of where you are.

What is the end result of all this? The result is that you will be able to hand over your first salesperson a wealth of valuable information that includes the following:

  • The messaging around your product or service that consistently gets new customers engaged
  • The features that resonate consistently with your customers’ needs
  • An explicitly mapped out sales process that defines each stage in the sales cycle

Giving a new salesperson anything less than the above will result in failure and a waste of your startup’s precious time and money. And that is the answer to this post’s question. When should you hire your first salesperson? When you have figured out how to consistently sell to prospects yourself, and when you can hand that knowledge over to a new salesperson and help them hit the ground running.

Stay tuned for the next post: Who Should You Hire For Your First Salesperson?