Many people think that the fastest way to grow a profitable business is to bring in sales reps early in the process to start closing deals and getting customers.
For this reason, a lot of startups jump the gun on building a sales team, which can be a costly mistake.
Some startups have the opposite problem, and they wait too long to hire sales reps. This isn’t necessarily better, as it can still result in missed opportunities, disorganization and lost revenue.
There are some ways to determine when it’s time to hire outside help, as well as some ways to know when it’s definitely not the right time.
Your Company’s First Salesperson Should Be You
You shouldn't hire a sales rep without testing out sales yourself. It doesn't matter if you’re an introvert or if you don’t think you’re good at it. The reason you want to go out there and sell is because it’s your business and you probably understand it better than anyone else. This puts you in the position of being able to sell people on your vision.
Many startups try to scale too fast by hiring salespeople before they even know what they’re selling. You can’t expect a salesperson to come in and define your sales funnel. That’s your job.
Jason Lemkin of SaaStr says that you shouldn’t hire a salesperson until you’ve closed 10 sales yourself. While this number varies, the premise remains that as the owner, you should be able to close a comfortable number of sales before expanding.
Do you know what keeps people from buying your product or service? If you don’t understand potential customers’ objections, you can’t train a salesperson to counteract them.
You should address every objection that potential customers have; this can be done through mediums such as FAQs or How-To Videos.
When you have all of the feedback from would-be customers that you can get, tackle the issues you encounter and then go out there and try to sell again. When it starts to work consistently, then you can formularize your sales funnel. Then, it's time to start thinking about hiring an outside sales rep.
Don't Put Off Hiring for Too Long
If you’re closing sales on your own, you might be tempted to just keep doing it yourself instead of spending the money to hire someone else. If you really can’t afford it, then yes, you have to put it off. But make sure that decision is based on actual math and not just a hunch.
Check out this blog post about calculating sales salaries and the revenue you need in order to be able to pay them. It’s specific to SaaS companies, but it’s a helpful read for any startup business.
Think About Hiring More Than One Sales Rep
Hiring your first salesperson is an exciting part of the business growth process. Not only does it mean that you won’t have to do it anymore — it also means that you’re bringing someone in with more experience selling than you. And because you’ve already established a process, they’re probably going to blow your sales numbers out of the water quickly.
If you can swing it, consider hiring two sales reps at the same time. This way, you'll have data points to measure success. If you have two to compare and contrast (like A/B testing people), you’ll be better able to know what’s working and what’s not, and how to fix what isn’t.
How to Find Your First Sales Reps
Before you start the recruitment process, it’s important to define what exactly you’re looking for in a salesperson.
When you’ve identified your ideal candidate, it’s time for outreach, which you can do in a few different ways:
- Job Boards
- Staffing Agencies
- Direct Recruiting
Once you’ve identified candidates that you’re interested in meeting, design a sales assessment that will be part of the interview process. Sales assessments can include verbally selling you a product that they love, drafting a cold email to a lead or even pulling together a couple of presentation slides. Think about which metrics are most important to you and use them to create your assessment.
Recognize That Your Hires May Not Work Out
Maybe you hired a bad salesperson. Maybe you hired a good salesperson who wound up being a lousy fit for the company. Or maybe your sales funnel wasn’t as airtight as you thought it was. Building a cohesive team isn’t easy and it isn’t fast. As the person behind the company, you should maintain high expectations, but don’t get deflated when you fail — it’s an important part of the growth process.
Remember that good salespeople are in high demand. When you manage to land one, make sure that he or she has the right tools and processes in place to take your vision and turn it into a profitable one.
Looking for help hiring your first sales representative? Check out Staffer.cc