“Every person in your company is a vector. Your progress is determined by the sum of all vectors.” – Elon Musk
Sustainable growth is essential for your startup. Whether you’ve signed up your first three customers or your first three hundred, you’ll eventually get to a point where you feel it’s time to hire your first sales reps to keep the momentum going. It’s a daunting thought for many founders. If you are doing research on how to hire sales reps for a startup, there are a number of questions and considerations that are probably on your mind.
What should you look for? How many people should you hire? How do you know if you’ll get it right? These are all questions that can keep you awake at night. If you’re a startup with limited capital, you can’t afford to make mistakes.
While there’s no bulletproof “best practice” for how to hire sales reps for a startup, there are better practices to ensure you hire sales reps that are efficient and successful within your startup.
Tips when researching how to hire sales reps for a startup
As a founder, you should have a good feeling for when sales are getting a bit much for you to juggle alongside all the other moving parts of your growing business.
Even if you’re more of a developer or designer type and your sales skills leave a lot to be desired, you should have a firm grasp of what’s involved from finding a lead to converting them into a paying customer. If you don’t have a clear understanding of this before you start hiring, it will be harder for you to impart this knowledge to your newly hired sales reps.
First, you’ll need to think about what sort of sales rep you’re looking for to steer your business in the right direction.
How to hire sales reps that are the best fit for your business
Do you need an outbound sales rep to reach out to prospects, a field sales rep (to call into big name accounts), or an inbound sales rep to handle all the “contact us” traffic from your website? Each of these roles requires a different set of skills and a different approach to get the best results.
The rep that’s a whizz at online and phone sales may not be as well equipped to sit in an enterprise boardroom and pitch your top-tier packages to C-suite execs.
Likewise, you don’t want to hire a sales rep that’s terrified of cold-calling if that’s your preferred method of lead generation.
You’ll need to think about your customers, your industry, and your specific products or services to determine how to hire sales reps that will be the best fit for you.
10 qualities to look for in a sales rep
When hiring your startup's first sales reps, you will most likely conclude that an ideal candidate should be:
A natural salesperson
A great communicator
Excited about working in a startup environment
Passionate about growing your business
Empathetic and customer-focused
Able to deal with rejection and endless amounts of “no” from prospects
Coachable and open to suggestions
The level of experience is up to you as an employer. Some employers prefer more junior sales reps who are cheaper, hungry to prove themselves, and enthusiastic about getting the experience they need to progress in the world of sales. Another consideration in favor of hiring less experienced sales reps is that these sales reps often have fewer habits (good and bad) hardcoded into their sales practices, making them more trainable and malleable for your specific needs.
Other employers would rather not take the gamble of a relative “newbie” and look to hire someone who is already skilled and has proven results. It all depends on your particular needs – and your budget.
Where to find for good sales reps for hire
As a savvy founder, you’ve probably been thinking about how to hire sales reps long before you needed them.
Places like job boards and Craigslist are always options, but the best sales reps are often much closer at hand, in that magical place known as your network.
Spread the word around your business and friend networks that you’re looking to hire. If you haven’t already, start building relationships with people in established companies in your industry or local community that may be able to help you out with hiring good sales reps, either now or further down the track.
How many sales reps should you hire?
If your budget can stretch to two initial sales reps, this is an ideal start. It can be beneficial in several ways:
It doubles your sales firepower – the more leads you can reach in a day the more chances you have to capture leads and increase your sign ups.
Your sales reps can learn from and motivate each other. A bit of friendly competition in the sales department won’t hurt either!
You’re not dependent on the abilities of one sales rep to get results.
You’ll get more insights and data to help build your future sales team.
Setting up your sales reps for success
When you start hiring sales reps, you need to have the role for your employees clearly defined – then give them the correct tools to do their job effectively and efficiently.
Have a repeatable sales process in place
For your sales reps to be able to hit the ground running, you should have a basic plan laid out from your own experiences with finding initial customers.
This could include things such as:
The definition of your “ideal” customer
Where leads are coming from
Effective outreach channels
An outline of the roadmap from first customer contact through to a demo or sign-up
The average time and cost it takes to find a lead and move them through the milestones to becoming a customer
How to retain customers once they’ve signed up
While you don’t need all the answers, a basic strategy for your sales reps to implement and develop over time will be a great start for everyone, especially in a startup environment.
Let your new sales reps focus on selling
For the best chance of success, your sales reps should be 100 percent focused on selling, or close to it.
If you’re expecting them to do extra tasks (e.g. help with ad campaigns, write blog posts, assist with product development), this will detract from their core focus. None of you will be getting optimal results, which will leave your reps feeling frustrated and undervalued.
The lines of communication between you and your sales reps should always be open. Your reps are coming in at the ground level where growth is taking place, often at a rapid rate, and they will need motivation, direction, and constructive suggestions to energize them and keep them focused.
Encourage your sales reps to look closely at their wins and losses and document any improvements to processes they think could be beneficial – for themselves and for future sales reps. Your initial reps will be integral in helping you build a functional, evolving roadmap to guide your sales procedures.
As you scale your business, grow your sales team, and deal with an ever-changing marketplace, an agile sales procedure will be one of your best assets. It’s vital that you have solid communication between you and your first sales reps to give you the traction you need in your quest for growth.
It’s also worth mentioning, transparent communication isn’t just a crucial element for your sales reps to be successful, it’s also an effective employee retention strategy you should consider prioritizing if you want your new hires (in any department) to stick around for the long term. The reality is, fostering a work environment that values healthy, transparent communication is vital to ensure your employees feel heard and happy.
Final thoughts on how to hire sales reps for a startup
Whether you decide to hire in the early days of your startup, or further down the track, signing up your first sales reps can be stressful. You can’t afford to make expensive hiring mistakes at this early stage.
Startup life is tough but exciting. You need sales reps that are comfortable in this environment. Everyone on your team is learning as they go and celebrating success together. Processes develop and change, and your sales rep hires need to be capable of showing they are creative, positive, and determined in order to navigate all the challenges they will face.
By encouraging the development of solid sales processes and keeping the lines of communication open, you can give your new sales reps the direction and support they need to help take your business to the next level.