Talent Acquisition

Why Many Startups Often Mess Up Their Early Sales Hires

So you found product-market fit and now you want this thing on steroids and hire a sales team…

Congrats! That’s a big step. But how do you make sure you get your sales hires right?

A lot of people use this approach:

“I need to hire a cohort of people…  I’ll just MVP this thing.”

I want to warn you – this doesn’t work very well. Startup leaders with this mindset tend to have high churn rates.

And churn is costly.

The truth is, building a sales team is not the same as a software release. It’s more like marriage (something you’d never want to MVP).

You’re talking about people, their lives, their careers, and your business… and your business can’t do what it needs to do without the people to get there.

It makes sense to get this right the first time… the stakes are too high.

Here’s how to make sure you do.

1. Know who you need to hire

One of the biggest reasons the MVP approach gets used so much is that many founders don’t actually know who they need to hire.

And they end up bringing someone on board whose skills simply do not match their business needs.

That’s why it’s important to do the work up front to map out exactly what you’ll need this person to do.

Think about things like:

  • What part of that process do you want to offload? Do you want to offload all of it? Some of it?
  • Who is your buyer? What are they telling you?
  • Why is it time to hire?
  • What specific activities will this person need to do?

All of these questions are items that you should really be thinking about and nail down before you pick up the phone and start talking to recruiters. They can’t answer them for you.

But they need to know them in order to make sure they bring you the right people to consider and not waste your time.

2. Know what to expect recruiting-wise

Just like it’s not smart for you to treat your recruiting process as a software update, you don’t want to work with a recruiter who does either.

And not all recruiting processes are created equal.

For example – if a recruiter tells you well inside of 3 days they’re going to have 50 people in front you, you’re going to get excited about that… but that’s actually not a good thing.

That means they’re hardly spending any time at all really filtering their selections or getting to know candidates.

Or your business for that matter.

Which is a bad sign, because this is where miss hires start.

Instead, it’s important for you to poke holes into their process and understand exactly HOW they are going to get you a top performer.

Are they asking candidates about these things below?

  • “Why sales? Why you? What truly makes you tick?”
  • “You talk about being a 120% to quota… how did you do it?”
  • “Were you given a book of business? Or did you have to go out and get after it and create something from nothing?”
  • “What does that really look like?”
  • “How were you enabled? What does that truly mean to you?”

If they can’t quantify or qualify how they’re getting those answers beyond, “I’ve got a database, I’ve got a network,” I’d be wary.

Key takeaway

First and foremost, take time to define exactly who you need to hire and why. This will save you a lot of headaches.

Then work to find a recruiter who cares just as much about defining that as you do. This is the kind of collaboration required to get your sales hires right the first time!

By Amy Volas

Amy Volas is Founder and “Chieftain” of Avenue Talent Partners.