Have you heard all of the horror stories from other founders about hiring the wrong sales rep? The potential sales churn is real for a startup but knowing what qualities to look forward what to ask in an interview can help you avoid spinning wheels on the wrong hire. By the way, the expense with churning an Account Executive can be as much as 18 months of their salary. In tech startups that could be as much as $150k+ which can be detrimental to an early stage. Read these tips on how to find the best match for your org:
Indicators That Your Startup Is Ready For A Sales Rep
- Do not hire anyone for sales until you have product-market fit and have sold at least 10 deals yourself as a founder. You must prove the sales process yourself. As the founder, you’re the only one that can bring the original passion to your product/service that will initially sell it. Once you validate product-market fit then you can teach your value prop, sales process, etc to a new sales hire to execute.
- Is your customer lifetime value (CLTV) over $5k? If it is, then you’re more than likely ready for a sales hire.
- If your CLTV is over $5k then you more than likely have a complex sales process that a rep can provide value in navigating. Great sales reps live and breathe problem-solving for their clients and will add the most value to your organization in this way.
Qualities To Look For In Your First Sales Hire
Startups need to scale and grow revenue so it makes sense to hire a sales team at some point. Here are some key qualities you need to really focus on feeling during the interview process to ensure they are a great fit for your stage in growth. There are great reps but not everyone is ready for the constant change and uncertainty that a startup environment can have.
Leadership Qualities: Coachable and desire for constant learning, inspirational, shows passion to make a big impact on the world vs. immediate large paycheck (outward focus vs. inward focus). Accountable for results. Can voice their career vision so you can evaluate their fit into the growth plan of your company.
Communication Qualities: Detailed communicator. Extroverts however introspective as they’ll need to be very flexible with customer personality styles. Your ideal customer may change while you continue to grow and pivot as a company. Empathetic, active listeners perform well.
Sales Style: To really understand a rep’s style, ask for examples of how they exceeded sales goals and delighted customers. Ask them about times when they lost a deal and how they handled it. This will tell you about their resilience and ability to handle the emotional sales rollercoaster. What does the sales rep do when they are handed leads? You want to hire someone that understands the importance of outbound prospecting vs. waiting for leads.
Consultative selling skills are required for startups. Being able to enroll your customers and solve their problems with your company’s solution will be critical. Ask your candidate to give you an example of when they were able to break into a new account, build a relationship that perhaps was looking at the competitor and convert them to a sale.
Culture Is King: This is so important as they will be holding the flag for your company, selling not just your widget but the story behind the widget. If they don’t feel comfortable or supported by your team and they are a high performer, they will leave prematurely on you so set them up for success by hiring for a good culture fit.
Check Their Network: Check with former colleagues and clients before you hire them. You want to hire someone that is delighting their customers, collaborating with colleagues, and making a positive impact in their work environment. Checking a person’s network can be done easily through LinkedIn if you aren’t already connected with them. See where they worked previously and make some cold outreach prior to checking the reference contacts the candidate gives you. Provides some additional context for your hiring decision.
I hope you find these tips helpful when looking to hire one of the first reps. It is a big step and if you’re reading this article, you must take it seriously. My mission as the founder of Relativity Sells is to help tech founders accelerate their revenue by translating their secret sauce to their first sales team and maximize rep performance through enablement. For more weekly sales tips or information please visit Relativity Sells or follow Amy Looper, Founder.