Hiring your first sales team?
(By Sahil Mehra @Darwinian Ventures)
This one of the most common, important, and interesting topics we run into in our line of work. All too often, we see dozens of startups scale too fast on the sales hiring front. Which in return, burns a ton of cash when unsuccessful. We’ve also seen startups try to cut corners with their first sales team.
Here’s what we typically see and why we highly advise against this:
1. Hire a junior, ambitious, aspirational sales rep that one day will be your VP of Sales (but you’ll probably hire a CRO over them).
Problem with this — they don’t have experience building something from the ground up, nor have the sales foundation to execute this. They build their first-ever sales playbook (based on what works for them), which can be riddled with mistakes. Then, they are tasked with mentoring the even less experienced junior reps that you will eventually hire. Now sales mistakes are becoming ingrained in your playbook.
2. Hire a VP of Sales and they bring their bench of people.
If they don’t hit their numbers, you fire the whole team and then hire another VP of Sales. VP of Sales #2 guts and rebuilds everything their predecessor built (including the tools). They spend time adjusting deal names and weights, but nothing is in the pipeline. Then this happens again, and again. The result? Tons of cash is burned.
3. Hire interns or junior marketing people to run 100’s of email campaigns and call this a “sales process”.
Need we say more?
4. Implement a bunch of tools thinking that tools generate leads and close deals.
A human, and only a human, who knows what they’re doing in sales, is the reason why lots of deals close. Simple as that.
If you only have 10 similar paying customers, you haven’t validated your ICP nor established product market fit, and it’s way too early to hire a full team. We can’t reiterate how important it is to find repeatability and common (quantifiable) pain in your sales conversations! Ideally, you want this before you accumulate $300k in sales overhead (before commission) and $10k / month for your sales and marketing tools.
What you need:
You need a jack-of-all trades sales rep (or agency) that can think big picture like a VP of Sales, close deals like an AE, and hunt like a BDR (on ALL communication channels, not just blast LinkedIn or send 1,000’s of emails). They also need to understand early stage KPIs and can build a lean revenue stack that works for your business model.
“Darwinian Ventures is a growth advisory firm for startups and VCs. We offer revenue expertise and execution to help launch new ventures, accelerate existing ventures, and educate venture investors.”
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