Hiring Your First Salesperson — and keeping them!

On March 30th, 2017, we hosted a panel of experts at Alley in Chelsea NYC who spoke on the subject of hiring your first salesperson(s). The panelists were experts from Skaled (sales team management), CloserIQ (recruitment), Streamroot (Paris-born startup), Digital.NYC (ecosystem mapping) and TriNet (HR Solutions).

Prefer to watch the whole panel? Check it out on Facebook Live

Here are 5 key takeaways that we got from the panel…

1 — Let’s start with the essentials. What positions are you hiring for — and when?

Arguably, the most difficult part of the process is defining the key positions your company needs to hire for. There is so much to do! This is, however, the most important step in the recruitment process. Take time to analyze the activities essential to the development of your startup; then define your priorities and identify the appropriate position.

“And while you are doing this exercise, think about your own bandwidth”, explains Matt Lopez, Partner at Skaled, “what are you ready to delegate?” This fundamental question will determine the way you recruit your first hire and your daily activities for doing so. After all, you will be bringing on a new person that is dedicated to this one side of your business. That sounds exciting, doesn’t it?!

However, hiring for the wrong role can be very costly. Jordan Wan, CEO of CloserIQ said that, “the calibration of the ideal candidate profile is like a medical subscription: Where are your pain points? What are the main areas you are looking to address? Once you have answered this question, you can subscribe the right medication” — unless of course your doctor is a mad scientist from another realm, then that’s another story, but you get the point!

In terms of timing, hiring can be a long and time consuming process. NUMA NY’s advice would be to start your research as soon as you know what you need and are ready to afford hiring someone, even if financials are tight at first. You will grow!

2 — But they offer free food and nice offices, all I can offer agility and adventure!

The word “entrepreneur” is very trendy in the job market today, and can make anyone dream; but the reality is the wages are often lower than market the value. You will need to position yourself in the best light that is appropriate for you. In other words, be very clear and upfront about expectations, compensation and career development options. While you will be competing with large corporations and bigger startups who offer attractive perks such as free food and everyday massages, keep in mind that while your strength might not be your perks, it will be your ability to offer agility & adventure.

Remember — you can hire too slow, at the risk of missing great candidates, but you can also hire too fast. Make sure you find the right balance for you and your team; keeping in mind that it takes time to understand a candidate’s’ expectations, cultural fit, and to check references.

“If you are hiring top talent, don’t hesitate to organize interviews with yours and their investors or mentors”, explained Pierre-Louis Theron, CEO at Streamroot, you may find something out from them that you didn’t get to yourself!

3 — Hire the young ‘hustler’ or the person with 20+ years experience in my industry?

What are the key qualities you should be looking for? “Someone who values process, and repeatability, and not get burnt out”, explained Jordan Wan CEO of CloserIQ. “Here is your database, there are 100 people to reach every day, are you ready for it?”

You are also looking for someone that can visualise the deal, think two steps ahead. They come prepared to any meeting, which means they don’t just react to problems or objections, they are proactive. They have done their homework and know each participant’s background and position, they have a sense of the expectations and probable questions or objections. They the industry well enough and are ready to react on the latest news and trends. They have great social skills and can “feel” the people they are interacting with.

If you have hesitation deciding between the young hustler, or the experienced and seasoned business person….

Ideally, you need a combination of both. But if you have the choice, our panelists would recommend choosing the smart, quick learning, and eccentric one. Candidates with those characteristics will quickly gain experience within your team.

4 — Where do I find the best candidates?

Ideally, you are looking for speed, budget and quality. There is nothing cheaper than doing it yourself! Here are some tips for how you can do that:

  • Generate quality referrals through your personal and professional network. Offering small incentives to your network is common when generating referrals.
  • You can attend relevant events to network with potential candidates
  • There are free resources you can use such as AngelList, LinkedIn, TaskRabbit, Craigslist, etc. to source relevant talent

On the other hand, if you are looking for specific expertise and experience, you might want to think about a solution that accelerates the hiring process, like paid job boards and recruiters. If you are looking for potential candidates in the tech field specifically, be careful of platforms like Indeed or Monster, which may lead to “adverse selection”, as Jordan Wan, CEO of CloserIQ explains. They may bring you a lot of leads but they may not necessarily be the right selection of candidates. Try using platforms like the above or sites like The Muse, Digital.NYC, etc. to target relevant tech/startup candidates.

5 — Things you wish your new hire would do, but they actually don’t.

  • They sell from day one. That would be great, but unfortunately that rarely happens. You need to build a process. Ask yourself, what exactly will be the scope of your salesperson? What will be their objectives and targets? Which categories of customers will they prospect, and in which geographical perimeter? How will their work be organized?
  • They will open their entire network to my company. That would be wonderful! In reality, a good salesperson bases their network off of trusted relationships; they need to gain confidence about your product, learn from your company and buy in to your product 100% before they can sell to others.
  • They will accept a low salary, they knows we are a startup! Again, if only this were true! The reality is that compensation should be tied to the expectations you have of them. If they agree to start with a lower salary base, you need to offer a sufficient amount of incentives to keep your new hire motivated.

And of course we saved the best for last — legal! Scott Smedresman, from McCarter & English has a few tips on how to craft your early employee agreements:

  • The job description and context: Define the location where the employee will work, hours, etc.
  • IP agreement: This is not required but recommended. Spell out your legal agreements including who owns the intellectual property developed while the employee is working with you, what information should be given back once the employee leaves, etc.
  • Side ‘hustles”: On the other hand, allowing your new hire to dedicate some time to their own personal projects, as long as it’s unrelated and non-interfering with company’s activities, can help incentivize a good employee.
  • Non-compete: Make sure you know the laws of your state! For example, non-competes are enforceable is New York if they are narrow and reasonable, but they are not enforced in California!

Well, that’s quite a bit of information for now. We hope that this helps you on your journey to building your startup and come visit us in NY when you have a moment!

You can learn more about NUMA New York and our startup / corporate programs at nyc.numa.co or email us at nyc@numa.co!

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