How to build your sales team from 0 to 5? — by Ryan Burke, SVP Sales at InVision

Oct 16, 2018 · 6 min read
Ryan Burke, SVP at InVision — Scale your sales team from 1 to 50 — B2B Rocks 2018

Ryan Burke, SVP Sales at InVision:

hen I first started at InVision, there were about 30 people and there was no sales infrastructure. But one of the things I was looking for, that folks are gonna be looking for — when they start in a SaaS company in their early days — is what are those signals in the market that show that there’s a product market fit.

At the time InVision was getting about a thousand signups every day. Those signals were there, so I joined. There was really nothing from a sales perspective. There was one Account Executive (AE) and one Sales Development Representative (SDR). There was no reporting, there were no metrics. Salesforce was literally in a box.

InVision, today, we’re about 200 people on the customer-facing team. We work with about 80% of the Fortune 100. We’re getting 5000 signups every day. We’ve raised over 230 million. And a 700 person, fully remote, workforce. If anybody wants to talk about managing a remote sales team, I could talk about that later — cliff notes it’s not that easy.

Where do you start when you’re thinking about building your first sales team? I’m gonna split it into what I call the three “F”: your first Five, the Foundation, and then how do you build that to the Future.


So you think about your first five your first five salespeople or your sales team are really important. There’s going to be miss-hires — don’t get me wrong. You’re gonna make mistakes. But think about these folks as a big priority because you’re gonna be building your go-to-market strategy with these folks.

The role of the “first five” people

We had about 200 people on our customer-facing team last year. The top three salespeople were three of the first four folks that I hired. That’s not gonna happen to everybody but that shows you how important and what a big impact your first five can have. Because what they are going to do is they’re gonna be out in the market representing you and understanding the customer the market, the community and bringing that back. At this stage, forget selling. The salespeople it’s not about the sales. It’s about them coming back to the business with those data points on what your customers are doing, what the community looks like. You don’t need them focused on sales at this stage.

Build your Sales motion

Because you need them to help you build out your sales motion. A lot of you probably understand what your motion is. Your sales motion is probably fairly product driven, but is it bottoms up? Or is it tops down? What what are the personas? You need to use those first five to understand that sales motion and more importantly what is the customer motion. How are they finding your product? How are they getting their hands on your product? Are they using it once?

Identify the friction points

Basically, you need to break apart every step. You need, those first five to break apart every step of that process because you have to find the friction points. That’s what your first five folks are gonna be doing when they’re out in the market coming back to the business and informing you. Where are those blockers at each stage? What are those friction points that you have to remove?

Your business is gonna be different than what we do at InVision but you can figure out what those friction points are.

  • If it’s price, can you offer free trials or freemium?
  • If they want to see the product and a half action, how do you get creative with group demos?
  • If they want to know what it looks like with their business, can you pre-populate assets in those demos?
  • If they don’t trust your brand, how do you bring in other customers as references or testimonials?
  • If they don’t want to sign up long term they don’t know who you are, give them an opt-out
  • You can be creative on legal and contracts to get folks using your product that’s what’s most important
  • If you don’t have all the features bring them in and have them talk to your product team. Show them the roadmap. Those things are important for your first five.

Store information

The other part: storing this information. One of the mistakes that we made, that I made, at InVision is: there’s so much data coming at you, you’ve got to store that. It’s so critically important for how you’re gonna build moving forward, for onboarding your new sales folks, for communicating with your product team. I don’t care if you have a CRM, a Google Doc, whatever it is, you need to be storing that. And especially why people don’t buy your product. People that have used your product, why aren’t they using it again. Celebrate that! We literally have a meeting every month where we’d have folks celebrate and get rewarded for losses. Talking through those losses, that data is gold and you should be using that data at all the time with your product team.

Image for post
Image for post

Don’t hire salespeople

So for the first five who do you hire? Don’t hire salespeople. You need folks that are going to be able to demonstrate your product without a lot of resources supporting them. You’re going to need folks that are essentially product managers. That’s really important early on. And you’ve got to find the people that have the right profile.

Salespeople are not going to come to your startup for money. They’re gonna get paid more at Google. They’re gonna get paid more Salesforce. You’ve got to find those key traits that are important: resilience is so important at this stage adaptability, the ability to go out get your nose bloodied, getting “no” all the time and coming back to the business. That’s what’s important, that’s what you need to hire for early on.

Understand motivations

You have to understand what the motivations are. For these first five, it shouldn’t be about money. It’s not about the commission — as strange as that is for salespeople. It’s about the opportunity. Do they see the opportunity? Either they bought into your vision and what you guys were trying to do. Do they want to take ownership?

Our of my first salespeople, somebody came from a technical support background, somebody has a sales ops background, and somebody is a former professional baseball player. They’ve bought into the opportunity, they could see the vision. That’s what you need to sell because your first salespeople aren’t gonna come onboard for money and they shouldn’t.

Get a Business Development Representative

You need to use that to build your first team. The interesting point here is: get that BDR (Business Development Representative) because the BDR’s gave such a great vehicle for you to test out the data points and test out the messages in your market. Who’s responding? Why are they responding? Is that the person who intended to have them respond? Using that data to feed back into your business is really critical because what you need to do is find those anchor companies.

Get the cool kids onboard

I’m sure everybody knows the industries that you guys are in: if these companies were working with your product people would take notice. Who are the cool kids? Get those cool kids onboard. Remove the friction to get those cool kids onboard, because you leverage their network effect.

At InVision, in the design space, Spotify, Airbnb, Netflix, PayPal, were really important for us to get them on board early. We did everything we could to remove friction to get them on board early. Because we then leverage that network effect, and we had credibility.”

Couple points of a summary:

  • It’s all about the customer journey
  • it’s not about hiring salespeople
  • finding that customer
  • finding the friction points in your process
  • understanding the right traits and the right motivations to get people in early

So now you’re starting to build for stage two, which is the foundation: How to scale your Sales Team from 5 to 50?

This talk was given at B2B Rocks, the leading European conference for B2B startups. The event is owned and organized by Axeleo.

Know more:


Axeleo is the leading acceleration platform for Enterprise…


Written by


Axeleo is the leading enterprise technology acceleration platform in France. We are both VC and Accelerator.



Axeleo is the leading acceleration platform for Enterprise Technology startups. Both VC and Accelerator, Axeleo offers an all-in-one support that caters to entrepreneurs, startups, corporates, and investors.


Written by


Axeleo is the leading enterprise technology acceleration platform in France. We are both VC and Accelerator.



Axeleo is the leading acceleration platform for Enterprise Technology startups. Both VC and Accelerator, Axeleo offers an all-in-one support that caters to entrepreneurs, startups, corporates, and investors.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store