6 Reasons to Think Twice Before Making Your First Sales Hire
There’s more to this than you might think there is.
Here’s what I typically hear:
As the Founder/CEO I’m the only person responsible for sales on my team. I’m thinking about hiring a sales rep because I just don’t have the time to focus on sales and I want to grow faster.
…Now here are a few reasons to think twice before making that hire.
1. No Working Process
Have you actually built out a working sales process (even if it is hacked together initially for 5–10 deals) that you can then hand off to a new sales rep? This doesn’t have to be complex, it can be a basic sales funnel, but the main thing is that it should map back to your buyers journey. You should be able to look at the deals you’ve closed and map out this basic process within your CRM.
2. No Measurement Tools
Have you put some measurement tools in place that allows you to effectively capture data on your deals, track your sales activity and monitor the results? Having a CRM is typically just the starting point, and I often see additional spreadsheets being used in the early days. This is fine when it’s just you, but before adding bodies, invest the time in researching a few tools to monitor both pre-sales activity (i.e. lead generation, lead enrichment, opportunity progression etc.) and post-sales results (i.e. revenue, onboarding process, engagement, etc). You’ll need this to track your progress, or else you’ll be flying blind when it comes to managing your new salesperson.
3. No Targets or Realistic Goals
Have you been able to set some sort of internal benchmarks for yourself (that you’ve actually been able to meet), that you can then use to define sales targets for the new sales rep? E.g. As a founder, if I am able to send 100 emails, talk to 10 prospects, and conduct 2 demos on a weekly basis, knowing that I’m only spending 50% of my time in sales, then a fully dedicated sales rep once ramped up, should be able to do twice my activity. There is a lot more to defining sales targets and sales compensation, but in the early days it’s particularly difficult when you have virtually no historical data. Every salesperson deserves being given realistic targets, and if done correctly, it can be a huge motivating factor towards sales productivity and growth. Now you might not be able to be define realistic revenue-based targets immediately, but you can definitely create realistic activity-based targets once you’ve done it for yourself initially.
4. No Documented Knowledge
Have you effectively documented the knowledge that you’ve gained on your customer’s pains, industry trends, and product value proposition? Is this documentation good enough that you can use it to teach it to someone with virtually zero experience in sales or your industry? It doesn’t matter if you’ve convinced the #1 sales rep from your competitor to join your team. It’s imperative that once you make a sales hire, there is some type of structured training to transfer your knowledge over to them, and get them fully ramped up as soon as possible. Far too often, I see companies bring on a sales hire, do a bit of product training, and then just give them a bunch of leads to work. This is a recipe for failure. When making a sales hire, put your new teammate in the best position to truly succeed. If you’ve done your job, you’ll know pretty quickly if they’re a fit or not.
5. Creating Distance between You and Your Customers
If you’re reading this, then there’s a good chance you’re an early stage company that has yet to crack product/market fit. If that’s the case, are you sure you’re willing to add an additional layer between you and your customers? The best part of being a founder running sales, is that you can use every sales call as an opportunity to engage in Customer Discovery. As you try to bridge the gap between the product you’re building and the market you’re building for, outsourcing these conversations and customer interactions can be a huge crutch. The true risk here is that the impact of this can go beyond sales and into product development as well. This can be a huge risk, and can ultimately slow down your entire company.
6. “Sales” Isn’t Actually a Role
Do you actually know what you’re looking to hire for? Hiring a “sales rep” doesn’t actually mean anything because there are different types of sales people suited to specific parts of the sales process. Are you looking for someone to manage the the entire sales cycle? Is it just lead generation? Or do you need help doing demos and closing deals? Does your licensing model even justify having a dedicated sales person? Before finding a solution, you need to have a clear definition of the problem you’re trying to solve for. This is just as true in building a product, as it is in making new hires to your team.
The common theme here is, if you haven’t figured out all (if not most) of the above for yourself, then there’s a good chance you’re not ready to add a salesperson to your team. Any founder can learn some basic sales skills, and there is a tremendous amount of information now available to help you build out your initial sales playbook. You absolutely can do it for yourself. This will not only help you avoid making a bad sales hire, but it will also help make you a better sales leader when you’re ready to bring someone on in the future. Like most other items in a startup, build out your initial MVP, get it working and then start putting money and resources into it to make it better.