Steli Efti is the CEO and co-founder of Close, a CRM with built-in sales automation features for startups and SMBs. He is a Y Combinator alum and an advisor to startups and entrepreneurs.
This is the first of two posts Steli has written for Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub offering advice about when and how to hire your sales team.
You can find the second post here: Three things to look for in your first sales hire
What does every startup founder want? More sales, faster!
Growing sales faster than your burn rate is often the only way to keep the lights on and the dream alive. But you can’t make every sale yourself. You’re busy with other priorities like building relationships with investors. Leads are falling through the cracks. The only way to keep growing your business is to bring in additional help.
In this action guide, we’ll break down everything your startup needs to have in place before you make your first sales hire. Then I’ll share three telltale signs that you’re ready to expand your sales team and examine the key qualities to look for in a candidate.
Before You Make Your First Sales Hire
I know you want to start hiring sales reps to handle sales for your startup. But, be honest, is your company ready for the next step?
Before you hire your first salesperson, make sure you have these things in place:
A really great product: Notice I didn’t say an “okay” product or even a “decent” product. I said, “great” product. Don’t hire a full-time salesperson if your product is buggy, fails often, or hasn’t found its product-market fit. You’ll be wasting your time and money.
A clearly defined target audience: Is your product on point? Great, now make sure you know who to sell it to. It doesn’t matter how talented your new sales rep is; if they try to sell to everyone, they’ll fail. Lock down your customer profiles/personas before hiring.
A solid lead gen process: You’re looking to bring on a sales representative, not a wizard. They need solid leads. Develop an effective lead generation process before you hire a sales rep, so your new recruit has something to work with.
A proven sales process: Developing a proven sales process isn’t the sales rep’s job. You need to provide a starting point. Set your new rep up for success with a proven process, rather than having them test a bunch of strategies first.
Three signs it’s time to start hiring sales reps
Once your business meets all the criteria listed above, pay attention to these three signs that you need to starting hiring sales reps.
1. Your sales funnel is overflowing
Is your pipeline bursting at the seams? If so, you’re probably ready to hire for your sales team. If not, consider waiting until your pipeline is consistently full.
Most first sales hires are good at closing deals. That’s why they get the jobs they get. Sadly, a significant portion of first sales hires lack qualified opportunities, which causes them to fail.
I suggest waiting to hire a full-time sales rep until you and your co-founders are so inundated with sales calls you can’t keep up. When that happens, consider bringing another team member on board. Otherwise, work to build up your pipeline first.
2. You’ve closed at least 10 deals on your own
If you haven’t closed 10 deals by yourself, you’re not ready to hire a full-time salesperson, plain and simple. There are two reasons why this is so important:
It proves there is a market for the products and/or services you sell
It helps you develop and implement a sales process that actually works
After closing 10 deals, you can look at your track record and confidently say, “Yeah, people want what we offer.” This is especially true in B2B, where price points are generally higher.
You’ll also have learned which product features, benefits, and talking points prospects connect with. You can use this information to develop a repeatable sales process that leads to higher average deal sizes and revenue targets.
3. Your startup is ready to grow
Every early-stage startup wants to grow–but are you actually ready for it? You need a few things in place before your startup becomes the next big success story.
For example, you’ll need a killer product and an automatic lead generation process, as we discussed above. The ability to produce the products and/or deliver the services you sell to customers at a faster clip is a good idea, too. You’ll also want a plan for customer support and the ability to measure sales success.
Best case scenario: your startup is already growing. If your pipeline is full and revenue keeps going up, you’re probably ready to begin hiring sales reps and a full-time sales leader.
Close is one of several trusted partner benefits available to members of Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub. Members can receive $2500 credit towards any of Close’s subscription plans as well as free migration or import assistance and access to the Close sales library.
For more resources for building your startup and access to the tools that can help you, sign up today for Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub.
Tags: Close, hiring, recruitment, sales team