Building a Sales Team

The One Secret Tip To Hiring a Great Sales Rep (In The Early Days)

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Jason Lemkin

I’ve written this before, embedded in other posts.  I’ve talked about it in many presentations.  But it’s time to call out One Simple Hack to getting sales going in your SaaS start-up, in the early-ish days.  One of the best there is in SaaS.

I’ll tell you the trick.

It’s going to sound simple, but it isn’t, because almost everyone gets it wrong.

For at least your first few reps: hire someone >>you<< would buy >>your product<< from. Period.  DO NOT VIOLATE THIS RULE.

I.e.,

  • Do not hire someone just because they worked at Facebook or Salesforce in “sales”.
  • Do not hire someone that Talks the Talk because you think you “don’t know how to sell” and they do. You do know how to sell if you have even 1 paying customer. You just aren’t great at it.  But you know.
  • Do not hire someone because of their “experience in sales”, per se. Experience is good, but 95% of that experience will not be on point.

Instead … realize sales in the early days is different, especially for one reason: Every Lead is Precious. Every single one.

If you give a precious lead to someone that you wouldn’t buy your product from — she will end up doing worse than you. She will sell even less of your product.

The key here is someone you’d buy your product from. Not buy some other product. But your new, feature-poor, bug-ridden, kinda crummy product that does one thing really well but everything else terribly. Would you buy it from her?

Most founders hire reps that fail this test.

And they flush those precious leads down the drain.

Now later, you’ll need a village.  All types of reps.  Once you hire a real VP of Sales, don’t be so rigid about this test.  Let her figure it out.  Just use it as a gut check, later.

But when it’s just you, as interim VP of Sales.  Make it mandatory.

Published on November 7, 2016
  • bcackerman1

    How do execute this? Explain your product then ask them to sell it back to you?

  • Mike

    This may have worked for you and a few other founders you know but in general, hiring on gut feeling is a pretty risky. There are specific sales competencies a hiring manager must look for and evaluate in candidates. These specific competencies must also accompany skills required for being part of a start-up/early stage company. I agree wholeheartedly the first round of sales hires won’t look like the ones you hire for the long-haul but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply science and discipline to the hiring process.

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