Building a Sales Team

The Top 10 Mistakes Made in Hiring Your First Sales Team

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Jason Lemkin

I know we’ve hit a number of these points individually before on SaaStr, but after getting the question again and again, I thought it would be worthwhile to assemble a Top 10 List on mistakes made in hiring your first sales team.  Because it seems like so many of us just make these mistakes again, and again.  And again.  Make fewer of them and you’ll scale faster with less stress.

Here’s my Top 10 list:

#1.  You hire a sales rep to sell before you can prove you can do it yourself.  You have to prove it’s sellable first.  You can’t outsource this.

#2.  You hire a VP of Sales to sell before you prove you can do it yourself.  You gotta prove the process is at least just barely repeatable before you hire someone to turn up the volume and spin the wheel faster.  You gotta build 2 reps that can hit quota before you hire a real VP of Sales.

#3.  Any of your first 2-3 sales reps are folks you personally wouldn’t buy from.  Because then you’ll never trust them with your precious handful of leads, and they will fail.  No matter how well they did in the last start-up.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 8.07.09 AM#4.  You insist reps #4-400 are folks you personally would buy from.  It takes a village.

#5.  You underpay.  The best salespeople want to make MONEY.  COIN.  If you pay under-market, you get bottom of the barrel.  Huge rookie error.

#6.  You don’t fire reps that fail in one sales cycle.  If you can’t close anything in one sales cycle, you never will.

#7.  You ask your VP of Sales to Carry a Bag for too long.  Her job is to recruit a great deal and hit the overall plan.  Not sell herself, not mostly.  Have her own the whole number, the ARR plan.  Not an individual quota, not for very long at least.

#8.  You hire someone that last sold Nu Skin.  This can work later, but not in your first reps.  They need to understand how to sell vaguely similar products at vaguely similar price points.

#9.  You hire because she worked at Salesforce /Box /DropBox /wherever. Hire because they can close.  Vaguely similar products at somewhat similar price points.  Not because they are one of 4,000 reps at Salesforce that sell a product with $6,000,000,000+ in revenues, a proven brand, and huge infrastructure behind it.

#10.  You allow any great reps to leave.  You should strive for 0% voluntary attrition, not to fire the bottom 1/3d.  That’s for Boilerrooms.  Great sales teams stick together.  Great sales teams inspire each other.  Great sales team attract a higher and higher quality of reps as time goes on.

Published on June 12, 2015
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  • Marco Keys

    Great advice. I would add one more suggestion or perhaps #10.5
    Don’t limit your talent pool by requiring a degree.
    Some of my most productive salespeople are NOT college grads. In contrast, the few that do have degrees tend to have a different mindset when it comes to learning our sales cycle.

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