This is a tough job.
Usually, being the first start-up salesperson is a rewarding, but very tough job:
- Your boss has never managed a salesperson before. She likely won’t know what you are supposed to do 40+ hours a week.
- Your boss may have strong views on what you should be doing. And her views may be wrong. Whichever founder was doing sales, likely thinks that may be the way to do sales going forward. Which it may well not be.
- Your boss may think you are very expensive. If the founders are making almost nothing, coming in with a high OTE (“on target earnings”) may make you, on paper at least, the most expensive employee in the company. This can create a lot of pressure to deliver, quickly.
- Your boss may have unrealistic ramp expectations. Great salespeople should ramp quickly. But they can’t ramp in a day. This can create tensions, in some situations at least.
- You likely won’t have enough leads to hit any sort of quota. It’s too early. Most start-ups below $1m in ARR don’t have enough in-bound, organic leads (say ~50+ qualified leads) a month to keep the first salesperson busy. You’ll have to find a way to get more leads on your own.
- Your boss may expect you to do it all. Be an SDR, a demand generation person, a cold caller, a product marketer, an opener and a closer. Everything.
So this is a tough job 🙂 With not a truly typical day. And because of this, it’s usually not a great job for someone without a least a few years of SaaS selling experience plus the ability to be pretty self directed plus the ability to have a thick skin.
But for the right person, that’s smart and tough, and somewhat creative … it can also be one of the most rewarding positions. The sales “hacker”. Often times, the First Salesperson goes on to just amazing things in successful start-ups. And they have a special relationship with the founders and early employees that Reps 10, 20 and 200 will never have.
If this sounds exciting to you, consider it.
If it sounds like it lacks enough structure … don’t go in as the first salesperson.