One of the most pivotal moments in the life of a startup is making the first sales hire. You've perfected the product and crafted a marketing strategy to set it apart — now it's time to build the team that will get it in the hands of your customers.
At this stage, however, you will be confronted with an age-old question: Is it better to start building your team with new talent eager to make an impact, or should you seek out seasoned veterans with proven experience?
Experienced-based hiring will always favor the veteran, and their ability to hit the ground running with little training can be appealing for startups looking for an immediate impact. A less-experienced sales staff, on the other hand, will be easier to mold to match your company's brand identity and vision for the product. While both have their upsides, a company is typically better suited for one hiring style than the other.
Before you make what could be a costly hiring mistake, ask yourself these two questions to determine which approach you should take:
How soon do your need to see results?
The key to having success with a green sales team is to think of your new hires as long-term investments. If you have the time and resources to spend training and molding them when they first come on board, new recruits could become all-stars within your company over time. However, if you can't justify those expenses, it would make far more sense to hire someone who can hit the ground running rather independently.
This is especially true for early-stage startups, who usually have a calculated runway until their budget runs out. Trust the numbers. If you need your sales staff to start paying for itself within just a month or two, it might be a sign you should make the safe bet and hire an industry veteran. However, if you are recently coming off a successful round of funding and have a longer runway, consider taking a slower approach that could yield higher eventual results.
How much have you already developed your sales process?
Remember, success in sales is as much about the process as it is about the individual. Even if you managed to bring in one of your competitor's top performers, he or she might stall in the absence of a clearly-defined go-to-market strategy. If your company has not answered fundamental questions, such as what level of employee you are hoping to sell to or whether sales can be made over the phone or if an in-person meeting is required, you cannot expect someone who excelled at a more established company to flourish at yours.
On the other hand, a recent graduate may be eager to tackle the nuts and bolts of your sales process. If you haven't already done so yourself, consider giving your new-hire some time after coming on board to research answers to common objections and the results of competing sales tactics. Although it could take some time, it will be an invaluable experience for a young salesperson you're making an investment in.
Working with a global executive search firm can help you identify candidates who will make the biggest impact on your company. By getting to know your organization's needs and limitations at an intimate level, retained search consultants can offer a much more personalized recruiting experienced than their contingency counterparts. To see some of the roles YES Partners has already successfully filled, click here!
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