There comes a time in every startup journey when you realise that in order to move forward and scale, you need to increase sales and revenue first. And that means transitioning from selling your own products and services to handing over sales to a professional salesperson.
It seems easy enough; place an ad, interview a few people and pick the best one. So then why is it so many founders and owners end up on the hiring and firing merry-go-round? What does this cost your business? And more importantly, how to hire the right salesperson for your B2B startup who will meet and exceed your sales goals.
Over the years of creating sales blueprints for B2B startups, there’s one common thing we’ve noticed in just about every business. Typically founders have a strong technical or consulting background in their field, but no sales experience. The issue is clear. Without a background in sales, it’s going to be tough to find the right person for your company when you don’t know what you should look for.
Trial and error is a costly exercise. A salesperson who is not the best fit for a business will stick around for about 18 months. And it’s not unusual to see companies continuing this cycle repeatedly. Inevitably, this amounts to a massive loss of time and money in terms of hiring, onboarding and all the expenses that go along with paying staff. This can cost a small company $50,000 for every failed sales hire, which can ultimately lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Of course, this doesn’t even account for the loss of opportunities.
So let’s look at how to mitigate that by hiring the right salesperson for your B2B startup who will not only give you a return on your investment but also help your business grow.
Let’s go back a bit. Finding the right salesperson for your B2B startup begins with looking in the right places. Quite often a founder or owner will place an ad in an online employment site and wait for the applications to come rolling in. The issue is you’re fishing in the same pond of salespeople who, while highly enthusiastic, are probably in the middle of that hire and fire cycle themselves.
The secret to hiring the right salesperson for your B2B startup is to seek out those who already have the proven track record you need for your business to reach its goals.
Where are all these awesome salespeople? They’re usually currently employed and doing very well. While this initially seems like a problem, at Sales Director Central we’ve found that flipping the system by researching first, then approaching specific salespeople is highly effective for finding the right person for your business. This translates into a salesperson who, with some leadership, will prove to be a profitable investment for you. If needed, we also recommend working with a select few executive search consultants who already have ongoing relationships with qualified salespeople.
Research is imperative before you go into the interviewing process. Leading executive search consultant, Edward Mandla highly recommends having a selection of pre-qualified candidates in order to choose the best salesperson for your business.
The next step is the interviewing. It’s easy to get caught up in an applicant's enthusiasm for what they’re going to achieve. But what you want to concentrate on is understanding the odds of the salesperson’s chances of succeeding in your business based on past experience. If you haven’t done extensive research before, you want to find out if they have sales experience in your industry. Do they have an excellent track record in meeting and exceeding sales goals? And what attitude do they have around the processes of sales? The important thing is to not feel pressured to hire someone just because they happen to be the best out of all the people who applied for the job.
James Michael of Justified Talent shares his thoughts, “The very first thing we assess is their temperament. To what degree do their natural interpersonal strategies lend themselves to success in this sort of sales role.” He notes the benchmarks are different for solution selling versus challenger selling and relationship selling.
What you’re looking for during the interview is for your candidate to display the right behaviours for your business. Look for a salesperson who is curious; one who asks you lots of questions. What attitude are they bringing to the interview? Are they showing interest in opening new opportunities, progressing current prospects, or closing deals? And how does this fit in with what you need for your business right at this moment?
Edward Mandla shares his wisdom explaining this as “hiring to your pipeline growth.” Creating a match between the salesperson’s skills and what your business currently needs in terms of sales is key to hiring the right person.
It’s important to determine if their personality is one which lends itself to selling your products or services. Another major sign is coachability. The right candidate will show that they are open to learning and pivoting with your business when required.
Hiring is just the beginning when it comes to the success of your salespeople. Even a salesperson who displays all the right qualities and has a proven track record, needs structure around them. To ensure the success of your salesperson, you want to make sure your business is ready for your salesperson by having disciplines and foundations in place to support their sales efforts.
Building a high performance sales team isn’t a set and forget function. To keep your salesperson performing and ultimately grow a high performance sales team, it’s important to provide them with support through leadership. Part of this is having systems in place to support the entire sales process. Along with leading them in the right direction for your business growth and keeping them accountable and nurtured through regular meetings.
While there are a lot of moving parts in securing the best salesperson for your business, getting this piece right, along with strong sales leadership will help you create the revenue growth required to scale your B2B startup.
Need some extra advice? Connect with one of our Sales Leadership experts to talk about building a high performance sales team.
Or for a more in-depth look into hiring the right salesperson. Watch our free masterclass on How to Build a Successful Sales Team