As a startup grows, founders find themselves challenged when transitioning from founder-led sales to building a sales team. Understandably so, as revenue is what keeps the company going, and trusting your company’s future to a salesperson is a huge step for any founder.
When should founders start hiring a sales team?
Before hiring salespeople to build your sales team you need to have worked on your product-market fit.
If you see a pattern of sales of the same offer to the same type of people, you have achieved repeatability, which is crucial for an early-stage startup.
On top of that, consider it a sign when your sales are consistent with people outside of your network, for example, cold prospects.
Transitioning from founder-led sales
When you are transitioning from founder-led sales to building your sales team, you must look at your product market fit. The ‘sales playbook’ is the guide to your company’s sales processes and includes its ideal client profile (ICP), how to handle objections, how to close deals, how to conduct demos, and more.
Use methods like recording and replaying client conversations for training purposes for your team to achieve repeatability in sales and possibly even include them in the ‘sales playbook’.
Once all material is gathered, founders can either build this playbook by themselves or hire a Sales Specialist to structure the processes clearly.
In fact, you may realise that your company needs more than one playbook for different clients. So you could create one playbook that targets and sells to enterprises and another that targets and sells to SMB clients. The clients are different and so are the processes. One might need more meetings and negotiation processes, whilst the other not so much.
A good founder acknowledges when it is time to start building their team (see above) as well as when is the right time for themselves to step out and have a fully functioning sales team that they trust.
Build from the bottom up
As mentioned earlier, without a defined product-market fit a company will struggle to build its sales operation team. Therefore, it will cost the company a lot of time trying to train and retain its new hires.
Instead, founders should focus on building a strong foundation by hiring junior roles that fill gaps in the company. Consider hiring someone to take some things off your plate if you don’t have the time, or hiring someone who is more skilled than you in a particular area.
Another example is to invest first in sales development representatives who bring in prospects and then invest in bringing salespeople to close deals.
Focus on solving the problems that already exist, filling the gaps, and then growing more from there.
Top tips for building a sales team
Define your product-market fit: It’s exciting wanting to take your business a step further and hire your sales team, but you can’t do that unless you have a product-market fit. So, save your time and money for now. Instead, focus on establishing sales processes that work and invest later by hiring the right salespeople.
Define your ICP: When you start building your sales team make sure to focus on the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Who are they and what challenges do they face? Yes, your product/service is important but a customer wants to be heard and understood before they buy.
Set your KPIs: When building the sales process, you will see a pattern of how many prospects lead to meetings, and how many meetings it takes to make a deal. Set levels and measure a new hire’s success based on them. Use these levels to streamline your process and identify issues.
Hire sales specialists: Don’t be afraid to identify and acknowledge your gaps. It will give you a tremendous advantage to have a sales team that is built with no weak points. Especially when sales are so broad that it will be extremely hard for a single person to handle everything.
Look out for talent: Look closely at the people you are hiring when making your first sales hires. A background at a major brand can be impressive but it’s not as easy as working for the challenger brands. Consider hiring the top performers from challenger brands because they can close deals without a big brand name behind them.
Don’t hire for someone’s network: Instead, hire for their skills and resilience. It’s a risk to hire someone for their network and it doesn’t indicate if they are truly good at sales.
Should you work with recruiters?
Scaling often involves partnering with recruiters to help hire the right people for your business. However, the quality of agencies can vary widely, and it’s crucial to select the right one for your specific needs.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you make an informed decision:
- Define Your Needs: Before you begin your search for an agency, determine exactly what aspects of your sales operations you want to outsource. Clearly define your requirements, such as lead generation, sales strategy development, or any other specific tasks.
- Research Potential Agencies: Explore and identify potential agencies that specialize in the services you need. You can do this through online research, recommendations, or networking within your industry.
- Assess Agency Quality: When considering agencies, pay close attention to the following factors:
- Review Their Processes: Understand how they work and their approach to handling your sales needs.
- Fee Structure: Ensure that their pricing aligns with your budget and long-term goals.
- Track Record: Investigate their past projects and client success stories.
- Onboarding Process: A crucial aspect of your agency selection is their onboarding process. Here’s what to look for:
- In-Depth Onboarding: Reliable agencies invest time in getting to know your business, products, messaging, audience, and positioning before starting the actual work.
- Warning Signs: Be cautious of agencies that rush through the onboarding process. Comprehensive understanding requires more than a brief introductory call.
- Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to ask potential agencies questions about their approach, timelines, and communication methods. This will help you gauge their suitability for your startup.
- Client References: Request references from their previous or current clients to gain insights into their working relationships and results.
- Evaluate and Decide: After gathering all the information and considering your startup’s needs, make an informed decision on which agency to work with.
Building your first sales team and transitioning from founder-led sales is a huge step in your startup’s growth. At Cognatio Solutions we’ll help your startup take off by making the most suitable hires for your type of business. We give you space to reflect, ask for help, and share ideas for your future growth. Our team at Cognatio provides you with that security and more!