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4 Avoidable Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Assembling Their Sales Team

Every Founder knows how crucial sales and sales  teams are to the success and future path of a startup company. That’s why so many times, it is the primary role (besides fundraising) the CEO takes on in the early days of any company.

Finding prospects, making connections, responding to RFPs, the list goes on and on. Eventually this becomes unsustainable and the Founder is ready to pass the baton.

Those early sales hires are critical to the trajectory of the company and provide critical customer feedback as the product or services develop. Make the wrong hire and the results can be devastating.

Read on for what avoidable mistakes Founders make as they start to build out their sales team.

Mistake #1: You Haven’t Defined How a Salesperson Fits Your Sales Team and Business Model

Everything flows down from the business model. Your understanding of the model and how that impacts your sales decisions should guide you when you go to hire.

Someone may be an excellent seller, but if they focus on leveraging their network and building long-term relationships when you need someone who is going to break into new markets where you aren’t already established – they may not be the right fit for the business.

What makes a good salesperson is how effectively they can execute relative to the business model. And that may adapt over time based on the trajectory of the company.

Define what you need now, but be willing to pivot as you hire to meet the need of the moment.


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Mistake #2: You Want a Subject Matter Expert in the Sales Team

When it comes to salespeople, look for sales expertise first and foremost for your sales team.

Knowledge of a particular field is great and it’s tempting to hire based on a candidate’s experience in your industry. However, just because you’re working in EdTech, for example, doesn’t mean you need to hire a former principal or teacher who has transitioned to sales.

There may be a place for someone like that as you develop solutions and need that first-hand experience to accelerate your sales process.

But in those early critical stages, you want to hire someone who can execute your strategy, not just someone who knows the space. Remember, you’re hiring someone to sell, not be your internal subject matter expert.

Mistake #3: You Don’t Have a Sales Strategy

It sure sounds easy to hire someone and expect them to bring a sales strategy along with them. But that means you haven’t yet developed your own strategy and would prolong ramp time for any new sales hires.

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If you don’t have a sales strategy, you’re not ready to hire for sales.

When you do have a strategy, that helps the hiring process keep the emphasis on the person and their fit for your company.

Set your sales strategy before you hire your sales team. If you don’t feel equipped to set your own sales strategy, seek out learning opportunities and experts to help you develop one. Then you can hire a salesperson to execute it.

Mistake #4: You Don’t Have a Recruiting and Onboarding Process

You know your business model and have the sales strategy to support it. Great. Now it’s time to hire that Hunter who can sell to enterprise clients in new markets.

But before you reach out to your network for referrals of industry all-stars, take a beat. Remember that hiring is a process that lets you discover the right person. And onboarding is what positions your new hire to succeed.

Without proper processes, even the most skilled people can fail.

Start the recruitment process using the defined needs from your business model. That will guide you to develop a clear job description and an ideal candidate profile. Be specific here, but acknowledge where you can be flexible.  Amplify visibility for the position with a job ad that reaches beyond both your personal network and industry. If that isn’t yielding the right candidates, consider a specialized recruiting firm.

Remember, you want the best salesperson you can find. Relying on referrals may seem like a smart move. You trust your network and know they value hard work as much as you do.

But you don’t want to put a limit on how you can find the right person for your team.

Once you’ve discovered and hired the right person, make sure to run them through a comprehensive onboarding process that includes aggressive but achievable metrics for success.

Set goals based on your sales strategy, and offer a clear path for how your new hire can meet them. We’re talking about a sales position, they need ramp time, plan for it.

Remember You’re Hiring to Sell Your Product

You’re the one with the most knowledge of your product. You’re the one with the passion necessary to get it off the ground. And you’re the one with the best understanding of where you fit in the industry.

When it comes time to hire your sales team, use all that to your advantage.

From start to finish, take the time to determine the profile and process that positions you to achieve and exceed your goals. Set a clear strategy for success. Then hire in order to execute your vision.

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