Once you define product-market fit, the next step is building a killer go-to-market team that can go out and sell your product to your target customers. But hiring a sales team that can execute on your vision is a huge challenge.
To learn top strategies for finding, hiring, training, evaluating, and supporting the best sales team, we recently sat down with two enterprise sales experts: Abbie McBride, Chief Revenue Officer at WorkBoard, and Kevin Van Gundy, Chief Revenue Officer at Vercel,
Check out their advice on common questions from startup founders, or watch the replay:
Get the timing right. If you do this too early, you will have someone sitting around twiddling their thumbs; if you do it too late, you will miss out on important growth opportunities. Nail your product-market fit, then go hire a sales leader.
Make sure the first sales leader you hire is an evangelist. This person needs to bring your vision and perspective into the world, and then scale and translate that vision into impact and value for your business.
When onboarding your first sales leader, expect to spend 90 days just transmitting the company’s spirit into that person. Have this person do tons of meetings, meet customers, go on sales calls, and closely observe how the CEO talks about the product and the company’s ethos.
Understand that the first sales leader you hire may not be the one who leads the sales team two to three years later. As the company grows and changes, you’ll need to hire sales leaders with different skill sets.
Hire people who are curious, collaborative, creative, and competitive. These four Cs are the most important characteristics of a salesperson who will be excellent at both prospecting and execution.
Follow these six steps to successfully onboard and train remote workers on your sales team:
Evaluate metrics that aren’t just about closing. For example:
If you want to measure one key metric, choose net dollar retention. That shows that a rep is not just good at closing deals but great at selling to customers who will stick around for the long haul. Look three, four, or five years out to see which reps have the highest net dollar retention over time.
Remember: Measure a rep’s progress on his or her own journey instead of comparing to others. Is this person continually getting better? If not, what tools and support can you offer?
Mistake #1: Waiting too long to hire a sales-op leader. This person designs the architecture of your entire sales process, so you need to hire as early as possible. Getting the structure of your sales organization right from the beginning is the highest priority.
Mistake #2: Not working closely with technical teams. Engineers create the product you sell, often bending over backwards to add the features you request. Customer success, developer relations, and professional service teams work with customers every day. Get to know them all—and appreciate their work.
Mistake #3: Going after big partnerships in the early days. It may seem exciting to sign a channel partnership, but the reality is that it’ll take a lot of your time and attention (and likely five full-time staffers) to manage the relationship. These partnerships are usually not accretive to early-stage startups.
Mistake #4: Trying to close perfectly structured deals early on. It’s better to close bespoke deals for your first 25-50 customers than to have no customers at all. And early customers provide invaluable feedback.
Get more tactical tips and actionable advice in our Evolving Enterprise series: