Coming across an interesting read on how many startups end up hiring highly experienced salespersons and executives from Fortune500 companies only to realize it doesnt always work out in every case. It got us thinking about our own experiences and what we have seen with candidates from different sales backgrounds and which ones seemed to fit better in a startup environment. What we could conclude based on these (and not to an absolute extent) is that those who had sales experience in a smaller business and products similar to our own were the best fit for us.

The more experienced candidates who have been managing sales at larger businesses were quick to understand the requirements, know the products and services quicker and were clear with their concepts. However they were perhaps less ‘hands on’, used to more resources for executing, getting leads qualified, lead data ready in their CRM systems, access to expensive subscriptions of databases and used to following a process for getting customers. These are not negative traits in any respect because beyond a certain stage to close volumes of sales that larger businesses need, these are things that will help you close them. However start ups don’t always have access to these kind of resources and sales can be more about adjusting to what you do have and using them to close those first few customers that can take the business to that next step. The start up sales person may have to wear multiple hats and switch from building lists, to qulalifying leads, to hosting demos and closing sales within the same working day. Selling higher value products with longer lead times may not have the same dynamics as selling larger volumes of lower cost products where the buying can happen quicker and experience in one may not mean you will be an instant success at the other.

So when you are selecting for a startup sales team, keep in mind:

  • The type customers you are going after
  • The size of accounts/deals you are going after
  • The roles that salesperson will have to play and whether his/her skills match
  • The kind of sales experience they had prior
  • There is a clear match in expectations on both sides
  • What has worked best for you im your organization
All said and done, if your sales person can bring in the right customers, you’ve found the right person.

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