What are the most important sales hire traits when adding heads to your sales organization? Many early stage companies tend to over-value qualities that aren’t actually as important as one may think. In fact, many of the skills that early stage companies look for in their first hires as “good signs,” are the sales hire traits that can hurt the company in the long run.
1. Years of Experience. Why is it that almost every job description starts with “At least X years of experience?” At an early stage company, “years of experience” in sales and success are not directly correlated. In fact, I would argue that someone who has been selling for a long time is often the wrong hire for an early stage startup because they’ll lose their eagerness to problem solve and tinker. Instead of focusing on years of experience, focus on hiring a person who has sold similar deal sizes and therefore knows what the cycle of your process will look like. This way, they are comfortable working through the same obstacles at the beginning, middle and end of the sale process and will be able to look ahead at roadblocks such as long procurement or legal processes that can delay a deal.
2. Domain Expertise. Domain expertise is helpful to a point, but should not be a determining factor when making a hire for your early stage company. Founding teams are largely made up of domain experts, so it’s less important for sellers on the team to also be experts on Day 1. By bringing in sellers who have experience selling into different decision makers, you also open the door to hearing new approaches to qualification or alternative ways to handle objections, which can be hugely beneficial as you refine and iterate on your sales process. At the end of the day, domain knowledge can be taught and talk tracks can be learned in a few weeks, but untraining bad habits of a jaded rep can take months, and is toxic for an early stage company.
3. Rolodex. I’ve talked to countless founders and VP’s who are set on the idea of hiring salespeople who can “Come in with a rolodex and hit the ground running.” But how far does the rolodex that they built from their previous company really go with the tool they’re selling now? What happens if your company pivots or decides to change the model slightly? Will this person be able to adjust if they can’t rely on their existing network? If they’re coming from a direct competitor, the rolodex might help them in the early days, but it’s impossible to scale by expecting that every rep will come from your competitors. Don’t hire someone for their rolodex, because it will inevitably run out.
When hiring for your early stage company, quality is better than quantity. Instead of getting hung up on total years of experience, think about what this person did in the years up to this point and boil down what they were doing instead of how long they were doing it. Instead of demanding domaine expertise, focus on how they were selling their previous product and evaluate their ability to gain mastery based on their success to date. And lastly, instead of expecting a rolodex to be the magic key to easy wins, find someone with the skillset who can unlock doors that have never been opened.
If you liked “Common Sales Hire Traits That Are Overvalued” and want to read more content from the Bowery Capital Team, check out other relevant posts from the Bowery Capital Blog.