Hiring your first salesperson at a SaaS company is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a founder. If you make the right decision, you’ll begin to create a sustainable revenue stream, and your first hire will pave the way to creating a robust sales team. However, making the wrong decision can be extremely detrimental to your company – you’ll waste valuable time and money, which can be disastrous during the first couple years of your startup.
When is the right time for hiring your first salesperson?
Once your product is fully developed, hiring your first salesperson may seem tempting. However, it’s important for you, as a founder, to understand your customer first.
We recommend that as a CEO, you are the primary salesperson for at least a couple months before hiring your first salesperson. This allows you to understand your customer pain and gain points, what your customers are trying to solve with your product or service, and begin to understand the best way to position and sell your product.
Additionally, you can begin to create your sales process and customer tracking, so your first sales hire isn’t creating these processes from scratch.
Finally, if you haven’t worked in sales before, closing a handful of sales yourself will help you better understand what to look for when hiring your first salesperson. It also will help you manage your first sales person and a small team until it’s time to add a dedicated manager.
How many salespeople should you hire?
Jason Lemkin from SaaStr has interesting advice on this – he recommends hiring two salespeople right off the bat. With only one sales rep, if they’re underperforming, it’s difficult to diagnose whether the problem is due to the salesperson, your product, incorrectly defined customers, or something else. With two sales reps, it’s much easier to compare their performances and understand what’s going on if someone is underperforming.
However, if your company simply doesn’t have the resources to hire two salespeople, you can use yourself and your own experience as a salesperson as a comparison for your new sales rep.
Challenges to hiring your first sales rep
- Your preconceptions of how your product should be sold – the way you think your product should be sold may not actually be what sells best! Don’t defer immediately to your sales representative, but be open to hearing their ideas, even if it doesn’t match with how you’ve been selling the product.
- Your performance expectations – every founder, naturally, wants to scale up fast once they’ve made their first hire. However, make sure to be realistic as well. Hiring your first salesperson, while important, isn’t a magic trick. Be patient.
- Understanding what makes a good salesperson – if you don’t have a lot of experience selling or working with salespeople, it can be difficult to understand everything that goes into an effective seller. Make sure they have experience in all sales skills, including cold calling, prospecting, qualifying leads, demoing, closing deals, and more.
Tips on hiring salespeople
- Take an inventory of the key traits and skills you believe a successful sale person must have to be successful. Then build a job description that aligns to those characteristics. If you discover that your product or service is more transactional, you will want a more impatient, high energy rep that likes fast decisions with minimal friction in the sales process.
- Make sure your salesperson is effective at storytelling. A rep who can only list off the features of your product isn’t going to be an effective seller. You want someone who can craft a narrative about your product.
- Look for entrepreneurial hustle. Your first sales rep will not have a role limited to sales – they may need to step out of their sales shoes sometimes. You want your first hire to be someone willing to help out wherever needed.
- Be realistic. Like we mentioned earlier, it can be easy to get caught up in dreams of hypergrowth. Be sure to keep your expectations of your hire realistic.
Hiring your first salesperson can be scary, but it is an incredibly important next step for founders who are ready.