How To Build An Amazing Sales Team If You’re A Startup
Working in a startup company can be invigorating. They are full of energy, enthusiasm, and a refreshing lack of complicated processes and policies.
As a new company, once you have a minimum viable product with which to go to market, the next step is building your sales team.
Starting from scratch can seem like a huge task, and it is, but think of the benefits. You can handpick all of your people to compliment your company culture, and you aren’t fighting any entrenched employees or legacy systems. It’s a blank canvas.
Move Fast, But Don’t Rush It
As the saying goes, hire slow, fire fast. You’ll be keen to get started and start focusing on sales team profitability but don’t act recklessly.
A wrong hire at this critical early stage can be costly. Once your product has proven its concept with a test audience or early adopters and you have a healthy pipeline of interest, then it’s time to start building your sales team.
What Will Your Sales Team Look Like?
While your first thought might be simply “we need a salesperson”, take the time to think about how your sales team will be structured as you start to grow.
Established companies with an old-fashioned approach to sales often have a flat structure where all of the salesmen operate in the same way and “eat what they kill”.
Startups have been instrumental in driving the evolution of the sales team into something resembling a cohesive unit. A combination of field sales, inside sales, support and client management combine to create a much more streamlined and effective sales process.
Some companies are now using product teams or pods. Instead of a collaborative set of departments, a pod could consist of a salesperson, marketing support, customer success support, technical and admin, all working on a particular product set or sector. Multiple pods allow for a better-integrated approach.
Refine Your Hiring Process
Getting your company culture right in the early stages of a startup is crucial. One incompatible personality could effectively alienate the entire company. No matter how good they are with potential clients, if they don’t have the support or confidence of the rest of the company, you’re creating huge problems for your culture going forward.
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, sometimes the better salesperson isn’t the right candidate. Hiring for culture fit and aptitude can yield better results in the long term.
As CEOs often have to wear a lot of hats, it might be an idea to engage with a recruitment agency or specialist headhunter who can take the time to immerse themselves in your company culture and ethos, then go and find you the perfect candidates. A headhunter who specializes in sales will have a lot of contacts and a better knowledge of the talent marketplace than you do.
No hiring process is bulletproof.
If you do make a bad hire, identify it fast and move them on. Yes, it can be disheartening to fire someone, and it may make you question your hiring ability, but it still needs to be done. The longer they stay in place, the more damage they will cause within the company in terms of alienating other employees or damaging your brand.
Offer An Attractive Salary & Bonus Package
It can be difficult to attract top sales talent to a startup. After all, a large number of them fail in the first two years. A good salesperson is likely to be happy where they. As a young company, you need to lure them away. It’s not always about the initial salary, but the benefits, commission and the potential for a profit share.
You need to find the right balance between offering enough to attract the right talent and not exposing yourself to financial risk.
Make Training An Ongoing Priority
Your people shouldn’t stop learning just because their onboarding checklist is complete.
Make training an integral part of their role.
This can be in many forms such as product training, presentation technique, role play or objection handling.
If you have the budget, also give them an annual allowance that they can use on directing their own professional development.
Knowing they are valued in this way will create a feeling of engagement that will benefit your company in so many ways.
Make It About More Than The Numbers
Hiring a group of stereotypical, alpha males who care little about your company and more about their numbers will only get you so far. Ultimately, it will damage your company and your brand. There’s a lot of advantages to hiring for ‘soft skills’ such as emotional intelligence and coachability.
A truly effective startup sales team works for the good of the entire company, lives and breathes its ethos and care about its customers.
They’re also team players, working collaboratively with other departments such as product, customer success, and marketing. They go in for friendly competition rather than cutthroat winning.
This isn’t as touchy-feely as it sounds, by finding and hiring people who work in this way, you’ll create a stronger team that will lead to a better product, happier customers and ultimately, more sales.
Use Gamification To Satisfy Competitive Natures
Gamification is a great way to introduce friendly competition into a company sales team. Interactive leaderboards and points for learning or positive feedback are great ways to improve motivation.
Give Them The Tools & Systems They Need
One of the great things about starting a sales team from scratch is that you aren’t dealing with any old systems or awkward employees who refuse to change their ways because they’ve done things the same way for years.
High performing systems and sales tools will give your team all of the information and resources they need while automating a lot of time-consuming processes. Investing in a good CRM and lead tracking/automation system can improve efficiency exponentially and also allows for detailed reporting and analysis.
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