August 24, 2010 Keenan

When It’s Time for a Startup to Hire a Sales Guy (Gal)

Hiring a professional sales person can be a stressful event for a start up.  Hire too early and waste lots of money on a sales person who is unable to drive any revenue, hire too late and risk leaving money on the table or worse losing to the competition.

To figure out if a start-up is ready for a sales person or team depends on 3 simple questions.

1)   Is the product or service ready for prime time, can it create a market or can it create demand for itself?

2)   Is there market demand?  Does the market want the product or service?

3)   Does the organization have the sales expertise to execute on the above?

Determining if it’s time to hire a sales person or team is a simple if/then.

If the product is ready and can create demand for itself and you don’t have the sales expertise, It’s time to hire sales.

If the market demand is there, if the market wants what you sell and you don’t have the expertise in house, then it’s time to hire sales.

If there is market demand AND the product or service is ready for prime time and can create demand for itself, then hire a shit load of sales people and fast.

If the product is not ready for primetime yet there is market demand then try to develop the expertise in house, use the CEO, founders etc.  It’s a business development process until the product is ready.

If the product is ready and can create demand for itself, but the market demand isn’t there then hire a REALLY, REALLY good Maverick.

If the product or service isn’t there, and the market doesn’t know it wants your product or service yet then don’t hire anyone.  Get the product out the door.

There are only 3 things that can sell a product or service, the product itself, market demand or sales.  That’s it.   Nothing else can move the needle.

To determine if its time to hire a sales person figure out what if/then statement fits, then go.

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  • Brian

    These are excellent questions.

    It also pays to determine if you can actually afford to add a salesperson. I’ve had chats with a number of businessman who didn’t crunch the numbers before making the hiring decision only to be shocked at the fact they were losing money instead of making it.

  • Oliver Rhodes

    enjoy the blog. the link to maverick is broken?!

  • Keenan

    great point, Thanks Brian

  • Keenan

    Link fixed,

    Thanks Oliver.

  • Aviah Laor

    It sounds simple, now that you explain it. Thanks.

  • Keenan

    Good luck and let me know how it turns out.

  • Keenan

    Good luck and let me know how it turns out.

  • Shane Mac

    No comment. :)

  • Anonymous

    Great points. We learned it hard way. We hired a senior sales guy before the product is fully ready…he sat 4-months idle (well, he was giving advices left and right) and left.

  • Pat Shaughnessy

    Hi Keenan,
    One more to add:
    If the model/sales process is scalable.
    I have sold high-tech products that were support demand was so high (The product worked fine, the segment was just tech support intensive/bleeding edge!)that if we sold too much the support system would fall over.
    Thanks for a great post
    Pat Shaughnessy
    Technology Sales Help

  • Keenan

    That’s not fun for anyone.