4 Tips for Landing Your Startup’s Finest Sales Prospect

May 6, 2016


Running a startup is no small feat. Seriously, there’s a reason most studies have found that between 80 and 90 percent of startups fall flat on their faces within a few months or years of having been launched—it’s really hard work. From regularly dealing with widespread competition and a fast-paced market to rapid growth and talent acquisition, the focus of startup executives is all over the place.

That last point was rather interesting, wasn’t it? When people think of startup issues, the first thing that comes to mind is usually related to competition, the market or scaling, but what about talent acquisition? Taking things a step further, what about the type of talent that’s absolutely necessary for sustaining startup growth? That’s right, I’m talking about hiring the right salesperson for your up-and-coming business.

No matter how you slice it, sales is the lifeblood of any organization. If yours is to survive in a world that’s becoming increasingly more crowded and noisy with each passing year, you’ll not only need one talented salesman, but a number of them. So, how exactly do you go about making such an important hire? No worries—though by no means a comprehensive examination, the following four tips are sure to have you headed in the right direction:

1) The Ability to Sell Can’t Be Overlooked

Seems pretty obvious, right? If you’re looking to hire a new salesperson for your startup, you’ll clearly be on the lookout for someone who knows how to make sales. Listen, that’s all fine and dandy, but there’s a factor here that distracts far too many startup recruiters—industry-specific experience. Yes, experience is important, but it by no means guarantees success.

What’s more valuable than experience? Yup, you guessed it—the ability to sell products and services on a consistent basis. As such, if you can find someone with a history of sales success in your startup’s niche, feel free to take action. That said, it’s important to remember that sales ability, regardless of work history, always matters most. It’s easy to learn about an industry; It’s hard to learn how to sell.

2) Use Assessment Tools Wisely

There’s this idea out there amongst some HR representatives that using staffing software programs is a cop-out of sorts. As far as I’m concerned, it really depends on your situation as a startup. If you feel they’ll work for you, great. If not, that’s fine, too.

However, what should absolutely be used before a sales hire is made is an EEOC-validated pre-employment personality assessment test. Though personality tests might seem like a bit of a pseudoscience to some of you, it’s important that you obtain as much information as possible about a sale prospect. Seeing as how salespeople are the first point of contact between your startup and a customer, you’ll want to identify any personality flaws before extending a formal offer.

3) Do Your Due Diligence When It Comes to Track Records

Having gotten my start in the world of entrepreneurship as a freelance copywriter and content marketer, I’m no stranger to taking peoples résumés and making them shine like no other. At the same time, because of this, I know that though a sales candidate might look incredible on paper, the reality of the prospect’s professionalism might be something completely different.

I know—it’s sad, but true. Thankfully, before handing over a contract, recognize that you have the ability to do some digging. If you feel like you’re close to making a hire, spend some time validating what’s been said in an interview.

Place a few phone calls to past employers and send out some emails about past awards and accolades to ensure that your candidate has been 100 percent truthful. Lastly, to wrap things up, conduct a thorough, legal background check to ensure your candidate’s moral compass is pointing in the right direction.

4) This Is an Important Hire—Treat It That Way

Simply put, hiring a new salesperson to quicken your startup’s growth is a real investment that’s going to impact your bank balance come the end of each month. The importance of what you’re doing can’t be understated.

So, if you’re planning on reverting back to old-fashioned enlistment tactics like gut feelings or first impressions, you could potentially find yourself navigating choppy waters with your new employee. The end result? You’ll be back where you started—in the middle of yet another interview. In short, do things right the first time. When your startup is growing, you’ll be glad you did.

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