First Sales Hire: Here's what to look for

Guest post by Neil Ryland, VP Revenue at Peakon and former Chief Revenue Officer at Huddle.

 

The moment has arrived when you feel your product has market fit and the founders have stretched their network to breaking point to get those first few deals over the line. So now… it's time to get someone focused on driving up revenue numbers.

So where do you start? What makes the ideal first sales person into your business?

Forget the Chunky Watch

There are four main different sales personalities; the lone wolf, the worker, the relationship builder and the challenger. All of which can be successful often in the same environment but that first hire will be required to go above beyond just thinking about their commission, building relationships or smashing the phone 24/7.

This is not the time to hire the exec obsessed with their chunky watch and sports car, it's time to hire the person who wants to build the dream, not drive or wear it!

Everyone hears about the lone wolf sales exec, that sales exec that never seems to be in the office. No one knows why they are so successful, but at the end of every quarter they pull in the record deal!

Or the sales exec that sells on building a strong lasting relationship with their prospects. Not one to push the deal, instead they allow the prospect to lead the sale to a positive conclusion.

What about that hard worker, who always seems to be rushing around to meetings, making calls and living off Starbucks coffee?

Then the current buzzword sales approach ‘‘challenger sale”. This is the exec who helps the customer to see their business in a different way to solve problems they didn't know existed or previously saw as a priority.

My view from hiring and building teams across the world, is all have their place, but actually I needed something even more for my first sales hire in a new office or startup. What I needed was the ‘Fanatical’ sales rep.

The Fanatical Sales Exec

Fanatical by definition means filled with excessive and single-minded zeal. This encompasses passion, the intelligence to stay focused, and determination. These are the people you meet that can carry the spirit of the co-founder, but with the discipline required to be a successful sales rep in a startup.

Hiring someone that is passionate about the product and the value your business delivers is critical for the first sales hire as they will lead the charge in taking your message and product to your prospects.

The old adage that people buy people has never been more true than when you are in a new office, new region or even a new business! An insatiable appetite for success is infectious and your first sales hire needs to exude this at all times. The fanatical sales person is loyal and tenacious in their tasks. This approach makes them ‘likeable’ to prospects, customers, and just as importantly, other people in your business.

Don’t throw out the CV

This doesn't mean throw away the CV, it still has value in helping you question the candidate to understand if they can be your Fanatical sales rep. At same time don’t hire on the numbers and words written the CV. It's more important at this stage that the person matches the cultural profile than the size of their largest deal!

 

 

Question around:

Industry Experience

Some of my most successful sales hires had zero experience in the industry we were part of, but they excelled in the role by showing the traits of the Fanatical sales exec.

If a candidate has worked in your industry, great, ask them what they love and what frustrates them about it. I am looking to see how they overcome their frustrations and how they can demonstrate they love that vertical. Networking events, blog posts, passionate customer stories, something that goes beyond what they could read on your website!

If they have no experience, then why do they want to work in that industry? I want to uncover personal drivers because I know that is what will motivate them to never give up and go that extra mile.

Self-reliance

Understand the fine details about the rep’s deals and their biggest wins. Then do the same on deals they didn't manage to get over the line. I am trying to understand if the rep has a can do attitude e.g. if plan A didn't work, there are 26 letters in the alphabet… keep trying intelligently!

Can they think outside of the box, or were they looking to sales engineers to do the work, marketing to build them the silver bullet, or a bid team to draft their proposals? Often a new office or a startup will have scarce resources, so it's all about maximising what you have and being smart in your requests.

Culture fit

Whether in a startup or opening a new office, it's important the hire understands and buys into your organisation’s values, so they can contribute positively to your culture.

Setting up a new office or building a startup can create a high-pressure environment with only a handful of employees. If this person doesn’t commit and enhance the company culture, it’s going to make working closely together all the more uncomfortable.

The culture risk can be reduced by having candidates meet your team during the interview process. You can also discus your company values with the them, and ask them for examples of how they have or will demonstrate those in their day to day working.

Keep the fire burning

Finding the right person for your team is crucial, but just as important is delivering an employee experience that enables them to fulfil their potential and keeps them onboard.

Stifle their ability to do what they do best, or fail to strive towards a mission greater than this month’s targets, and even the most driven Fanatical sales exec can lose their way and begin to look elsewhere. Your job as a manager is to keep that fire burning and push their career to new heights.

Tackling the risk of stagnation and eventual employee churn requires continuously listening, adapting and improving how your team works. Using real-time employee engagement technologies such as Peakon will help you take this proactive approach. This will ensures that you keep those Fanatical sales people in your business, and that they’ll grow with you.