How to Build a Sales Team from Scratch at Your Startup

June 13, 2014

10:30 am

This post includes extra content from Startup Mixology, my upcoming book on starting up – including how to prepare yourself for the harsh reality and celebrate positive moments along the way. Go here to pre-order the book (due July 8) and subscribe to updates!

Depending on how central sales is to your organization, you may end up hiring a full sales team as you begin to grow. Here’s what to watch out for.

For your early hires, cofounder Neil Patel of KISSmetrics recommends hiring salespeople who are comfortable with change and uncertainty. He says they should be “hunters”: people who can find their own leads rather than just attacking the ones you feed them. They should also be “mavericks,” trail blazers who can educate prospects on your innovative idea and come up with their own processes.

Salesforce believes that the best salespeople are social: they enjoy conversations and presentations. They’re self-motivated and and creative problem solvers, constantly improving their skills. And they’re respectful: they follow through on their commitments and seriously believe in the product.

As DC startup Social Tables looks to expand their sales team from four to sixteen in 2014, candidates will go through a series of three interviews: a culture interview, a sales fit interview, and a final interview with the CEO. They look for salespeople with the five A’s, developed by director of sales Ram Parimi:

  • Adaptability: Flexible, creative, and coachable.
  • Attitude: Positive and hardworking.
  • Aptitude: Disciplined, knowledgeable.
  • Accountability: A closer.
  • Aspiration: Always hungry.

Steve Kann on the Tech Cocktail team likes to hire good storytellers. He wants to know that a salesperson can tell a joke or talk about their family, as well as paint a picture of what the future would look like if a deal were signed. He also values resilience: not taking rejection personally and not being discouraged by all the no’s – because there will be many.

Sales is ultimately about building relationships, so if you don’t get a good vibe from a candidate, listen to your gut.

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Frank Gruber is the cofounder, CEO and Executive Editor of Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail). He is the author of the book, Startup Mixology, Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success. He is also a startup advisor and investor to startups. Find Frank Gruber online and follow him on Twitter at @FrankGruber.

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