How Clever Sales Teams Can Save Tech Startups

Hiring a sales team that your tech startup needs to land enterprise-level clients is extremely important, yet exceptionally difficult. For most B2B startups, just one enterprise-level client can provide enough credibility and revenue to attract investors and customers, but of 112 corporations surveyed, only 23 percent prioritized working with startups.

By looking for a few unconventional traits in sales hires, however, you can drastically improve your standing in the business world. Check out a few tips below and get ready to see a serious flow of sales in the near future.

The Formula for a Perfect Salesperson

It’s a perfect combination of wit and confidence, bordering on arrogance. Witty applicants are valuable for three specific reasons: wit is a sign of intelligence, self-deprecating humor makes a salesperson seem like “sales-y,” and witty people can get away with asking the tough question.

Regardless of how great a salesperson is, he’ll get knocked down and fail repeatedly, dealing not only with rejection from cold calls and warm prospects, but also (if your sales managers are worth their salt) from internal role plays, coaching sessions, and metrics reviews.

Salespeople also go through slumps when nothing will close. This is just a fact of sales; anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something. The best ones need an almost irrational confidence to keep believing that the next opportunity will close.

To find the witty, semi-arrogant salespeople who can boost your tech startup, answer these five questions throughout the hiring process:

What do their friends like about them?

It’s hard to tell whether someone is witty in an interview. Many people think humor is perceived as unprofessional, so they hide it in an interview setting. I like to ask, “What do your friends say about you?” I want to hear them say their friends think they’re funny. It’s also a prompt to allow witty people to let their guard down and say something funny.

What do people who dislike them say about them?

After learning what their friends say, I also ask what people who don’t like them would say. My best-case scenario is that they’ll say, “People might say I’m a little cocky.” Perfect.

Are they the same, personally and professionally?

Plenty of salespeople go from being regular John to “sales guy John.” I don’t want to hire that guy — I want to hire John who made me laugh. If a candidate says he’s the life of the party but is boring during an interview, switch up the interview setting to see whether the personal matches the professional.

Can they role play in the interview?

This is a must. I want to know how well you perform under pressure, how well you bounce back from failure, and how you take criticism. All of these are easily uncovered during spontaneous interview role play. I have the candidates sell me their current service, then I give them feedback to see how they adjust.

Can they turn strangers into customers?

The last thing I look for is whether they’ve won deals that they themselves prospected. It’s not easy to win any deal, but it’s much easier to win deals from referrals or inbound inquiries. I need to know that they’ve transformed people from strangers into customers.

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Written by:
Jeff Winters is founder and CEO of Sapper Consulting, which replaces cold calling for its clients. It’s cooler than it sounds.
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