Over the past few weeks I’ve received an uptick in requests for advice on building out a sales team. More startups in the community are finding product / market fit or are past product / market fit and are in the process of building a repeatable customer acquisition machine. One of the first things I recommend is to hire a sales assistant to support one of the founders as he or she learns what works, and doesn’t work, first hand. Once the first 50 customers have been acquired, and things are looking good, it’s time to make that first sales hire.
Here are the top five mistakes entrepreneurs make hiring sales people:
- Culture Fit – Never settle on finding team members that fit the core values and culture of the startup. Too often, startups get desperate to fill a position and start relaxing standards. Don’t do it.
- Lack of a Clear Plan – When a sales person starts it should be crystal clear as to what’s expected of them in terms of role, metrics, and quota. The best sales people are self-motivated and want to know expectations.
- Commission Complexity – Whatever the system for compensation, human nature is to game it and optimize for what’s best personally. As an entrepreneur, the best solution is to keep the commission policy incredibly simple and straightforward. If it can’t fit on one sheet of paper in simple bullet point form, it’s too complicated.
- Cap on Commissions – In the fastest growing startups, the top sales people should make more money than the CEO, and that’s a good thing. Never put a cap on commissions as sales people need to stay focused on what they do best — bringing in revenue.
- Unrealistic Expectations – Top sales people shouldn’t be expected to hunt, farm, support, and exceed quota all at the same time. Sales people should be empowered to do one thing and do it exceptionally well. Limit the number of responsibilities and create realistic expectations.
Building a great sales team is one of the most difficult challenges for an entrepreneur. Moving quickly, having a clear plan, and being very hands-on is one of the best ways to do it. Regardless, don’t make these five common sales hire mistakes.
What else? What are your thoughts on the top five most common sales hire mistakes?