Start Up Sales Hiring Advice

We are approached by many companies seeking to hire their first sales person. This is an exciting time for young companies and often it is excess demand that seemingly requires the addition of a new sales person. In some cases, the founders are unable to effectively sell themselves and hope that hiring a new sales person will allow them to focus their time elsewhere. This is a grave mistake and we advise against hiring in these cases.

Hiring The First Rep is Usually a Huge Gamble

First and foremost, in most start-up companies, sales is the most important aspect of success. Hiring a new sales person is a huge gamble, so why would a founder want to take this risk and assign this most important aspect of success to someone else?

A fledgling company has no history of success that would dictate that the new sales person will be successful. Furthermore, customers dealing with a start-up, particularly if the offering is new, want to deal with company founders who know the offering intimately and can have meaningful conversations about the product benefits.  A founder has to accept the reality that a sales person in a start-up is like a boxer fighting with one arm tied behind his back.

So what if the sales person is not successful?

If the founders have effectively resigned from the sales effort and placed all the responsibility on the new sales person, and that new sales person fails to sell at the required clip, the founders have no contingency sales efforts to support cash flow requirements. They also don’t have the key customer relationships to pick up things if they are required to react quickly and jump back into the sales effort. Furthermore, the founders will not have been exposed to valuable feedback directly from customers on critical missing features and benefits in the product or service.

Even if the founders do not consider themselves strong sales people, they are usually capable of generating sales and we always recommend that they stay very involved in the sales effort until at least the company has successfully launched.

To your success!


Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.

He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.

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