Startups, 4 tips for recruiting your first sales representative

The one critical stage for start-ups is the creation of your sales team. When should you recruit your first sales representative? What profile should you recruit?

Here are four tips to get recruiting your first sales representative right.

Do not recruit too early

There is one mistake you must not make, especially if you are a technical founder: do not recruit your first sales representative too early.

The first reason is that you absolutely must be able to find your first clients by yourself. This will allow you to answer the following questions:

  1. Does your product or service meet a real need?
  2. Do you have a sales process that works and that is scalable?

Besides answering these two questions, your product must be compatible with the presence of a sales team. There is no point in recruiting sales representatives to sell a product for 10 € a month!

Before this stage, there will be no benefit to you, because the turnover generated by your sales representatives will not cover their base salary. This will not be beneficial to them, either, because their commission will be very low.

You should think about recruiting sales representatives when your Average Contract Value is over 1000 €. Ideally, your sales representative should be able to generate 100K € of revenue.

At Datananas, we first took on a sales representative intern for a few months. This allowed us to test our sales process and to have an idea of the results that could be obtained by someone with no product experience and little sales experience.

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Do not recruit a sales representative… but recruit two of them!

Recruiting your first sales representative is a difficult step to take… but recruiting two at once may seem irresponsible! In reality, it is the opposite. Recruiting two sales representatives at once has many advantages.

  • The first enormous advantage is that you can compare. If you only have one sales representative, and he cannot meet your objectives, you will never know if the sales representative is doing it wrong, or if it is your sales process that is not adapted and reproducible.
  • With two sales representatives, you will immediately see if one of the two is performing better than the other, and you can adapt your sales process based on that. If neither of your sales representatives manages to meet your objectives, it is highly possible that the objectives are unrealistic, or that your sales process itself is not good. It is also possible that you recruited two bad sales representatives… but the probability is low, and your sales process should be able to be applied by any sales representative.

With two sales representatives, you will also add a bit of competitive spirit which will create a positive rivalry and give your sales representatives the desire to excel. You can, for example, create sales challenges.
With two sales representatives, you are reducing your risk. If you had only one sales representative, he would be responsible for 100% of the turnover generated… what would you do if he left after a few months?

No VP sales but junior sales representatives

One mistake you should not make is recruiting a sales VP right away to revolutionize your sales process. No one knows your product or how to sell it better than you do.

Instead, prioritize the recruiting of junior sales representatives (2-3 years experience at most), or even people with no sales experience, but with potential.

Recruiting junior sales representatives has several advantages:

  • They will be much more motivated for prospecting
  • You can train them and mold them for your sales process
  • You can pay them a lower base salary (compensated by a higher commission)

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Do not specialize your sales representatives from the beginning

It is important to specialize your sales team, but this should not be your first priority!
Your sales representatives must at first be generalists: take care of prospecting, appointments, signing deals, and managing client follow-up.

After a few months, when your sales representatives have generated enough turnover, you can start to specialize your sales team so they can become more efficient. Your two sales representatives will then stop prospecting and become Account Executives. Thus, you can recruit another sales representative whose role will be to generate qualified meetings for them: a Sales Development Representative.

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