Hiring the first sales leader is a make-or-break decision for a startup and the founding team. Get the hire right and you will likely accelerate your revenue growth for the next few years. Get it wrong and it may sink you. So, who do you hire?
What are two of the most common mistakes we see founders make when hiring their first sales leader?
After working with dozens of early stage companies to help them hire their first sales leader and hiring over 100 directly, here are 3 steps to hiring a rock star first sales leader that we’ve outlined in the Hiring the First Sales Leader Playbook.
Step 1: What tasks does your organization need this person to do?
Every founder would love to hire a sales leader that has the right experience and is a master at recruiting, an inspirational leader, a data analyst, an in-the-weeds operator, a hands on sales coach, a sales methodology expert, and a messaging genius. These sales leader unicorns exist but they are hard to find, so you want to prioritize what is most critical to get your organization to the next stage.
In addition, prioritize the skills that only this person can do vs. what you can outsource. For example, you can outsource technology configuration, marketing or sales operations functions. You can’t outsource coaching, selling and leadership.
Step 2: What skills and experience are most important at your stage?
Now that you have your tasks outlined, you can translate this into skills and experience needed to do those tasks. Break them out into the skills they need to do those tasks, and the experience that is relevant to develop that skill. For example, if defining and developing your sales methodology is a critical need, you will want to define what sales methodology looks like for scoring, as well as the experience your candidate needs.
Common skills your first leader should have
Here's an example of the skill primary criteria below used in a scorecard to assess the candidate.
You should pick the top 5 and then define them to help you quickly assess candidates that should not move forward in the first conversation.
Download the Hiring the First Sales Leader Playbook for detailed skill descriptions and scoring recommendations.
Step 3: Define your evaluation process
With the evaluation criteria clearly defined, we can now design a detailed evaluation process. The evaluation process includes the high level steps in the overall assessment process, the people involved, and suggested questions in each step. An example of an evaluation process is:
There is no magic bullet, but following these steps to help you find the right sales leader will save you time to market and reduce your execution risk.