If you’re a SaaS founder asking “Who should my first sales hire be?” or “When should I make my first sales hire?” you might not get the answers you are looking for. According to Captivate Talent, those kinds of open-ended questions don’t take into account the unique situation of your business and your skillset, leaving you with generic answers or, even worse, advice that sets you up for disappointment because it doesn’t align with how your business operates.
“If you read the A16Z or the Sequoia blog and then just make your assumptions from there, or even worse, you just read what a LinkedIn creator said or talking head on Twitter, it could be really dangerous to just take that advice for face value before you really analyze who said it, where it’s coming from, and how it aligns with where your company is at,” says Chris Gannon, Founder of Captivate Talent.
So what are the questions you should ask instead? The Captivate team outlines how you can assess your current sales process and environment on their blog, but we wanted to dig deeper into evaluating the skills and experiences you need in your first sales higher to grow your business effectively.
Consider Their Stage Experience
Candidates with different experiences will have different skill sets. It’s important to find someone who has current or past experience working at a similar stage to your startup. These candidates will better understand where your company and processes are. Someone from a later-stage company might have trouble getting their hands dirty, while someone from an earlier-stage company might lack the skills to help guide your sales team as you scale.
Look for True Leader Hires with Experience Handling Budget and Headcount
If you’re hiring a true sales leader, you should prioritize finding someone who has experience choosing a tech stack, making budget decisions, and hiring. However, if you’re hiring more of an individual contributor, these skills will be less important. Avoid leaning too much into the strategy side of things when hiring a true leader, as they may be more interested in getting customer feedback and trying to scale sales over time, rather than generating revenue right now.
Review Their Previous Experience
Pay attention not only to a candidate’s current job, but also their previous roles. Even if they aren’t getting their hands dirty now, they may have previous experience setting up processes and building a sales motion from scratch. The best candidates have recent experience willing to put in the sweat equity and focus on both strategy and management.
Check Their References
To ensure you’re making the right hire, get at least two references from qualified candidates. You need someone who is proven to get the job done, and taking on a riskier candidate could cost you in the long run.
Consider Intangible Skills
While experience is great, it’s also important to focus on candidates who can get things done in the startup world. Look for intangible skills like grit and motion, which demonstrate the ability to keep things moving and growing. Pavilion’s own CEO Sam Jacobs believes there are four key qualities to look for when hiring startup salespeople: desire, commitment, outlook, and responsibility.
“The greatest emphasis should be on commitment, as it’s the fundamental question at the heart of all sales,” says Jacobs. “What are you willing to do to hit your goal (within ethical boundaries) and when you commit a deal to your forecast, how important is it to you that you hit it?”
By considering these factors when making your first sales hire, you’ll be able to find the right person to help fuel your startup’s growth.