Back in December (which seems like ages ago in start up world), I wrote a post about why we decided to hire our first account executives. I followed that up with how we found them and the sales toolkit we set them up with. Now that it’s been a few months, I thought it was a great time for an update. So…
How’s our sales hiring going and what have we learned?
What we did right
The tools. We invested in good technology for prospecting and working sales opportunities. Along the way, we’ve added a few more tools such as local phone numbers for different regions and we just purchased a TV with sales rep dashboards to drive some competition.
Focus. We defined our “ideal customer profile” in specific cities and really didn’t sway too far from that target when prospecting. I believe having this focus helps us quickly adjust our pitch and strategy because of the similarities across the same type of prospect.
What we’ve improved
Training. We really didn’t have any sort of training in place for the first two sales hires. It’s easy to take for granted how well you know a process that you yourself come up with. It might seem simple to log calls in Salesforce or schedule a web meeting, but for others to get up to speed quickly, having some training in place goes a long way. Based on our experience with the first two sales hires, we developed a playbook that all new hires can follow. We use Google Sites for this and it’s a living playbook that’s constantly updated.
Process. We had a good process in place for prospecting new people. Where we failed was having a good process afterward. Each account executive was doing their own thing and we weren’t systematically executing on a strategic process once a prospect was interested in learning more about our product. Each buying cycle is unique, but there are still ways that a sales team can systematically help guide the process (free trials, web demos, sharing specific case studies, etc.).
How are they performing?
We’re generating leads, growing our pipeline and onboarding new customers after just a few months. We are pretty much on plan, but things can change quickly so we’re constantly improving our process. Based on what we’ve learned from those first two hires, we’ve added more account executives that are now ramping up.
Our product is in good shape but at the end of the day we’re still a startup that no one has heard of and generating a healthy amount of inbound interest takes time. What does this mean? Outbound prospecting is something we need to be doing a lot of at this stage and to help with that, we’ve started to build a business development team (also know as a sales development team).
I hope sharing our sales hiring experience helps other start ups at a similar stage in hiring their own sales reps.
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