We had this interesting talk about hiring sales reps with a friend the other day. He’s a technical founder who knows well how to hire a developer, test their skills, and see if they fit his team’s culture.
But he wasn’t so sure in his objectivity when it came to hiring his startup’s first sales rep. That got me thinking how it must be hard to pick salespeople from a code person’s perspective. So I thought I’d turn our conversation into this blog post. Ready?
If I were a founder looking to hire my startup’s first rep, I’d look for people with these three traits:
Active and determined. They enjoy seeking out and chasing opportunities. Sales reps make between 20 and 100 cold calls a day and get rejected in 90% of them. Look for a someone who knows that they need to get turned down 90 times before they find 10 people who have interest in what they’re selling.
Comfortable with themselves (and with meeting new people). You have to trust your gut here. Does the person you’re interviewing feel authentic and honest? Can you see the excitement in their eyes? This part is really, really important. Because before they close a deal, a salesperson has to connect with the customer, listen to their problems, understand their challenges, and only then find a way to solve their problems. See this discussion on Quora for more details.
Target-oriented. It doesn’t matter how proactive and genuine you are if you can’t set and meet targets for yourself. Ask your interviewees about the targets they’re comfortable with meeting. Since there’s isn’t a universal minimum for being an effective sales rep, you’ll have to judge for yourself here.
Most of all, ask yourself: Would I trust this person if they were trying to sell me something? They’re trying to sell themselves, so it should be easy to answer this question.
P.S. Avoid sales reps who don’t want to talk about their sales process in detail. And never, ever hire someone who asks about money before asking about your product, market, or team. Though sales is about revenue, the best salespeople don’t just do it for the money.