Counter-intuitive Outcome of our First Sales Hire

February 4, 2013

in Sales, Team Building

Suppose you have a startup with a launched product and some cash in the bank. You can hire 1 or more salespeople and start to build more revenue. Who should you hire?

A rock star salesperson, right? Someone with incredible connections in your industry, right? Someone comfortable with startup craziness, preferably having done previous startups, right? A VP of Sales with awesome credentials, right?

In 2009, we found ourselves in exactly that position. We had good cash. And we had an opportunity to hire a fantastic heavy-hitter salesperson from the industry.

We had that person vetted by trusted advisers. We worked in a trial-period with that person for a number of months. Everything was great. He truly was a fantastic person.

So what was the problem?

The problem was that the product-market fit was not ready to move the big deals. The company didn’t need as much a bag-carrying salesperson as it needed a strong focus on organic growth of a larger volume of lower priced deals. No matter how great the credentials of the man, the way to growth was not dependent upon credentials.

We found ourselves in a situation where we were paying a heavy-hitter more salary than all 4 co-founders combined. And there simply weren’t enough heavy hitting sales opportunities.

At the start, it was not apparent that the heavy-hitting approach would fail. But after 6 months, it was clear. He recognized the situation for what it was and found another opportunity, voluntarily leaving 10 months after starting with us.

Despite having all the perfect qualities, recommendations of trusted advisers, and a great rapport with our team, it just didn’t work out. We regrouped and figured out a better strategy which I’ll discuss later.

Have you had counter-intuitive outcomes with your approaches to building sales teams? What have you learned from your first sales hires?

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