You’ve done the hard part; after a lot of long nights, you’ve taken your product to the market and now you’re getting orders from returning customers, and interest from prospects. You might manage sales yourself, or have the help of a few independent reps. With your recent success, it might be time to scaling up and establishing your own sales team in-house.

As a startup, you’re probably only too aware of that careful balancing act between the need to expand your business, and conserving scant resources. If you hire too early, you could risk spending your precious cash, trying to sell a product that isn’t quite ready for market. However, if you hire too late, it may be more difficult to expand your customer base and raise awareness enough to fuel your growth.

The same goes for hiring a sales team: timing is everything. Here, you’ll learn 10 strategies to set yourself up for success with a team.

The Right Time To Build Your Sales Team

Before you make any steps forward, you have to be confident that it’s the right time to build your team. There are several signs that your business is ready to hire a dedicated sales team. They include:

  • Increased demand for your product or service
  • Consistent positive feedback from customers and prospects
  • Inability to keep up with all the current leads
  • Financial security to afford one or two full-time reps

If you identify with any of these, then your business may be at the right stage to invest in a sales team. Before proceeding, make sure you analyze the numbers in your sales pipeline to determine whether you have enough margin in the business to pay your sales reps.

Once you’ve decided you can afford to go ahead, you need an action plan. With foresight, you can set up a sales team full of competent, experienced sales reps.

  1. Decide On Your Sales Strategy

For your team to remain focused, decide on your target market. Based on that, know who your ideal customer is. To keep the team organized as it grows, remember to define sales territories per rep.

Not sure what a sales strategy looks like?

Start by tracking your data. Analyze which are your best-selling products, and their sale price. Identify who is making the sales and the techniques they’re using to close those sales. Sales metrics you’ll need to check are:

  • Monthly recurring revenue
  • Churn rate
  • Sales pipeline coverage ratio

Checking the data will always reveal interesting insights that help inform your sales, if not your overall business strategy. For example, if your startup has an average deal size of $5,000, you won’t be able to afford a team of outside reps.

You could decide to rein in your customer acquisition costs, or set goals to increase revenue. Looking at the data will also help you focus on what type of sales rep to hire, and how quickly or not to expand the team.

You can also use the data to track a rep’s success rate, for instance, the number of calls or emails it takes to convert a prospect into a customer. Armed with this knowledge, you can then define your sales process.

2.Refine Your Sales Process

Based on your existing data and first-hand insights from your sales reps about their techniques, you can break down the sales process into clearly defined steps:

  • Prospecting potential leads
  • Making that all-important first contact
  • Asking qualifying questions
  • Proving product value to your customer
  • Addressing customer objections
  • Closing your deal
  • Getting the customer set up
  • Remembering to follow up

Without a clear sales process that’s not aligned to your startup’s culture and core values, your new sales recruits could be tempted to make up a solution, which isn’t ideal.

3. Choose Which Roles Are Needed

Maybe you plan to start small with your hiring? Then it’s best to consider investing in multi-talented reps. However, a specialized sales team is the most helpful for startups in the long term. You’re more likely to benefit from a multitude of opportunities along the sales pipeline towards closing.

If you decide to hire specialized salespeople, it’s better to find a recruit that excels at identifying new leads.

Specialized sales positions include the following roles:

  • Inside sales
  • Sales development
  • Field sales
  • Account executive
  • Sales engineer

4. Consider The Team Composition

Take a long, hard look at the types of sales roles you need to fill.

  • Field sales or inside sales, or both?
  • Do you have a clear idea of how many team members you will need before the team is functioning optimally?
  • What procedures are in place within the company to support them?

The rule of thumb when it comes to achieving balance in your sales team?

Hire people who want to grow with you.

However, there are no guarantees. Someone who was good in their previous job or has a track record selling similar products or services in your industry may not necessarily repeat that success. Instead of comparing candidates by personality and experience, look for passion and dedication. Target those people who want to compete on a higher level and are natural collaborators.

5. Develop A Hiring Template

As you start on your team building journey, it’s vital to build your sales team with care. If you’re a small company, every potential hire will make a big impact on company culture. To get the right fit, consider using an outside recruiter or headhunter to find your sales rep.

The potential downside is that they may not have intimate knowledge of your industry. However, they’ll have access to many potential candidates on their database, and the expertise to interview and hire for comparable positions.

Attend these interviews. A helpful question to ask is whether the interviewee knows the difference between an A, B or C lead. An A lead will close in three months, while a B lead is more likely to close in three to 12 months. Anything longer than that is a C lead.

The interviewee’s answer will tell you a lot about whether they know how to qualify a lead, or not.

6.Recruit The Right Person

Reps who sell for startups will have a very different experience from their colleagues in established companies. If the salesperson is used to selling a known product with a strong reputation and comprehensive social media presence, they may struggle with a startup.

It makes sense to look for salespeople with experience in startups, or those who have sold a similar product to comparable customers in a field linked to your own.

Personality is vital too in a startup culture. Look for:

  • Confidence
  • Ambition
  • Optimism
  • Flexibility
  • Adaptability

The professionals you’re seeking will respond well to pressure and thrive, even in unexpected situations. These events include changes in structure, location, or sudden spikes in growth.

What’s more important than a particular personality type, is a willingness to engage in selling. Seek out people who already have an enviable track record in your chosen field. If you can afford to hire them, don’t hesitate to snap them up before your competitors do.

Ultimately, a good salesperson understands that selling is more about listening and building relationships with customers. Once that relationship is established, then the salesperson can start asking the customer those qualifying questions we previously identified. If the sales rep tries to short circuit this process and asks the questions too early, the customer won’t trust that their interest is genuine.

The ideal salesperson will be comfortable not just watching the customer use the product; they will also be open to feedback, which may not always be positive. They need an eagerness to hear what the customer is saying, and then feed that back to product development.

7. Decide How To Pay Them

If you tie payment to performance via a bonus or commission system, your recruits will be more motivated to perform at the top level. Bear in mind that as a startup, there will be a delay when your reps can start earning any bonuses from a business that’s closed. You’ll need to minimize cost and risk, while also attract the talent you need to drive your business forward.

8. Remember To Motivate Your Team

Now you have your team on board, set your team up to succeed with the knowledge they need about your sales.

For example, if you’ve sold your product or service to investors and customers means, you are probably aware of the potential issues or challenges that your sales force may encounter in the field. This is an important intel that your new team will need to know.

When it comes to motivating your team, consider using gamification, a technique for fast gaining traction in the business world. According to Gartner’s research, over 70% of Forbes Global 2000 firms will use at least one game-based application in a few years.

If you’ve never heard of gamification, this concept introduces elements of gaming into the sales and training process, such as points systems and leaderboards. Gamification helps break down large, long-term challenges into more achievable obstacles to overcome in a shorter time frame. Players are also encouraged to make the company’s goals personal to enhance their motivation.

Gamification boosts powerful psychological incentives, such as the spirit of competitiveness. This can be ideal to count on when building your team. Members will either compete against each other or motivate themselves to accomplish training or sales tasks.

You can adapt gamification in many ways when training your sales team. Award points to staff that takes onboard training techniques or hold sales contests to boost higher performance.

9. Give Your Team What They Need

Now you’ve got the right sales team in place, it’s your responsibility to give them everything they need to succeed.

  • Will they need access to inventory data?
  • How will they be talking to customers and closing sales?
  • Is there an efficient software system available for them to submit customer orders?
  • Have you ditched the paper or excel spreadsheet for an ordering app that can be used on tablets and mobiles?

It’s wise to organize an onboarding process, which gives your recruits all of the details they’ll need to do their jobs properly. Include the overall business context of your startup, brand values, product details, sales strategy, ideal customers and sales objectives.

To have a smooth start, ensure that you have prepared all administrative duties way ahead of time. There’s nothing more demotivating on your first day than waiting for that IT guy to set up your laptop. Think about:

  • Office supplies
  • Clean and organized workspaces
  • A working phone line
  • Software and computer technology installed, including a current CRM system
  • Product guides
  • Any inventory information

Making your workspace as organized and professional as possible prepares your entire team for immediate progress. Remember that you build trust by the way you maintain the workspace. Clutter, disorganization, and technical issues will only set you back from achieving goals. It will also hinder your new relationships and give your team a reason to be skeptical about your performance.

10. Track Your Team’s Progress

Embedding a fully-functional CRM system in your sales process can make it much easier for you to track both internal communication, as well as sales data. Plan out the first 90 days of your recruits’ time. Then, monitor their sales performance over that period. If your sales cycle is particularly long, you may want to extend the onboarding process to cover the full sales cycle.

While technology can be incredibly helpful, there’s nothing like working alongside your sales team to assess how they’re doing. Meet with them frequently, ideally every day. Watch how they present your product or service and give constructive feedback. Ask for feedback too, so that you’re creating a positive culture based on constant improvement.

As you build your sales team, there will be a lot of factors to weigh up. However, an honest appraisal of what stage you’re at in your business, coupled with some careful planning, can reap dividends.

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