Sales Reps & Startups
Something I’ve come across all too frequently is the young company who, in an effort to scale, hires too many salespeople in a short time frame. After what is always a difficult process of raising funds, this tech startup quickly jumps into building a large sales force. Yet the company often does so without considering its ability to support this expansion, nor does it predict the consequences of hiring too many, too quickly.
I first encountered this issue years ago while working at a tech startup. Sales were growing strong in the Northeast and the company was looking to expand. With the assumption that existing success could be replicated in other regions, the management team began hiring sales reps in California, Texas, Florida, and Chicago. But what seemed like a sound decision ended up holding back progress over the next few years. In reality, the business couldn’t support such a rapid expansion of its sales force.
Now, as a recruiter for tech startups, I see this happen repeatedly. When building a new sales team, startups should determine if they are expanding too quickly, and consider the impact of such a move. The way a business scales its sales team impacts the success of those hires, and affects how you allocate resources in other important areas of the organization.
Hiring too many sales people early on will have an impact first and foremost on the success of the hires themselves. The notion of building a larger sales team often fails to account for the ability of the business to handle such a large addition of employees. The issues begin with the capacity for the company to train these employees, which is a large undertaking, even for a small sales team. This especially comes into play for the early stage startup, where the product and strategy may lack full conceptualization or definition. In such conditions, it will be difficult to shape a single sales rep, much less an entire team.
The management of a large sales force early on can prove difficult as well. With no prior learning experience to draw from, and a relatively young support and management staff, addressing critical issues with the sales team can be incredibly challenging. Working through obstacles with a small team early on allows for lessons to be passed on to future hires, and for more senior salespeople to become mentors in the long run.
And don’t forget the impact that scaling your sales force too soon can have on that group’s quality results over the long term. Early stage startups know too well that their early hires need to be top performers. And for sales professionals, top talent is drawn to where the action is. Yet startups must work hard in the beginning to generate demand and awareness for their product or service. If there isn’t enough demand to go around, what could have been your top performers might jump ship for better opportunities.
The financial impact of unnecessary hiring is apparent for early stage startups. In a process that is already time and resource intensive, attracting the right talent can be difficult early on, and can result in even higher costs. Given the financial constraints that most tech startups face, wasting capital on unnecessary hires can have a significant impact. An unnecessary hire also means that the hiring manager’s time is wasted, along with the training party’s time.
Beyond the direct cost of hiring, consider the opportunity cost of unnecessary hires. The capital needed for both hiring and paying employees is obvious, but consider where that capital could have been better utilized. Early stage startups have several areas of business that require focus and resources. Using resources in one area often means sacrificing in other facets of the business early on. Scaling a large sales team can be a distraction from other areas that should be receiving the focus otherwise. Consider what your hiring and training manager could have been working on had they not been focused on unnecessary hires. Consider where else the capital put towards hiring would have gone otherwise, and the returns that could have been made. It may seem like a sales team lacking in size would hinder your growth, but so can a lack of development and progress in other areas.
Looking back on my time with my former employer’s tech startup, a more pragmatic approach early on could have saved them valuable resources. Perhaps adding a single additional location or vertical would have improved the development of the company’s business structure. Rather than hiring 15 new sales reps, they could have expanded more slowly, focused on branching into a single marketplace, and used the knowledge from those successful expansions to provide direction in new markets in the future. They also could have avoided the unnecessary hiring and subsequent loss of several sales professionals, leaving themselves with resources to be used elsewhere. Had there been more focus on minimal hires rather than a larger team, the company could have focused on hiring the right quality and fit for their needs.
Hiring too many salespeople in the early stage of a company can have an effect on several aspects of the business. The number of people you need and the timeline for hiring will vary from startup to startup, but the benefits of maintaining a practical hiring pace will be apparent, regardless of the company.
Steady growth allows for executives to gradually monitor the needs of a sales team and adjust accordingly. As I have experienced, expanding too quickly can cause an unnecessary waste of resources. Early stage tech startups should focus on the quality of salespeople hired, and not necessarily the quantity. Hiring top sales people at a steady pace can not only help ensure the substantial growth of a quality sales team, but can save a company time and money in the long run.
Mark Cergol, a senior executive recruiter at Millennium Search, has over 20 years of experience in software sales. Working with a variety of companies, including early to mid-stage startups and large publicly traded organizations, Mark has developed a deep understanding of the tech industry. The knowledge and network of long-term relationships Mark has built through the years gives him an edge on the competition, making him a top recruiter for technical sales and marketing positions.
You have a job so you are set, right? Wrong! Given the uncertainties of today’s economy and job market, does anyone truly have 100% job security?
The goal is to become a passive job seeker. This is someone who is currently working and not necessarily looking for something new—but would consider a great opportunity if one comes along. Top recruiters are always looking for the best candidate to fill open positions, and often the perfect person already has a job.
Becoming a passive candidate also makes it easier to get a new job if you suddenly lose your current one.
Here are somethings to keep in mind for as a passive job seeker.
1. Keep your social media networks up-to-date.
Whether you are an IT person or a teacher, it is important that you stay current with your social media. This is how recruiters and employers are going to find you. That being said, keep your profiles and messages professional. There is nothing worse than a a recruiter or employer checking you out on Facebook and seeing all your pictures are of you partying.
The most important of these networks is LinkedIn. Keep your resume and contact information visible and current.
2. Position yourself as an industry expert.
Create an industry specific blog that is constantly updated, join and participate in industry specific LinkedIn groups and post interesting content on Twitter and Facebook. This make you look like you are an expert, and by doing research you will learn more about your industry. Employers like to hire experts, and recruiters are constantly looking for them as well.
3. Get involved in your industry’s top associations.
Join professional groups and organizations that are specific to your industry. If you are in public relations and you are not in PRSA, you should be. Joining these groups, staying active and becoming a leader looks will make you stand out from the crowd. You are also more likely to hear about “hidden” opportunities. And you will cultivate a great network for mutual referrals and recommendations.
You can find these groups by asking around, or use Meetup.com to search by industry-related keywords.
4. Always network!
Continue to network with your peers. Even if you are happy with the job you have, do not stop networking. Expand you network. Some of
In a world where who you know is sometimes better than what you know, networking remains the most important activity to engage in regularly.the best jobs are not advertised, and an employee referral may be the only way to get an interview.
There you have it! No one wants to face the day when they are suddenly out of a job, but if you follow these simple rules, you shouldn’t have to be without one for long. And who knows, you may even find something better.
Pre-interview tips and behavior can actually set the stage for a positive or negative interview experience. Taking the time to think about how you will behave as you arrive at the location and wait for your interview is an important step in the overall interview process.
Before You Leave
Before you leave for an interview, make sure you have eaten sufficiently and are well hydrated. You will need to be able to concentrate during the interview, and proper nutrition is important. This is not the morning to skip breakfast or the day to skip lunch.
You know you need to arrive on time for the interview, but plan to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. This gives you time to settle your mind, check your appearance, and get to know your environment. Rushing into an interview will leave you flustered and physically flushed.
While you wait for your interview, you will meet people who work in the company. For instance, you will likely greet a receptionist when you arrive at the location, and someone other than your interviewer may walk you back to the interview room. Always present a firm handshake and genuine smile, and strive to remember people’s names and thank them by name when you leave them. This will show the interviewer that you are attentive to detail and have the people-pleasing personality to thrive in the sales business.
When you face the walk from the waiting area to the interview room, engage the individual in small talk. You do not want an awkward silence, nor do you want to leave the burden of communication on the other individual. Comment on the view or the artwork at the office to initiate a conversation.
Calm Your Nerves
If you find yourself nervous about the interview, use the moments while you wait to practice deep breathing or positive thinking to calm your nerves. You would not have gotten this far in the process if you were not qualified for the position, so remind yourself of your past successes. You can also massage the pressure point in the middle of your hand, which promotes relaxation.
Increase your worth to potential employers whether you are actively seeking a new position or are simply putting your name out there to see what may be available, there are steps you can take now to increase your worth in the eyes of potential new employers. These steps will prevent you from selling yourself short when the compensation offer or question is broached, ensuring you receive what your skills and expertise deserve.
Work With a Recruiter
The nation’s top corporations hire recruiters (like Millennium Search!) to find the best candidates in the industry. Working with a recruiter can instantly increase your worth in the eyes of a potential employer, because the employer knows when your information comes across the desk that you have been screened and specifically selected from an elite few. We also work closely with interested applicants in helping them negotiate their pay package once a company has expressed interest.
Showcase Skills with Stories
You have not gotten to this point in your career without many successes that capitalize on your skills. Make the most of this when talking with your recruiter or a potential employer. Use success stories to showcase your skills, rather than simply listing or stating them. Begin by outlining a challenge set before you, then tell how you used your skillset to approach the problem, and finally end with the benefit to your employer. Stories allow a potential employer to view their company as the beneficiary of your unique skillset.
Prepare In Advance To Negotiate
Have a compensation range in mind before you begin interviewing. If you know you are qualified for a position and have value to offer to the employer, you may feel the compensation package is not what you want. However, you must always look at the entire package, including the equity. A slightly smaller salary combined with better benefits and more equity in a promising company may be more valuable in the future. Again, this is where a recruiter can be invaluable in framing the negotiations.
Focus on Your Value to the Employer
As a recruiter, we work with candidates to help them present well at an interview. At your interview, be positive and confident. When asked why you want the position, focus on how you can help the company. Answer every question by showing how you will improve the company’s situation. By doing this, you will not only position yourself to win the role, but also to receive the highest possible compensation.