Startups and the Dilemma of the First Sales Hire

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Mar 10, 2011 @ 23:03 PM

When a company is ready to hire someone for its first sales role, they often face a big dilemma:

  • Should it be a salesperson?
  • Should it be a selling sales manager?
  • Should it be a selling Sales VP?

A salesperson could hit the phones and/or the pavement and generate some business fairly quickly, but won't be able to provide the strategic thinking that a VP would.  As a result, there won't be much focus on systems, processes or the best approach to the marketplace.

A sales manager, who could begin as a salesperson, should also be able to generate some revenue and transition back into sales management but this presents problems too.  At some point, the sales manager must stop selling to begin building a sales force and by then, the company cannot afford to lose the revenue being generated.  The sales manager, being more tactical than a strategic Sales VP, will also be challenged when it comes to systems, processes, market approach and strategy.

As we have already discussed, a VP provides the strategy and infrastructure the company will require, but typically comes from a corporate environment and won't have much desire to perform actual sales activity and sell.  Often, the revenue generating must wait until the VP hires salespeople and the early hires are almost always the wrong hires.  Why?  The type of salesperson who succeeded at the VP's prior companies may not succeed at this new company where they are likely to encounter significantly more resistance and may not be able to overcome it.

So who should a company choose as its first sales hire?

In my opinion, it doesn't cost that much more to hire a Sales VP AND a couple of salespeople.  In that way, the company gets its much needed infrastructure and strategy AND there are some salespeople attempting to generate revenue.  The company will likely replace all 3 sooner than expected, but they'll be off and running more effectively and efficiently than most companies ever do.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales architecture, sales strategy, business start-up

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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