How to Hire Your First Salesperson for Startups and Small Businesses

By Goldbeck Recruiting Inc.

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For many entrepreneurs, hiring their first salesperson can be stressful. There are many risks involved when hiring your first sales person. So how and where do you start to find a good salesperson that fits your needs, without putting your reputation and investment at risk?

Know What You Want

You start by knowing what you want and how to get there, easier said than done. Here are a few questions to help you get started:

  • What is the new hire’s sales territory or channel?
  • What are their sales objectives, can you quantify it?
  • What tools and or training will you be able to provide?
  • What is the range of experience of your new hire?
  • What is the market compensation package of your preferred candidate profile?

By knowing what you want them to accomplish and what it would take to accomplish these goals including personality and sales activity you will start to define your ideal candidate profile and put parameters around your recruitment search. This is an integral step to avoid any hiring pitfalls.

Don’t Get Blinded By Their Flashy Smiles

The difference between a great salesperson and an average one comes down to one thing, numbers. A great salesperson is more than willing to share their sales numbers with you. A mediocre sales rep will blind you by dropping Fortune 500 companies and names of industry big wigs. By the end of the[ interview you still have no clue whether they had achieved their sales targets last year. Vivian Fung, Sales & Marketing Recruiter described her recruitment strategy for a startup tech firm. The best way to tackle this is to ask about their sales volume, previous targets, sales cycle duration, and always ask them to quantify their achievements.

The difference between a great salesperson and an average one comes down to one thing, numbers

How to Correctly Compare Sales Numbers

Find a salesperson with experience in a similar deal size and sales cycle. Calculate the sales velocity or the number of deals closed within a period. Sales velocity is dependent on your product’s price and the total number of customer contacts a salesperson can make in a month. 


A person that is used to dealing with high volumes, short sales cycle and small deal size will have trouble adapting to the a sales cycle that will take at least 10 months and a multi-million dollar deal size. The sales strategy, skills and experience needed are very different.

Pros and Cons to Hiring a Big Gun

The answer to whether you need to hire a big gun that has an established reputation within your industry lies within your business objectives. Hiring someone too senior who has taken on management responsibilities usually had a sales ops team to create marketing materials and feed the sales pipeline and may not be the right fit for a startup or a small sized business. Here are a few questions to ask yourself.

Do you have time to train?

Reason: If this is your first sales rep and they are required to take charge of the entire sales cycle from prospecting, marketing to account management, you may need someone that is seasoned and can hit the ground running. Having a green person will require a lot of training. Do you have the time or resources for it?

Do you need results right away?

Reason: A seasoned sales professional may have a few prospects to start with right away. On the flip side, if the only reason you are hiring a seasoned professional is because of their existing sales contacts, keep in mind there are probably complications on bringing their entire Rolodex with them to their new company.

Will your clients tolerate a green sales rep?

Reason: Will your rep be able to answer all questions your clients may have and quickly present solutions if any problems arise.

Take a closer look at your objectives and plan out how you will achieve them, if you are able to do that than more than half of your recruitment plan is completed. Follow this guideline to create a suitable candidate profile that will help you achieve your sales objectives. Then start building your job description. Check out How to Write a Rocking Job Description for Recruitment. Chris provides great examples of what and not to do. “The best and most effective job descriptions give people a sense of what it’s like to be a part of the company. Don’t assume that everyone knows about your company”, Chris Yeh.



 Henry Goldbeck is the President & CEO at Goldbeck Recruiting, a recruitment firm based in Vancouver, BC. You can reach him via @GoldbeckRecruit, Facebook or email at [email protected]

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