experienced salespeople

Startup Sales Managers: Stop Hiring Experienced Salespeople

Business is good.

Revenue’s up, customers are happy, and investors are pleased. Even better, you finally have the budget for that new salesperson.

At least, you thought you did. Until you started browsing job boards full of 15-year sales veterans and realized just how expensive experience is.

If you think your startup can’t afford a great salesperson, I’ve got great news for you: You can. They just might not be exactly what you expected. It’s time to forget experience, and start hiring for potential.

Why startups can’t (and shouldn’t) hire experienced salespeople

Experienced salespeople are highly sought after and rarely out of work. Generally speaking, the only time they’ll ever change jobs is when they get better offers.

So what would it take for you to get their attention? It wouldn’t be easy. To start, you’d need:

  • Bank-breaking compensation plans,
  • Massive bonuses, and
  • Exceptional perks

And even if you could offer those, this caliber of salesperson often only wants to attach their name to established, résumé-boosting brands.

The truth is, unless you have impressive connections and generous investors, you can’t afford to hire an experienced salesperson.

That’s the bad news.

Here’s the good news: You don’t need one.

7 traits of great startup salespeople

If you’re running a startup, you don’t need a salesperson with 10 years of experience. In fact, you don’t even need someone with one year of experience.

In Startupland, talent and potential trump experience. With the right training, someone that’s hungry to succeed can out-perform even a life-long sales veteran.

But how do you find these people? That starts by knowing what to look for. When we’re hiring new salespeople at Close, we look for what I like to call hustler DNA.

Hustler DNA is made up of the seven traits of extremely successful salespeople. Let’s take a look at each trait.

1. Excellent communication skills

Sales is the art of purpose-driven communication. But the biggest mistake most people make is assuming that “communication” means “talking.”

The most effective salespeople spend more time listening than talking. When they do speak, it’s to ask questions, manage objections, or provide immense value to their prospect.

2. An entrepreneurial spirit

In a startup environment, everyone needs to be an entrepreneur.

Great startup salespeople are self-driven, ambitious, and motivated by something more than “just another paycheck.”

Furthermore, they should be able to find and complete tasks on their own, without a manager breathing down their neck.

3. High rejection tolerance

Even the best salespeople experience rejection more often than they experience success. What sets the best apart is that they realize that rejection is a part of the process.

Effective startup salespeople know the difference between the three types of “No”, and have learned to measure and utilize rejection.

4. Charisma and charm

Startup salespeople have a natural confidence about them; both in themselves and in their product. But they’re also humble and know that their solution isn’t for everyone.

They know when to increase the pressure and when to back off. And, most importantly, they make every prospect feel special; even (and especially) if they don’t end up buying.

5. Shamelessness

Great salespeople aren’t afraid to cold call a stranger, send a cold email, or follow-up for the 15th time.

They’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. When they find someone who would genuinely benefit from their product, they will close the deal. Failing to do so would be failing to serve them.

6. A competitive and compassionate nature

Startup salespeople are numbers-driven. They see sales data as a scoreboard, and work tirelessly to top that scoreboard every month.

But it isn’t all about numbers. Good salespeople care deeply for their prospects and customers. They truly want their customers to be successful, and if a prospect won’t find value in their product, they won’t sell; even if the prospect is willing to pay.

7. Coachability and a desire to learn

The best salespeople never stop learning, and their performance is never “good enough.” They seek constant improvement and ask for feedback on a regular basis.

This is especially true in a startup environment, where salespeople often have limited (if any) prior sales experience.

The volatile nature of startup hiring

It might take some time to find someone with all seven traits, but it’s worth the wait.

Trust me, the last thing you want to do is have to fire the guy you spent the last month onboarding because he wasn’t a good fit after all.

And when you do find the right person for your startup, invest in them; train, coach, and lead them. Give them the opportunity to grow, gain experience, and succeed. They’ll be fiercely loyal to you for it.

Alright, your turn: Tell us about your sales hiring successes and horror stories. What’s worked for you, and what hasn’t? Scroll down to the comments and share your thoughts.

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Steli Efti

Steli Efti is the co-founder & CEO of Close, an inside sales CRM that allows users to make and receive calls with one click, automatically tracks all your emails, and minimizes manual data-entry.

Want more cold calling and sales tips by Steli? Sign up for his free startup sales success course.