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Hiring a salesperson

How to hire your first sales person

One of the most critical decisions for small-business owners is hiring their first sales person. Speeding through the process can result in stagnant growth, but taking too much time can lead to no change at all.

When hiring your first sales person, you want to make sure they drive a significant impact on team culture. Overall, the final decision must implement good timing and strategy.

When you should hire your first sale sperson

The first sales person becomes one of the principal founders of the company. However, before hiring, the owner has to go out and experience the sales process. This way, they experience talking to customers, learning objections, and experiencing failures.

Small-business owners can either love or hate sales. However, the process is a valuable learning experience, so you shouldn’t rush into hiring a new sales person right away. Instead, you should focus on gaining direct experience so you can get a feel for your customers. You can later determine who you’ll need to hire to be a success.

Although you might be eager to hire your first sales person, others seem to wait too long.

Many small-business owners find themselves too deep with their workload and end up playing catchup as a result. If you find it’s time to make your first hire, here are a few things you’ll take notice of:

  • You have a deep understanding of your customers and their needs
  • You created a clear sales process
  • You know when to estimate the close of a sale
  • You keep running into the biggest sales challenge: scaling your time

Some experts agree that you should hire your first sales person after closing your first 10 sales.

How long will it take to see an ROI from a new sales person?

Depending on your sales cycle, the timing of a return on investment can differ for many organisations. Many sales cycles have long gestation periods of six, 12, and even 24 months. If you’re a small agency, your sales cycle may be in a matter of weeks to a few months.

According to experts, the average length before seeing an ROI from a new hire is 2.5 years for most small to medium enterprises. When calculating ROI, you should factor in the ramp-up period and the overall sales cycle.

Ramp-up time takes from the first day of a new seller until they reach total productivity. There are a few ways in which you can calculate ramp-up time. However, one that accounts for several different areas is training + length of sales cycle + experience = ramp-up.

Defining your candidate profile

Before you begin to look for a candidate, you should choose the right one by creating a profile.

What do you envision for the perfect candidate? You should make a checklist of characteristics, achievements and experiences that align with your vision of a successful sales role. The traits you deem necessary will stem from your own experiences in sales as well.

Also, your company’s mission is the foundation for hitting those revenue goals. When hiring the right candidate, you also need to understand your company’s “why” to ensure they align with your values.

In addition to establishing the perfect candidate profile, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Will they spend more time on the phone or attending sales meetings?
  • Should this person focus on current customers or new business developments?
  • Will they start and nurture a client relationship or pass it along to someone else?

Once you’ve done your homework, you can start creating a new job description.

Building a job description

A good job description involves attracting the right people to apply. One of the main requirements of creating an ideal job description is listing the benefits. If you want to find the best talent, the perks must be beyond what a typical office job offers.

A few examples of outstanding benefits include:

  • Three or four weeks of vacation in the first year
  • Travelling and company events
  • Career opportunities
  • Lunches paid for by the company

Other items you’ll want to consider when filling out the job description are information about the company and requirements suited for the sales role.

To help you get started, look at job boards on Indeed or Monster to view similar roles. This strategy will give you a good starting point for your own posting.

Before the posting goes live, hand it off to a trusted colleague for review. They can make sure your description seems logical and will attract the right person for the job.

There’s a lot of noise regarding certain qualifications when hiring a sales person. Here are a few general outcomes you can keep in mind:

  • Experience and track record
  • Results
  • Coachability
  • Work ethic

Another thing you can look at is a person’s aptitude. The most economical way to build a sales organisation is hiring someone willing to learn and grow. You’ll be able to teach them the skills they need as your team expands.

Kicking off the interview process

The hiring process takes time and effort, and it might be tempting to pick an average candidate. However, you don’t want to risk lacklustre results or gaps in the team’s structure.

It’s also easy to overlook a few aspects during the hiring process if it’s not well defined. Here’s what a standard interview process looks like:

  1. Written screening
  2. Phone screening
  3. In-person interviews
  4. Mock presentation
  5. Following up in the interest of the role
  6. Checking references
  7. Agreement on the offer and establishing a start date

Keep in mind that interviewing is time-sensitive, so you should screen applicants before setting up the interview. Additionally, you need to make sure you’re asking the right questions to learn about their skill set and more.

A successful hire

There is a ton of competition for hiring the best sales talent, but once you give candidates a reason to believe in your mission, you might win them over. Then you and your first sales person can get excited for whatever comes next in your small business.


Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly. She was the director at a marketing agency before becoming a freelance web designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and dog, Bear.

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