Sales-Market Fit

with Whitney Sales

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Sales Hires

Finding the best talent

Whitney Sales

Founder of The Sales Method, Consultant, Growth Expert

Lessons Learned

Your sales model gives critical insight on what kind of skill set to hire for company growth.

Founders must be talking directly to customers when they start charging money for their product.

On average, founders go through two Sales VPs because they do not understand the skillset required.


Lesson: Sales Market Fit with Whitney Sales

Step #10 Sales Hires: Finding the best talent

I think there's a really important element of looking at sales marketing blend that is missed a lot of the time within startups because a lot of founders these days are technical founders and even business founders sometimes miss this piece between sales and marketing blend. When you think about how you're building out your business, you need to think about the skill sets you need to acquire for your business to go to market.

If we look at sales skills within an enterprise base, it's very different from sales skills within a transactional type of sale. The same thing goes for marketing skills. If you're marketing to enterprise companies versus if you're marketing to SMBs or even mid-market, they're different conversations you're having and different strategies that you're going to be using.

This is also important around founder selling. If you're a founder and you're selling this, you'll understand these pieces which are really, really critical and understanding the skill sets you need to hire. So if you're looking at your first marketing hire and you're a transactional sale, having someone who has experience in SEO, SEM, potentially social community development is really important. I'm talking about insight versus transactionals, but we also have this consultative solution. There's a vast contrast between the two and there's a blend in the middle.

If we look at the enterprise sale, you're doing more direct marketing. So you need someone who has experience in creating conversation with your customer and getting in front of your customer and getting those customers to events where you get to have those one-on-one conversations. There are completely different skill sets. So your first marketing or sales hire needs to understand the process and the skill set that's needed.

Another example would be your first enterprise level sales person. An enterprise sales person is very, very different from a transactional sales person. In transactional sales, a lot of times you can hire people straight out of college. It's not as difficult of a sell and there's not as much of an established process, where if we go into an enterprise sale, you need someone who can sit across the table from an executive and represent your company.

Most of the time with a transactional sale, it's going to be happening over the phone. If you're in an enterprise sale and you're selling a quarter million dollar product, you as a CEO may even want to be there. So all of those pieces are really important to pay attention to when you're making your first hire and understanding what's actually needed in your market.

A lot of the times when I'm sitting down with founders and they need to start monetizing their business, they immediately want to go and hire someone else, and a lot of the times even hire a VP as their first sales hire because the idea of sales is just, "Keep me away. I want nothing to do with this," when they don't realize they've already been selling. They were selling when they brought on their first employee. They were selling when they raised their seed round. They were selling from ground zero. They weren't thinking about it as a sales process.

When I look at a founder who says that, the first thing I actually try and do is get them to break down something they're willing to do to sell and actually be comfortable selling and getting in the mindset of getting customers in the door. Once they run through a few sales processes, they'll start to understand what that looks like and the complexities that come along with it and what the process is going to look like or even a loosely defined a process is going to look like.

They don't need to be experts. It's not important for a founder to be an expert in their sales process. They can understand the general gist, read one sales book, understand what that funnel looks like, and understand how they're taking their customers throughout this. It's not their expertise. However, it is important to know that. It's important to know that the sales marketing model that you've built for your business is actually a good one.

You won't know that unless you actually go and sell the business or sell the customers yourself. You can set quotas for your first sales hire and they might not be realistic. And if you haven't sold the product yourself and know what it takes to actually get that product to the customer and the price point in which you're selling it, you can't make your first sales hire. You don't have realistic expectations to set for them.

And then the third piece is it's really important to talk to your customers when you're starting to charge them money because that's going to tell you product market fit. You may find that when you're talking to customers you're creating a lot more value than you initially thought you were. So you can probably raise the price point. You may also find that the price point in which you set is not equivalent to the value that you're charging them.

The other thing you may find as well is you may have a really hard time onboarding customers. So it may make sense to charge a setup fee to incentivize the customer to come onboard faster. So all of these pieces are really important, number one from a product development standpoint, but number two from that sales market fit standpoint.

On average, founders will go through two VPs of sales because they don't actually understand the sales skills and marketing skills that are needed for the business. Founders, they haven't gone through a sales cycle before. They don't understand the skill sets that are needed. They're very different depending on the sales and marketing cycles that you need for your business. You don't know those unless you actually do it yourself. You just don't.

The other thing I actually hear a lot from technical founders is they're so afraid of getting duped by a sales person. That breaks my heart because I love selling. It's like, "Oh my God, I love it." Good sales people love what they do. We are the lifeblood of monetizing a business. That's a really fun role to play within an organization that's starting from the ground up.

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