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Building Your Sales Team

What is one mistake entrepreneurs should avoid when hiring their first sales team?

To help you avoid mistakes with hiring a sales team, we asked HR leaders, recruiting specialists, and business professionals for their insights. From examining cultural fit to offering salary incentives, there are several ways to avoid mistakes when hiring a sales team.

Here are 10 mistakes to avoid when hiring your first sales team:

  • No Consideration of Team Fit
  • Not Trying to Sell Your Products First
  • Lack of Sales Incentives
  • Failure to Prioritize Establishing Credibility
  • Not Examining Cultural Fit
  • Hiring From Outside of the Industry
  • Lack of a Repeatable Sales Process
  • Not Establishing Performance Metrics
  • Failure to Promote to Potential Candidates
  • Not Checking References

business owners who contributed to this articleNo Consideration of Team Fit

Experience is just one factor to consider when determining whether or not a candidate is a good fit for your company. Sure, salespeople with a lot of expertise and a proven track record are intriguing, but there's a lot more to consider. 

Consider how a potential hire will fit into your sales team. Success with one company does not always imply success with another. Personality attributes, soft skills, and other crucial success elements for the role must also be considered.
-Phillip Lew, C9 Staff

Not Trying to Sell Your Product First

It’s one thing to hire sales reps who are better at selling than you are, but it’s quite another to hire sales reps for products you can’t even sell yourself. Before you hire anyone for your sales team, try to make some sales yourself. 

Once you’ve closed a few times and worked out the kinks in your strategy, you can bring in others and show them what needs to be done and how. This will also give you a better idea of what challenges your sales team will face, so when they come to you with issues, you can find solutions based on your own experience.
-Blake Murphey, American Pipeline Solutions

Lack of Sales Incentives

Don’t underpay your first sales team; if you do, you’re going to get poorly-motivated sales representatives. Yes, it’s right at the start, and your cash flow might really be tight in the first months or even the first year you’re in business. Still, you want your sales reps to be motivated, and salespeople are generally motivated by money. Offer them a decent base salary if you can, along with reasonable sales commission rates.
-Todd Sriro, Be.On Stone

Failure to Prioritize Establishing Credibility

Don’t hire salespeople you wouldn’t want to do business with yourself. After all, if you wouldn’t buy from them yourself, how can you expect any customers would want to do so? Remember that your salespeople are representatives of your brand. 

They can build trust and establish credibility for your company by being professional and reliable during the sales process, and that is separate from the actual product or service they are discussing. We place a great emphasis on the sales process because it gives us an opportunity to display who we are and how we approach our clients.
-Danny Torres, Generated Materials Recovery

Not Examining Cultural Fit

When you build a sales team, it can mean bringing in people who work a little differently than your existing team. While results and resume bullet points are important, make sure the sales leadership you hire is a really good fit with the existing people and personalities on your team. Sales teams work best when they're a partner with marketing, product, and CX teams, so your first hires should be people who will help build those bridges.
-Elliott Brown, OnPay Software

Hiring From Outside of the Industry

Hiring employees with the proper experience is essential to building your first sales team. One mistake entrepreneurs should avoid when hiring their first sales team is hiring sales reps without direct experience in your industry. For example, if you are a B2B software company, ideally you hire individuals with experience selling B2B software before. If you hire someone who has only sold cars, they might struggle selling B2B software. Hire people with direct industry experience in your field when hiring a first sales team.
-Darren Litt, MarketerHire

Lack of a Repeatable Sales Process

Don’t fail to put in place a repeatable sales process. The entire sales team should be observing best practices when it comes to pitching your company’s products or services. By using this method, any new hires will not have to reinvent the wheel, and everyone will have a clear understanding of what is expected.
-Brittany Kaiser, Gryphon Digital Mining

Not Establishing Performance Metrics

For entrepreneurs hiring their first sales team, the first few months will be the most formative in understanding the dynamics of your team, how well they work together, and how they could improve going forward.

For this reason, key performance indicators are crucial. Without them, you'll find it more difficult to evaluate your team and provide effective feedback month by month. It's not enough to simply hire your sales team and leave them to their own devices; you need to give them clear goals to work towards. In doing so, they'll know exactly what they need to do to meet their targets and improve upon their prior performance.
-Mike Grossman, GoodHire

Failure to Promote to Potential Candidates

Entrepreneurs that fail to promote as much to gain employee talent as they do to sell to their customer base, is a common, and one of the most damaging mistakes they can make when hiring their first sales team. 

A new company has some advantages, but one it does not have is an established reputation, meaning that it is going to be difficult to attract the top sales talent out of the gate because they will most likely already be employed. Therefore, to attract a desirable team, a company must focus on pitching to their potential candidates. 

Regularly updating the company website, as well as social media pages to generate excitement, not only about the company, but that industry as a whole, is a must. The goal is to expand your reach to entice potential sales team members who may be in other fields. 

Not utilizing sales techniques to attract talent, can be costly and delay you building an effective sales team.
-Jeff Meeks, EnergyFit

Not Checking References

Not checking references is a mistake entrepreneurs should definitely avoid when hiring their first sales team. Getting in touch with their references should be commonplace, and every candidate should be able to supply an entrepreneur with references. This can help any entrepreneur make a much more informed decision about the sales team which will only benefit their business.
-Sheila Chaiban, One Ocean Beauty

About the Author(s)

 Brett  Farmiloe

Brett Farmiloe is the Founder & CEO of Markitors, a digital marketing company that connects small businesses to customers through organic search. He enjoys converting insights from small business owners into high-quality articles for brands.

Founder & CEO, Markitors
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