When should founders hire the first sales rep/lead?
In seed stage B2B SaaS there is a definitive trigger.
I will get back to the specific trigger in a minute. First, let me discuss some of the controversies around “making the first sales hire”.
When not to hire
Some investors feel that founders should be able to “do all the selling themselves”. These views go alongside slogans like: “don’t hire a salesrep until you’ve hit a million”, and “Founders should be able to get to p/m-fit on their own”.
Investors have good reasons for these views. We have all seen founders struggle to put a compelling proposition together. No wonder. It’s hard. But there are no shortcuts.
And here is the thing: It is unlikely that an outside sales hire will fix the value prop. They will, however, burn through cash and shorten your runway.
So if you don’t have a minimally viable product (MVP) that delivers a clear value proposition – don’t hire.
Selling your own product
Founders should be able to sell their own product.
But being a great technical founder is not the same as being an expert in enterprise sales. Some customer buying processes are fiendishly complex.
You need someone on your team who is world-class at building product. And if you sell to enterprise, you also need someone who is excellent and navigating your customer buying process. If you sell to large enterprise and you are a technical founder, this might not be you.
If enterprise is your target, and you don’t have the skills, get someone into your team who does.
So, when should you hire?
The time to hire is when you have your MVP ready. When prospects have something tangible they can use, and a seller has something tangible to sell.
It’s perfectly fine for founders to “sell the dream” prior to having the MVP ready. But don’t hire an outside rep to do that. “Selling the vision” is founder territory. Hired reps need clear positioning, value prop and working product to go alongside.
And don’t forget – it’s your prospect who decides when your product is “minimally viable”.
That’s it on timing.
What should you look for when you hire?
I will discuss that in more detail tomorrow.