Sales Team Structures Beyond The Founder
Founders are incredible salespeople. Their passion for the proposition, knowledge of the market and customers, and their enthusiasm speak volumes to customers. They are the driving force in early-stage growth for sure.
Scaling sales beyond the Founder can be difficult. To scale the opportunity, there are multiple options for those all-important first commercial hires.
In this blog, we will discuss options which we have seen successfully work, plus things to look out for on the scaling journey.
1. First Hire: Customer Success for Story Telling & Onboarding
One of the challenges to move away from 100% Founder-led sales is credibility.
Credibility is founded on industry, product and value/outcome knowledge of the existing customer base and market fit.
Credibility is also demonstrated in the sales process by the ability to tell the story to your customer; why the product delivers value, who has benefited from implementing it, and how.
Often, where newly hired salespeople fail in their onboarding process in early-stage businesses, it is due to their lack of storytelling ability.
To be fair to the salespeople, this is because the stories are not often collected by the implementation or customer success teams and wrapped into a digestible format to learn. If an early-stage business doesn’t have a customer success team harvesting these stories, they won’t have this information to hand.
Therefore, the most successful commercial scaling examples we see in early-stage businesses is through the first commercial hires being Customer Success professionals.
Customer Success professionals help any employee have credibility with their collecting of:
- customer metrics
- stories and
- industry titbits
They will also be maniacally focused on existing customers:
- preventing churn
- closing renewals
- growing your customers
Customer Success executives are also good value vs a sales salary. Whilst they will not be the risk takers - smashing the pipeline doors down - the customer success profile is a hard-working multitasker focused on customer advocacy.
2. First Hire: Account Executive – For Pipeline Generation & Deal Management
A second option for a first hire to help Founders is hiring a full quota carrying sales person. This person would be creating leads, maturing pipeline and the main closer of sales.
Senior sales executives are well paid. Similar to Founders, they should be expected to:
- have increased skill levels to open doors
- understand challenges
- close large opportunities.
At inspir’em, startups often ask us how much pipeline should be provided to an Account Executive for them to achieve their targets, and how much they should expect them to generate themselves.
Therefore, we have a controversial view that Account Executives should generate at least 80% of their own pipeline.
Whilst marketing, SDRs (see later) and partners may bring in leads, we would expect the better qualified leads to come in from self-generated opportunities courtesy of your Account Executives - particularly in the early days, when all there is to do is Pipeline Generation!
3. First Hire: SDR – Sales Development Representative – For Pipeline Generation
Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) & Market Development Representatives (MDRs) are the front-line prospecting machines, bashing the phones & LinkedIn along with answering any inbound enquiries.
SDRs have been the lifeblood of tech companies’ growth over the last 20 years with some fantastic examples of where these (typically) young, energetic lead-machines have shown the way.
The book – Predictive Revenue – talks about the machine of SDRs in Salesforce’s history and how, in a predictable way, you can consistently generate new opportunities.
However, it’s worth noting, that this is when you are a little bit bigger than just one or two people.
SDRs/MDRs are usually more junior team members with limited experience, often in their first or second role. Their skills to be able to progress beyond an initial outreach can be limited and significant training and onboarding will be required.
Founders often do not have time for the onboarding, management and upskilling of SDRs.
And again, as a first commercial hire, I doubt they could open doors like a Founder. Therefore, keep SDRs in your mind, but perhaps a little further down the line.
4. Alternatives: What about outsourcing pipeline generation or sales?
Another way to scale your commercial sales teams in the early stages is to work with some outsourced resources.
There are quite a few dangers in working out the best model, for example:
- Lead Generation:
- How qualified will the leads be?
- Who will then manage them?
- What does the handover look like?
- How will the outsourced resources be onboarded?
- Can they tell your story?
- Who will manage the customer after closure?
These are just a few questions for illustration.
There are some approaches which do work well though – like outsourcing dedicated resources. These companies provide either hired SDRs or Salespeople who are contractually managed to deliver high quality leads or opportunities.
Because of the contractual element, they are paid to deliver. Results can be significantly higher than those from internal resources as the outsourced talent have specialist training to be targeted in a specific outcome.
No Silver Bullet
Those first hires will be the trickiest to make – and make stick. However, if Founders focus on existing customer storytelling as a core skill – so everyone is onboarded with these stories – all hires should be able to credibly create leads and feed your revenue needs.
So, whichever role you decide to hire for first, make sure that your new hire can tell your story with conviction and passion.
To ensure you hire the best person for the role, download our Interview Techniques guide.
If you are interested in new ideas, inspir’em sales meeting exercises and lesson plans are available to continue the development journey of your teams.
Contact us today to further boost your sales and see your revenue grow.
For more tips on applying MEDDIC in the real world - join our community at inspir’em today.