Small business series: Five steps to recruiting your first sales hire

In the second blog in our small business series, Anderson Hirst of Kojo Academy discusses the five steps to recruiting your first sale hire.

Written by Anderson Hirst
Published 17 May 2022
Small business series: Five steps to recruiting your first sales hire
One of the frequent questions that comes up in conversation with start-up founders who are considering their first sales hire is whether this person should be a ‘cold-caller’. 

This is understandable: it’s often assumed that with someone on board who is solely responsible for driving leads via outbound phone calls, we can wash our hands of the dirty business of selling and outsource it to a miracle worker who can magically find customers and bring them to the business.

For some businesses, this can be exactly the right decision. For others, it can be a costly mistake that results in little growth and knocks the confidence of the founder. I have seen businesses where a wrong initial hire resulted in a kind of ‘sales scar’; i.e., a long-term belief that salespeople are just an expensive waste of precious reserves.

So, how do you decide which role to hire first?

To answer this, we need to work through 5 steps:

1. Define your sales strategy 

This will help us gain clarity on the space we want to play in. Essentially, we need to know:

  • What products and services are we selling? What’s our value proposition and price?

  • Which customer groups and roles are we targeting?

  • How do we bring the product to market?

2. Map out your sales process 

When we’re assembling a piece of furniture, we’re more likely to be successful if we think carefully about the intended outcome before we start with the nuts and bolts and understand what the various steps are. The same applies for a sales process, which sets out the activities you go through to lead a customer from first contact to becoming a sales advocate. Read my previous article, “Don’t have a sales process?”, to find out more about this step.

3. Decide on the best organizational structure to enable the sales process

Once we know the work that needs to be done, we can take a step back and decide who does which parts of the work. In other words, who is responsible for each stage of the sales process. For example, you may have some good people in the team who can be account managers – simply making sure customers get what they need and are satisfied.

Here’s the rub: as a business owner, your reputation and expertise might make YOU the best person to kick the sales process off in the early days. Your network and credibility are likely to be strong, and you can leverage this to open doors for others to follow up.

Don’t assume that one size fits all, create several options for how your sales organization could look and evaluate them with someone who knows your business and that you trust. Don’t forget to include lead generation and your inbound marketing activities in the evaluation.

4. Define roles and responsibilities accordingly

Just like any other process in your business, it’s wise to make it visible and concrete and allocate clear roles and responsibilities at each stage. Who does what? When are the handover points? How can we make them seamless for a customer?

You probably have realised that now you are this stage, you could very easily write a job description to recruit the role you need. Exactly! Which leads us to the next step…

5. Go recruit!

With a clear job description and a clear logic for why the role exists, we can now start to recruit for the right person!

Resources in the Small Business Toolkit to help

When it comes to support on gaining further clarity around who should be your first sales hire, the Small Business Toolkit offers:
  • Sales strategy – Build it: an in-depth guide to building a very concrete sales strategy
  • Sales strategy – Team structure: – ideas, inspiration and a rigorous process to evaluate which structure is best for you
  • Sales process – define it: all the advice you need to design your own custom sales process
  • Salespeople – role definition: to help you build a ‘recruitment ready’ job description
  • An overview of recruitment & induction: to help you design a solid process to find the best talent
  • Methods for sourcing candidates: to help you find the best people at the lowest cost.

The Small Business Toolkit provides leaders with access to sales training powered by our partner Kojopro, to develop sales leaders that can transform your business performance. Book a meeting today to find out how it could work for your people.

About the author

Anderson Hirst

Anderson Hirst

Kojo Academy

Anderson started out in front line technical sales in 1991 and ‘carried the bag’ for 7 years, before entering the field of sales training and consulting. Working for 10 years at an international training consultancy, Anderson sold, designed and delivered multiple international sales improvement projects. 

Then in 2006, he studied an MBA at Warwick Business School and used his research into sales processes to start up Selling Interactions, an organization focused on sales improvement projects. In 2018, with 3 other directors, he started up the Kojo Academy, which created the on-line sales management content for the MindTools Small Business Toolkit. 

He has extensive experience of helping a wide range of businesses build highly effective sales organizations, and is a regular researcher of sales best practice.  

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