one of the reasons jason lemkin and i teamed up to write “From Impossible To Inevitable” was so that founders at growing companies won’t make the same blunders we did. in this excerpt from the book, jason outlines the top 12 mistakes he made when building sales teams.
Top 12 Mistakes When Building Sales Teams
#1. You hire a sales rep to sell before you can prove you can do it yourself. You have to prove it’s sellable first. And the CEO/founders need to do the initial sales themselves, so that they understand how to make sales work. You can’t outsource this.
#2. You hire a VP of Sales to sell before you prove you can do it yourself. You gotta prove the process is at least just barely repeatable before you hire someone to turn up the volume and spin the wheel faster. You gotta build two reps that can hit quota before you hire a real VP of Sales.
#3. Any of your first 2-3 sales reps are folks you personally wouldn’t buy from. Because then you’ll never trust them with your precious handful of leads, and they will fail. No matter how well they did in the last start-up.
#4. You insist reps #4-400 are folks you personally would buy from. It takes a village.
#5. You underpay. The best salespeople want to make money. If you pay under-market, you get bottom of the barrel.
#6. (Intentionally) not going upmarket faster to Double Your Deal Size. Nothing is an anomaly: If you can get 1 enterprise customer –– you can get 10. If you have 1 customer in an industry –– you can get 10. The outliers aren’t anomalies. They are The Future. Corollary: Target bigger deals as soon as you can. Same work, more $$$.
#7. Not firing a bad VP, Sales in one sales cycle. You should know subjectively in just a few months –– just 50% of the way through your average sales cycle. Numbers should increase in one sales cycle –– with a keen focus on Revenue Per Lead First few hires should be clear upgrades –– and should be made quickly and seemingly effortlessly
#8. You ask your VP of Sales to carry a bag for too long. Her job is to recruit a great deal and hit the overall plan. Not to sell herself, not mostly. Have her own the whole number, the ARR plan. Not an individual quota, not for very long at least.
#9. You hire someone who last sold Nu Skin. This can work later, but not in your first reps.They need to understand how to sell vaguely similar products at vaguely similar price points.
#10. You hire because she worked at Salesforce/Box/DropBox/ABC Famous Company. Don’t hire them because they worked at a well-known or hot company. Hire them because they can close, not because they are one of 4,000 reps that sell a product at Salesforce.com, which has $7B+ in revenue, a proven brand, and huge infrastructure behind it.
#11. You allow any great reps to leave. You should strive for 0% voluntary attrition,not to fire the bottom one-third. That’’ s for boiler rooms. Great sales teams stick together. Great sales teams inspire each other. Great sales teams attract higher and higher quality reps as time goes on.
#12. Not doubling the plan. Once the team was (finally) great, we exceeded the plan. Every quarter, every year. Always. But…… I should have challenged us to do Even Better. I should have pushed harder the same way Parker at Zenefits pushed Sam to answer the question, “What would it take to do $20M instead this year instead of $10M?”
and my addition to the list, lucky #13:
you burden your AEs with prospecting, instead of outsourcing to experts so your closers can focus on selling! 🙂
ps: i’m on catalina island this week with our 11-year-old, Valentin’s, school camping trip!