Staffing a Startup Sales Team
So many VCs (and boards) get wrapped up in hiring higher up on the food chain than need when contemplating their first big salesperson hire. They get all warm and squishy when candidates flaunt their Fortune 500 Roll-o-Dex and promise that they are the silver bullet solution to ANY sales dilemma.
There is often an oversimplification and/or misrepresentation on what sales people should do in an early stage company. Building relationships and trust is important, but the sales folks are not out there with a blank sheet of paper to help discover new pain and new features. The first sales guy in the door needs to have a pretty tight agenda on what the product does and what the company needs to have validated by the market. The market feedback aspect is critical, but all too often the sales team turns into the product management team setting dev priorities, promising new features and chasing low probability prospects that will never turn into paying customers.
Choosing the right club (sales guy) for the right market or product, but for most startups it should be the smart guy. Research, analysis and validation are the strengths needed to come back with valuable feedback vs. anecdotal interest. If you hire the pretty sales team, customer interaction becomes a beauty contest not a journey to find the right fit.