Do not evaluate persona; evaluate results.
Plenty of folks have chimed in already about salespeople and hiring for startups. When do you hire? What type of salesperson do you need for when? Do you need a salesperson or a business development person? There is no lack of advice when it comes to hiring salespeople.
But the thing that keeps coming up in conversation after conversation is this idea of the prototypical salesperson. Many are looking for a particular personality and assume the best salespeople are naturally gregarious and outgoing and boisterous. They want someone who appears outwardly social and assume such people will have wide webs of relationships and engage easily with people. In short, they are looking for the classic networker type. But you know what they say about people who assume too much.
I have worked for and with numerous types of salespeople over the years. What I came away with, the one thread that connects those experiences, is there is no one type of sales person that is most effective. There is no prototypical salesperson but many different types, and each type thrives or struggles depending on the circumstances and environment.
Some are better in an inside sales role selling over the phone; others are better in person. Some are better at selling tactical solutions, while others are more attuned to strategic selling. And in the same way there are many different types of sales people, each salesperson has his or her own unique personality that oftentimes does not ascribe to our notions of a typical salesperson.
Personality does not give you much insight into who to hire. It might help in matching up to the company culture, but it has no correlation to actual results. I have seen salespeople who are borderline manic and others that are painfully quiet. Some are outgoing, and others are shy. Some like flashy things; others are more down-to-earth. Some are incredibly organized, and others swim in chaos. The thing that connected all of these reps was the fact they got results.
So my advice when hiring for sales would be to focus on results. It does not have to even be directly related to quota carrying roles, but any situation where a candidate took the initiative and did something significant from beginning to end. That is what you really want from a salesperson: someone who can take the initiative, has a get-things-done attitude and does not give up easily.
These attributes are not outwardly discernible traits, however, so you really need to dig deeper into what they have done and can do. When you look at results, that is what helps you get a clearer picture on the things that do matter for sales success.
This article was originally published on Strong Opinions, a blog by Birch Ventures for the NYC tech startup community.
Image credit: CC by Asela Jayarathne