How to Build a Sales Team

You’d be hard pressed to find any company that wouldn’t be happy to have someone on their team capable of making an immediate positive bottom-line impact. Enter the salesperson. Unfortunately, hiring this type of talent can be tricky.

For starters, sales rockstars are in high demand. Since a highly-trained sales team operates like a Ferrari engine propelling a company forward, it's no surprise that every growth-oriented company is looking to stock their arsenal with high-performing sales talent.

Sales positions are the #1 priority for talent acquisition leaders.

Evaluating and selecting the best talent from a large pool of promising candidates can be daunting, especially if you’re building your sales organization from the ground up. If you pick the wrong candidate that takes too long to fully activate, you’ll not only see your investment in onboarding and training go to waste, but you’ll also have to source, hire, onboard, and train their replacement.

Companies spend an average of $4,000 and 24 days to hire and onboard new employees, and that’s not counting the opportunity costs incurred from not having that talented individual working already or the replacement costs.

A study by DePaul University estimates the average turnover cost per sales rep is a whopping $97,690 considering recruiting costs, training costs, and lost sales. To exacerbate issues further, it may take up to two years to ramp up that new hire to optimal performance.

In the following article, we’ll show you how we recommend sourcing the best sales talent.

Sourcing Potential Sales Candidates for Startups

The landscape for high-performing sales talent is very competitive. Startups, in particular, tend to attract a specific tranche of early-stage talent– the ambitious, young, but relatively green folks looking to make an immediate impact and strap onto a rocket ship headed towards astronomical growth.

As a founder or sales recruitment leader, you have a few options at your disposal.

Do I have to use a recruiter? Do I use an agency? Can I just go through LinkedIn? How do I know if it’s the right salesperson?

If you find yourself intimidated by the multiple different avenues to source talent, don’t be.

There is a wide variety of effective inbound sources to use, such as

  • AngelList

  • LinkedIn

  • Ramped Careers

  • Rainmakers.co

  • The Lions   

  • Indeed

  • Glassdoor

  • Hacker News

  • Zip Recruiter

  • Craigslist

  • OneStop / Symplicity (University Recruiting)

  • HandShake (University Recruiting)

Each source tends to have a slightly different category of talent.

For example, the sources that focus on universities will likely be great for finding entry-level junior sales talent. In contrast, AngelList and LinkedIn might be better for finding mid to upper-tier talent.

When it comes to higher-level talent, you may be better off sourcing candidates from LinkedIn or even consider hiring a talent agency to find that perfect candidate– we’ll get into this later. 

Referrals can also be golden for sourcing talent at any level. Be sure to tap into the depth of your network, which includes anyone from your educational and professional backgrounds. You can even source talent from your clients if you feel you’ve built a strong enough relationship with them.

Platforms like Lever and Greenhouse can do a great job as an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). In order to make the most out of these platforms, your recruiting team should set up social referral links via the ATS, as well as external-facing postings to maximize your visibility to inbound candidates on the sources listed above.

Outbound Sourcing

Rockstar sales talent isn’t always easy to come by on inbound platforms. Many of the industry’s best might be happy at their current role or primarily rely on personal recommendations for future work opportunities.

That’s where outbound sourcing comes into play.

LeadIQ and LinkedIn Sales Navigator are a powerful two-punch combination to build campaigns for candidates who fit your predetermined job descriptions. Load up your candidate profiles via filters on LinkedIn and use LeadIQ to scrape their emails. Then develop a simple email script to draw folks to your company.

It may also make sense to hire a top recruiter such as Bearhug Recruiting, Daversa, Cole, Maya Mark, Erevena for higher-value positions such as a VP of Sales and VP of Customer Success. Or companies like Ramped Careers to turbocharge your SDR hiring initiatives.

These key players can make all the difference in the long-term success of your sales efforts.

When and How Many Sales Team Members to Hire

As a founder, you’ll find your organization’s sales needs will change as it grows. A guiding metric, but not always perfect, is to use your funding stage as a proxy for whether your team is ready to scale. Here are the following roles you should consider hiring for, and what funding round you’ll likely need to add them to properly scale your organization.

Sales Development Representance (SDR) and Business Development Reps: these junior-level positions are largely responsible for lead gen, qualification, and prospecting. Candidates are likely at the start of their sales careers and should have strong communication skills. SDRs should be hired early on to free up the time of the founding team to focus on bigger opportunities.

  • Seed Stage: 1

  • Series A Stage: 1- 4 total

  • Growth Stage: 9-12 total

Pre-Sales and Sales Engineers: These key players are the point of contact for customers before the deal is closed. They’re largely there to facilitate the sales process, answer any in-depth questions about the product for Requests for Proposals (RFPs).

The perfect candidate for this role will be a technical expert in your niche, and should have some literacy in business informatics. Ex-consultants with tech backgrounds tend to make good candidates here.

  • Seed Stage: 0

  • Series A Stage: 1- 2 total

  • Growth Stage: 4 - 5 total

Account Executive (AE) and Sales Reps: These ambitious team members are the point of contact for customers in the initial stages of the sales funnel. The ideal candidate is likable, good at listening and problem diagnosing, and hungry for success.

  • Seed Stage: 0-3

  • Series A Stage: 3-10 total

  • Growth Stage: 18-24 total

Sales Managers: Once your sales team has grown to five or more members, you need a sales manager to lead, recruit, and onboard your team.

The ideal candidate is a top performer, either promoted internally, recruited from your competition, or has at least three to five years of experience selling to the same markets you’re targeting. This individual must be data driven and capable of aligning your team around common goals.

  • Seed Stage: 0

  • Series A Stage: 0-1 total

  • Growth Stage: 3 total

VP of Sales / CSO: This late-stage hire will lead your sales team effectively, while also aligning your sales team with other processes in your organization. The ideal candidate will have managed a sales team before, and will likely have a strategic, structured, and analytics mindset.

  • Seed Stage: 0

  • Series A Stage: 0 total

  • Growth Stage: 1 total

Final Thoughts

Once you’ve sourced a pool of promising candidates, your hiring manager can select from the highest-profile leads based on your ideal hiring criteria.

However, sourcing your talent is only the first step. You have to make sure they’re onboarded properly, trained to perform, and motivated by fair and attractive commission plans.