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Any advice on commission-only + equity sales hires?

We're a bootstrapped startup looking to hire sales people. While we're starting our Seed round, we need sale people to help us continue to grow and sell. We can't afford a salary right now, but a mentor suggested a commission-basd and small equity arrangement.

What is your feedback on this? How much commission would be acceptable? And is equity for new hires sales people a good idea? (Vested over time or upon completion of deliverables)

Thanks!

14 Replies

Patrick Pease
3
0
Patrick Pease Entrepreneur
Owner at Mud Puddle LLC
There are a lot of questions to answer:
How long is your sales cycle? B2b tends to have looong sales cycles and as a sales person I can't wait 3- 16 months to make my first sale, plus often 30 days for payment.

What is the commission? Less than 500 per week reasonable earning power will get you veryhigh turnover.

How do you support your agents? Do you provide a crm, Sales coaching, leads, advancement, (virtual) assistants? Support shortens the sales cycle and reduces turnover a great deal.

All this being said I own several sales organizations and commission is my favorite, maybe with a small draw for long sales cycles.
Rob Underwood
2
0
Rob Underwood Entrepreneur • Advisor
Advisor and Entrepreneur
I agree with Patrick. It really depends a ton of what product/service/offering is that you're selling? B2C vs. B2B? One time sales or recurring services (e.g., a monthly or annual contract/subscription)?

One model for experienced sales professionals going after larger size B2B order sizes is a declining commission. Let's say you're doing B2B and selling a recurring service (e.g., a software contract) for $10,000 a year. A commission structure for a senior sales person of 15-20% for years one and two, 10% for year three, and 5% for year four might work coupled with a typical advisor start-up equity stake (e.g., 1-2% with 36-48 month vest). Obviously this can be adjusted -- idea is to make this attractive to a sales person but you also don't want to be paying them forever. Of course, as Patrick says, if the sales cycle is really long, even that commission scale might not be enough to make it interesting for a professional sales person. A smart sales person will think of each contract from a P/L perspective for themselves as an individual and will consider how much labor of theirs will go into to earning a $1,500 commission.

Note this is not the model I'd suggest for "agents" selling lower order size items, especially in B2C.
Vincent Roazzi
0
0
Vincent Roazzi Entrepreneur
Principal at JPM Partners, LLC

You are the exact reason why our company is in business. Go to www.jpmpartners.com and find some insights.

Manu Pillai
1
0
Manu Pillai Entrepreneur
Experienced Executive, Technology and Operations driven
In my mind, you bring on a sales person when there is a sales template - there is a clear and proven value proposition, and you are now scaling. But, in such an early stage, are you scaling? Or still looking for the right fit?

If scaling, then figure out a deal with a rep firm that has the right contacts, as you may not be able to generate the income a f/t sales person needs.

And if not scaling, then the founding team needs to get deals done. If not, you will loose time in "teaching" the sales person, even though you are still tuning your model.
Richard Harris
0
0
Richard Harris Entrepreneur • Advisor
Top 25 Inside Sales Leader, Public Speaker, 40 Most Inspiring Leader, Sales Trainer, Start-Up Advisor, SalesHacker
You do have a lot of great advice and definitely you want to make sure you have answers to these questions. Not just because you need to know but also because any sales rep you will interview will want them too.

My question is why do you think you need a sales person at this stage? Also I would suggest asking any seed VC's, advisors, or mentors what they think too.
Alex M Kim
0
0
Alex M Kim Entrepreneur
Tech @ Chatgrid
I saw hiring/scales sales done by sales head at previous company, at that time I thought that is easy. But it's really hard (at least for me ) when I am trying. Even to build sales playbook, I should have couple of deals to find gaps and fill the contents (e.g. lead gen. source, sales pitch, value prop, RFP templates, quoting, eula, sales process management ...). I know I should go around and find them by myself. It just happen to be same time as supporting other paying customers and developing next feature release.

Anyway it looks like Greenease is in beta or alpha stage (from http://greenease.co/for-businesses), do you need sales for scale or sales for initial lead generation?



Alistair Davidson
0
0
Eclicktick Consulting
If you have inadequate money to hire a sales representative, then I recommend strongly taking a look at commissioned sales reps, particularly those already selling to your target audience. As a general rule, early stage startups don't have a model of the sales investment vs. the return from sales, so it's very hard negotiating a satisfactory relationship. You end up rolling the dice. In contrast, a commissioned sales representative already has enough sales to cover his overhead and his salary. You can be the incremental effort on top of an existing successful business. Clearly, partnering with companies makes a lot of sense too, but the negotiations are tough without experience as well. Alistair Alistair Davidson Eclicktick Consulting 100 N. Whisman Road, Suite 2213 Mountain View, CA 94043 Unified communications number: +[removed to protect privacy] (rings all my phones) Mobile: +[removed to protect privacy] Business: +[removed to protect privacy] or +[removed to protect privacy] Skype: alistairdavidson E-mail: [removed to protect privacy] Blog: alistairdavidson.blogspot.com Twitter: @alistairdavidso Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/alistairdavidsoneclicktick Amazon.com author page: amazon.com/author/alistairdavidson Latest books: Innovation Zeitgeist, Digital Virtues and Memes Contributing Editor, Strategy & Leadership magazine http://www.strategyandleadership.com Certifications: Certified Scrum Master, Scrum Product Owner, Ensighten Certified Professional Manage
Bonnie Crater
0
0
Bonnie Crater Entrepreneur
President and CEO at Full Circle Insights
We were successful at creating 50 / 50 plans and our first rep got 20% commission instead of 10%. After we were funded, we paid a base salary and 10% commission. This worked and it was fair because our first rep had a generous option plan. We closed some seed funding 3 months later so it was not long before we could pay a base salary.




Chicke Fitzgerald
0
0
Chicke Fitzgerald Entrepreneur • Advisor
Game Changing Strategist, Advisor & Technologist | Board Candidate | Zigging where others Zag
Vanessa - how did this end up working for you? What did you do?
Corey Schwartz
0
0
Corey Schwartz Entrepreneur
President at Loanatik.com
I was in a similar position, early stage and needed to bring in a salesperson. I knew a FANTASTIC candidate. As I dug into how to compensate him I found that sales people were primarily money (cash) motivated. If I wasn't paying at least as much as they'd make elsewhere I wouldn't attract high-quality people. If I am paying them market rate for their services, I could not justify to myself giving them equity too. Our mentors and advisors agreed saying that they rarely had equity in a salespersons comp package.
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