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Where to find talented sales folks for a growing tech company?

I've acquired a startup which had growing revenue the year prior to my ownership, however the only sales person on board was let go shortly after acquisition for ethical reasons. I've struggled over the past few months to find someone to replace him with and have tried filling the position myself to get things back on track. However, My background is primarily engineering so sales is still new to me. The company licenses e-commerce platforms using a SAAS model.

The company is not generating enough to hire someone on salary so it would have to be either commissions only, equity, or revenue sharing. I'd even consider a sales partner/founder setup.

Anyone have any experience finding talented sales folks and where to look? I've tried the major freelance sites with no success. Also any thoughts on a go forward plan would be appreciated as well.

24 Replies

Anthony Miller
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Anthony Miller Advisor
President & CEO at millermedia7
Are you looking for someone that is in Houston?
Nathan Singh
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Nathan Singh Advisor
Founder / CEO at LionSher Technologies
Anthony, not necessarily.
Tyler Frieling
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Tyler Frieling Entrepreneur
Technology Matchmaker
Hi Nathan,

Anymore, one of the best/only reasons to attend tech conferences is for talent sourcing. Obviously that is a generalization but its a great place to observe people in their work element, particularly sales/marketing. Make a goal to identify people of interest while your walking the booths, then step back and see who stands out, chat with them as a potential customer, then connect with them for a more official conversation.

Obviously the selection of conferences is heavily time and location based. You can identify, vet and start conversations with dozens of people in a day, which I find to be super efficient.

I've lost count of how many people have introduced themselves to me at a conference to speak about joining their company. I'm not bragging, just reinforcing my opinion.

Lastly, I've found some good people in MeetUps. There seems to always be a person or 3 attending as a job seeker. Sales and Marketing people are probably harder to meet at these but it may be worth the exercise.

Tim Kilroy
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Tim Kilroy Entrepreneur • Advisor
Analytics - LTV - Boosting Profits - Digital Marketing
Not sure who your target is (mom & pop shops) or enterprise, but each have their own kind of sales treachery. It is hard to find a quality commission only sales person - commission only can be really difficult. Effort and quality vary greatly on the commission-only spectrum. It is incumbent on you to learn how to sell (hard to manage a sales process if you can't do it yourself). But the real issue is wasted time. If you don't have a committed partner in the sales process, you are going to have a fair amount of flameout - and a low-revenue startup has a low threshold for wasted time. Maybe you can find a simpatico company selling into the same market to help you with lead gen? I just feel like the commission-only sales resource won't get you where you want to go - and if there is a sales resource that can totally kill it in this market - they would likely have better opportunities with a base. Sales is a super-tough position to recruit for - and even harder when you have a product with unproven demand and no base. My advice would be to figure out how to leverage internal resources to do lead gen and closing sales. It takes sales resources weeks and months to become productive. A commission-only resource is likely to not make it through that ramp up period.
David Berk
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David Berk Entrepreneur
Head of Sales Category at Hired, Inc.
Hi Nathan,
Hired.com recently expanded our Sales Talent solution to include Austin, TX. We provide a weekly batch of curated sales talent ranging from SDR's to Enterprise AE's and Sales Manager. Candidates are vetted for quality and intent to make a move so you don't spend a lot of time reaching out to irrelevant or uninterested people. The talent also lists their quota attainment and comp preferences upfront you're aligned before starting the conversation.
James Hogan
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James Hogan Advisor
Vice President of Worldwide Sales at ShareVault
Hi Nathan,

Everyone has given you good advice.

Questions to think about:

Do you have enough leads in the marketing funnel and a reasonable understanding of their conversion rate/sales cycle time/value to warrant hiring a new sales person?

Is the business generating enough revenue to support a salesperson?

What risk/cost are you capable of accepting if your hypotheses are wrong?

It's all about the numbers and hiring the right person at the right time.

I have a lot of respect for Tom Tunguz at Redpoint Ventures. You may want to take a look at his blog post to get a better sense of what I'm talking about above. It is here >>

http://tomtunguz.com/marketing-and-sales-harmony/




Rob Gropper
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Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
Nathan, Tim K hits on a very important first filter - who your target customer is, i.e. enterprise, SMB. Since you are selling a 'technical product' your next filter needs to be experience in 'technical sales' - software/SaaS. Then figure out where these people congregate both online and off. Meetup is one good source - a quick search in the Seattle area shows 3 meetup groups focused on sales and 1 "B2B tech sales" specifically. As Tim also points out, recruiting and hiring for startups is tough no matter how you slice it so the first thing you need to learn how to sell is you and your company. Also, please clarify - you say "The company licenses e-commerce platforms using a SAAS model". Is this a product your company builds and supports or are you re-selling e-commerce platforms built by others?
Clive Butkow
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Clive Butkow Entrepreneur
Chief Executive Officer at Grotech Venture Capital Company
Nathan I a going to provide my input from South Africa, I am a venture capatalist and until 3 years ago the COO of Accenture South Africa. I also headed up technology sales in Accenture. My opinion, is based on my experience in the corporate world of sales and now the entrepreneurial world of sales, where our VC company has stakes in a few SAAS companies. As per the previous responses, good sales people are hard to find. I recently had a similar situation to yourself in one of my companies where the CEO was not a natural sales man and we needed to hire both BD and sales people and running on a shoestring budget where we could not afford these people. We solved the problem by providing a small amount of equity that would vest over 4 years as well as a very high percentage commission on the initial sales. Sales people are incentivized by money and if you cannot do this you are doomed to fail. This compensation was highly lucrative to certain people, not everyone would work for "nothing". My 2 pieces of advice for you; 1. Do not hire successfull sales people from the corporate environment but rather sales people that have been successful in an entrepreneurial environment. There titles might be the same but their skill sets and attitude are completely different. 2. This is the one time that you are going to have to "sell", became if you cannot sell your vision for your business, to these potential salespeople, they will not come on board. Hope this helps?





Michael Lunzer
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Michael Lunzer Entrepreneur
Founder/President at Warm Health, Inc.
I would look for other products that are sold to your same buyer. Approach salespeople for those companies with a selling partnership or finders fee arrangement. This approach makes it more comfortable for you to approach those salespeople. You are not just trying to convince them to quit their job for a full commission job. It also helps you find a person that might have the interest in selling your kind of product. The end game is to hire the person but starting with less of a commitment by them makes it easier to get their attention. Michael Lunzer
Nathan Singh
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Nathan Singh Advisor
Founder / CEO at LionSher Technologies
Hi Rob, To provide more insight, the company offers white-label platforms for restaurants and retailers. For example one of the platforms is similar to grubhub in that it is a local restaurant search and order site. Another ordering platform is a widget which connects directly to the existing merchant's site or facebook fan page. The primary target is local entrepreneurs although we're working with local delivery companies as well. All the platforms are built and maintained by our company.
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