Questions

My web company has been in business for close to ten years. We sell a digital product. I bootstrapped the business and for the longest time we saw steady growth. I had experience in web advertising and that is what I pursued. Bringing people in to us from the web.... One thing I never did is hire sales people to go out and try to bring in bigger clients who would purchase larger amounts of our product. (And our business model is the type that would sustain this.) At this point, we have gone through some tough stages and money is tighter than usual. We are down to only a few necessary employees. I am wondering if there is a process for a company at my stage to find and hire salespeople. I honestly don't even know where to start. I do believe that if I had someone who could regularly hit up various companies, etc. that we could grow, but right now we don't have the budget to just hire a full time sales person out of the door. I know I can do this job as well and have been doing it as my time allows, but I only have so much time to devote to it. Thanks for any help or advice!

Good question, thanks for posting.

You are facing a common challenge for founders of service companies. Tap the personal network for business in early years and then need to find new sources of business as time goes on.

I ran a web services company in the 90's and my current business regularly recruits sales people for web / new media companies. Before you attack your sales hiring need, it might be worth taking a step back and making sure that your value proposition is clear and differentiates you from other competitive offerings. This is not only critical for establishing a sales force, but also will help drive inbound leads which are critical for growth and profit.

Assuming you have this all sorted out, you also have a second option for driving new sales besides hiring a sales person - that is to continue selling yourself and hiring someone that does the other things that are preventing you from devoting time to selling. This may or may not be possible depending on what are your other obligations, but I know from experience that finding good sales people who can sell web solutions is not easy - takes a rare mix of technical and domain knowledge, creativity, consultative sales ability and sales DNA.

If hiring a sales person is your best option, then you are unlikely to attract one who can consistently contribute (the only kind you want) by offering commissions since good sales people are employed and earning good income - they will not want to give that up for the privilege of earning 100% commissions, even if the upside is huge on paper.
That said it is possible, if you go outside your industry...I posted some comments on this in other clarity threads:
https://clarity.fm/questions/1006/whats-the-best-way-to-find-commission-sales-reps
https://clarity.fm/questions/1291/what-do-bootstrapped-startups-offer-to-new-sales-hires-commission-only-what-are

In terms of attracting the right people I would recommend...
1. Be clear on exactly what you are looking for in skills, experience and DNA - discussed above.
2. Look everywhere- online, social networks, job boards, conferences, referrals, LinkedIn, etc.
3. Write job ads that will stand out and attract attention from the right type of people (vs. typical list of job requirements) - treat the candidates you want to attract like customer prospects and write your job ads with compelling copy
4. Offer careers, above market compensation (not necessarily cash), and the chance to work with a great company/management/team
5. Never stop recruiting because great people are rare and t takes a long time to find them

All the best!


Answered 5 years ago

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