So, i'm in product now. Our company doesn't even have a revenue function at the moment, but I did want to share some thoughts on hiring and managing a high performing, early stage sales team as the experience is still top of mind.
First off, Triplebyte has absolutely killed itin the net-new sales generation front. There are a couple of reasons for this:
1) We hired a great first head of sales who was able to figure out packaging and pricing that worked for our product.
2) TB has a product that works for our core customers, which are mainly SMBs and growth tech companies.
3) As a small company, we compensated our sales team aggressively.
I want to dive into that last point here and why it is important.
Many founders who are product oriented fail to understand how to think about sales teams and compensation. They treat sales folks like they would an engineer or other R&D or G&A oriented hire.
Sales folks are tasked with bringing in revenue. At the very early stages, they help you find product market fit. Once there is a sales process, they execute and refine that process in order to bring in more revenue.
In the early days, Sales is a dicey mission to undertake. Typically the product is unproven or uneven. Sometimes it is only the Founder who is selling the product and now you have to do better than them without all of the connections and gravitas. Sales people know this. They know that early stage sales are not easy. Most wont even entertain the idea of going to an unproven sales team. I think that is smart - too much of your success (remember 50/50 comp split means a 50% pay cut if there isnt product market fit) is outside of your control.
So how does an early team woo great sales people to join them?
1) Be generous with your offers. In other areas of the business, equity and the advantages of a small company can be enough to get the right talent. That wont work with sales! Be prepared to offer packages at or above what the big companies are paying.
2) Be generous with quota: Large sales teams target 80% quota attainment for the team (most people get 80% of their quota). Don't do this in the early stage! Build a culture of winning! Try to set quotas that are attainable so that every sales person that is doing a good job will hit at or near their quota. This will mean some people make above their quota, that is okay! Their success is your success.
3) Use Guarantees and Make Goods: When you shift your product strategy, guarantee at least some of the sales team's comp. That decision wasn't theirs, but it is going to impact their ability to hit quota. If you miss set goals so that they are completely unachievable, in the last month of quarter lower the goal. You need to think about every move as to how it might hurt Sales' ability to be successful and at the least acknowledge it and in most cases change the rewards.
In the early days, Sales is all about trust. The Sales Team needs to trust that the wider organization is going to take care of them. By building that trust and delivering compensation flexibility you will breed a team more amenable to product shifts or strategy changes which will help with retention and sales team recruitment (there is no better sales recruiter than the sales team itself!)
Trying to skimp on your sales comp or making the game unwinnable for your Sales team will create a low performing sales team - it scare away the top performers and will leave you with a team of folks who are either incapable of sales or are unmotivated. Everyone else will take their skills and find a better setup for them to be successful. Only once you have an established sales process, growing sales team and a clear predictable track record can you start to pull back on some of the graces you offered the early team. That makes sense and is totally warranted. The Sales team in an established company is not taking on the same risk as a sales team that is just finding its go to market footing, but until you are there, make sure you are doing the right things to reward your sales people.