How To Identify Your First US Sales Hire as an Overseas Company
You’re running a company based outside the US and are aiming to expand your business into the US. So you need to make your first sales hire in the US. How do you choose who to hire?
Your first sales hire is a critical hire. If you choose the wrong person, it will set you back financially, and your team will be demoralized. You’ll miss your revenue and growth targets for the year.
Hire a seller, not a manager
Your first sales hire should not be a VP of sales. If a candidate has been a VP of sales for a long time, they may not be willing to become an individual contributor again. Your first US sales hire will start out as an individual contributor and eventually build a sales team. They need to be able to create processes where there weren’t any before, with clear documentation. They need to do the selling themselves and then write the playbook for how to sell.
It’s important for your first US sales hire to do the hard work of selling and be able to pick up the phone, cold call, and cold email. Find someone who is comfortable first and foremost as a seller, not a manager. The problem with some VPs of sales is that they have become primarily managers and can no longer do one demo call after another. You need someone with the grit to do a lot of selling themselves, someone who is willing to hustle.
Hire someone with sales experience
You should ideally hire someone with substantial successful experience in sales, such as 3-6 years of experience. You might be tempted to hire someone inexperienced but eager to learn and work hard, someone that you think you can train. However, this rarely works. You need to hire someone experienced so that they can build your sales process from the ground up. They don’t necessarily need to have been a VP or director of sales, since some sales leaders at that level don’t have what it takes to work in a startup environment, but they do need several years of prior sales experience. You want to look for prior work experience as an account executive and sales development representative. You ideally want to find someone who has sold a similar deal size in a similar sales cycle.
You don’t want to hire someone that you plan to train because as a founder, you aren’t as good at sales as you think. Most founders wouldn’t be able to meet a quota. You want to hire someone who knows what they’re doing and has done it before. There’s a big difference between a founder selling and a sales professional building a repeatable sales process. In addition, training the salesperson will distract you from your work as a CEO, since sales requires a lot of coaching. And if the salesperson is not successful, you won’t know if you’re not selling because your sales leader isn’t good at selling or because your product doesn’t have product market fit.
Prior startup experience is a major plus. If they were the first sales hire at a startup, that’s even better. That means they’ll be familiar with the ups and downs common in working in a startup. You want to find someone with an entrepreneurial mindset, and an early hire at a previous startup would fit the bill.
The qualities of a good first US sales hire
Your first US sales hire needs to be entrepreneurial, resourceful, and resilient. They need to be able to handle a lot of rejection from prospects and be able to keep going. They also need to work on continually improving. They need to be comfortable with ambiguity, since their role will be continually evolving.
“Important qualities of the first US hire for international start-ups: highly autonomous, an excellent communicator, problem solver, culturally and self aware, flexible, driven, courage of conviction,” wrote Kate Arndt, the first sales hire for Israeli-based Vanti Analytics in the US.
You want your first sales hire to have a strong work ethic, to try their best to get your product in front of customers. You also want someone who is a cultural fit with your team, and someone who has a personal growth mindset so that they keep improving. You also want someone reliable and prepared, someone intelligent, and someone who believes in your company mission so that they’re a better evangelist for your company.
A first sales hire wears several hats: account executive, sales development representative, director of sales, and customer success manager. They need to be able to develop leads and take sales through the full sales cycle. They also need to ensure that current customers are happy. That means that your first US sales hire needs to want a lot of responsibility.
If a candidate has no prior sales experience, don’t hire them. You need someone who has done it before, who can teach you how sales is done, rather than the other way around. If a candidate has worked at well-known, established companies or category leaders, don’t overweight their experience there, since their success to a large extent is due to their company. And don’t trust when a candidate promises a large network; that network often gets exhausted early on.
If you hire someone with extensive sales experience, then you know that if you aren’t selling, it’s probably not because they’re bad at sales. You will also move much faster than if you hired someone inexperienced. If you hire someone experienced, they can lead the recruiting process for other sales representatives, saving you time.
Sales KPIs and how to set up your first US sales hire for success
What are some sales KPIs you should track? For one thing, you should track monthly sales growth to see how fast your business is growing. You should also track sales cycle length, to see how long it is taking to close deals. You should also track the close ratio: the number of closed deals divided by the number of leads during a given time period. You also want to track the number of phone calls, the number of emails, and the meetings scheduled. You want to track the lead opportunities created, proposals sent, and closed sales.
To set up your first US sales hire for success, create a collaborative culture so that they feel comfortable asking for help. Track KPIs and set compensation so that they can win a hefty commission if they bring sufficient sales to your business, but also make sure to set a sufficient base salary. Also have them write a sales playbook from the very beginning, to provide clear documentation for any future hires.
Alariss can help you identify your first US sales hire as an overseas company. If you sign up with us, we’ll match you with top US sales talent and recommend the best potential hires on our platform. If you hire someone on our platform, we’ll also act as the Employer of Record so that you don’t have to worry about payroll or legal compliance when hiring. If you’re ready to work with us, book a call with us today.