One of the challenges of being a founder is hiring for roles that are outside of your area of expertise. Here's an exercise to help you hire a salesperson whose approach compliments your preferred sales approach as a buyer.

The Problem

You’re a founder of a new company and it’s time to hire your first salesperson. You’ve never worked in a sales role at another company and your team is worried about the new hire because they know you’re about to hire one of those people and that person will hire more people just like them.

This lack of enthusiasm for starting a sales team stems from the stigma of sales. If you’re not intentional about uprooting the stigma from your hiring approach, you risk hiring someone that carries the negative traits associated with the stigma. They’ll build out a similar team and your negative expectations will unintentionally cultivate the type of sales culture you loathe.

Fortunately, there’s another way. If you’ve ever worked with a high-performing modern sales team, you have a headstart in visualizing this team and finding the right people to live out this dream. If you haven’t, here’s where you should start.

A Solution

Think back to a positive buying experience. Specifically, think of a problem you decided to solve where

  1. the solution cost you something (money, time, opportunity, etc.),
  2. you think back positively of the pre-purchase interactions with the organization whose solution you selected, and
  3. your benefits from the solution far outweigh the costs.

If you’re having trouble thinking of an example, expand your definition of sales. Think of the mentor who convinced you to start your own company or a physician who encouraged you to finally pursue a procedure you were reluctant to undergo. Get creative.

Now reflect on the entire “purchasing” process—from your first interaction with the seller to the most recent benefit you received from the solution. How would you describe the seller? How would you describe their approach? How did they make you feel? What direct and indirect benefits do you receive from the purchase? How does the solution make you feel? Write down any short phrases that come to mind.

Think of a few other buying experiences or ask some friends to share some of their own examples. Write down the phrases you hear. If you have the opportunity and access, interview buyers in your target market and record their responses.

Look through your notes and identify common themes, then take the themes and write a 3-5 sentence description of a sales persona—include their beliefs and the impact they have on others. Keep this persona in mind as you begin to define a list of characteristics that define your ideal sales hire.

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