Building a Startup Sales Team

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Build a startup sales team

Building a Startup Sales Team

Building a Startup Sales team is no easy task. Having spent the last 15 years in, and advising, startup companies, I have needed to build a sales team from scratch a couple of times. While numerous individuals would like to dodge the challenge required to building a fresh team, it has been a privilege for me because it offers an incredible chance to build up the right conditions for achievement.


Challenges accompany every task, but the ability to overcome the challenge will make makes or break the process. Here are some of the challenges and solutions required in building a sales team from the start.



I was once told, by a major recruiter of top performing salespeople that the most frequent problem that startup firms have when building sales teams is that they hire too many salespeople before the organization is ready. Here are some of the readiness questions they recommend asking yourself.


Business Readiness

Sales are always dynamic i.e. sometimes there are sales and vice versaSalespeople are driven to sell, therefore, using salespeople as a test or developing a strategy is a poor use of their time and skills. Is there, at least, one sales person that has sold the product successfully. Hopefully, this isn’t the founder but a professional salesperson.


If there is an increase in new client activity, do you have the operational bandwidth to support the new business?


Budget Availability

Obviously, successful, productive salespeople, if they make a lot of sales, will be paid well. Does your firm have the financial ability to employ capable sales people and then be able to afford them once they do well?


Do you have the budget, and do you have the commitment, to pay your sales team?


Management and Support Availability. Most startup companies hire their first salespeople before they hire a sales leader. Has there been thought given to who the salespeople will be reporting to? Someone needs to manage the assignments and tasks of the people.


Sales Strategy


  • Goals: Confirm the revenue and customer acquisition goals as well as any other sales related goals in the company’s business plan.
  • Customers and Targets. Perhaps the most critical aspect of the sales strategy involves identifying the target markets, ideal customers and accounts the company wishes to acquire. You will also need to define what a qualified prospect is as well as the criterion for each of the steps in the sales cycle. This will play a critical role in focusing the efforts of the sales team.
  • Selling Approach and Structure. Defining your sales strategy prevents your salespeople from defining their selling processes, which in turn can compromise overall business and sales goals. Along with defining the steps in the sales cycle, you will need to define how the sales team will engage prospects and what selling techniques will be used.
  • Defining sales territories will further focus prospecting and selling efforts in addition to preventing salespeople from tripping over each other in the field, wasting effort and looking disorganized in front of customers. Territories can be defined by geography, industry, sectors or pretty much anything else you feel is appropriate.
  • Individual Goals and Measurement. Create sales goals and metrics that will be used to measure each respective sales person’s progress and accomplishments.
  • Commissions and Compensation. Commonly, a company’s business model drives its sales compensation plans. It is important to plan to ensure that the commission is high enough to attract the right salespeople from competing employers.


Building a Startup Sales team

Productive salespeople get employment offers because every employer wants the best for themselves. Due to the high pay, startup companies find it hard to get the attention of outstanding salespeople.


Here are some creative tips to attract sellers:


  • Aim High by committing to targeting salespeople with good output.
  • You have to be Aggressive in the search for the best people. Make use of available mediums to get exposed to great salespeople.
  • Stand Out by using unique copy that highlights the benefits of your working environment.
  • Offer Careers: The best salespeople want to team up with the best companies and management where they are most likely to upgrade their careers. Therefore, sell the company’s vision.
  • Get the right compensation by offering above-market compensation to pull people away from their present employers. Also, consider non-monetary rewards, such as flex-time, extra vacation, and recognition.
  • You have to be very agile in pursuing and keeping the attention of salespeople. Meeting with them and persistence will make them develop an interest in you.
  • Never Stop Recruiting. Great people are rare and hard to find; so you need to be on constant watch for them.


Management Processes

It is a huge lost investment in recruiting, training and time in hiring a failed sale’s person. Here are tips to increase your chances of each hire being successful in the shortest possible time.



Ensure that each person that you make an offer to meets your demands. They should believe in your market solution and be inspired by your vision. From there they need to be well trained on the products and understand the mindset of your buyers.


Set Up for Success

A new hire should be placed where their focus is on learning and selling. Their sales gadgets should be intact for productivity.



There should be close supervision of newly hired salesperson to avoid the exhibition of immoral acts and poor outcomes.



For most companies, the task to build a sales team from the scratch is tough; but when well done, the outcome becomes productive.



Joe Flynn is a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur who created Lavante, Inc. Lavante was started with the vision using Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing and advanced Data Extraction techniques to transform the traditionally manual-based Account Payable Recovery industry. Lavante Was acquired by PRGX Inc. in November 2017. Joe is currently working on a new venture using Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning to transform trade partner communications across the entire supply chain.