Hire a sales guy for a part-time start-up?


6

Background:

  • I'm a tech guy with alot of product building experience
  • I've built and recently launched a SaaS/cloud application for a niche market, targeting small-size companies
  • The product provides a number of process automations, making the user's life much easier by reducing the amount of manual activities. free up their valuable time.
  • There isn't a product like mine on the market (at least for the niche)
  • Pricing structure is roughly ($20-$40/month/company)
  • The product was built on my spare time, have a full-time job (unrelated)

Problem:

I am trying to figure out the best way to reach my target audience. I launched the site 3 weeks ago, and I'm kind of stuck right now. I have tried SEO and SEM with very little success, since no one is actively looking for this product. I could also try a push email marketing campaign to a targeted audience, but it will probably get ignored mostly as spam.

At this point, I really think the best thing is to find a sales person to help me make cold call to the potential prospects. I know the type of business I am targeting, and can make the list for the sales guy.

I'd like ask the experts here to help me validate my thinking.

Should I try something else before hiring a sales guy?
And what's the best way to on-board a sales guy for a part-time startup. thanks!

Marketing Sales Hiring

asked May 23 '12 at 11:39
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Cloud Mark
125 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • Not an answer but word of warning on teh sale guy. Abdication rather than delegation is very dangerous and its an easy trap to fall into in when a) You have no idea how to do a job (in this case sales is not your thing I am guessing) and definitely b) you don't want to be doing it. Basically you need to try and learn and procedurize the sales process before handing it over to a sales guy otherwise it will end in tears. – Ryan 8 years ago
  • Thanks. You are correct that I do not want to do it personally, but I am reading a few books on selling and cold calling, I plan to put together what I think is the best script/research. Will test it out myself before handing it to someone to do it 1000x times. I believe for the pricing tier, I can only afford to do cold calls and not so much face-to-face selling, any thoughts? – Cloud Mark 8 years ago
  • Probably - but that should come out of your testing. Keep track of customer acquisition costs for different methods and compare to likely Life Time Value (profit per month x number of months they will stay customer). Unlikely in this case but it *could* still be profitable with face to face (e.g. it still is in industries like financial services where someone may be paying $50 per month life insurance - I'll leave you to decide what that says about the value of the product). – Ryan 8 years ago
  • SEO and Paid Search is not just for people "looking for your product". It's for people who have the pain your product solves. I think you'd get more bang for your buck from hiring someone for $1000 or $2000 for a couple of months to help you with your Paid Search (Adwords, etc.). – Clay Nichols 8 years ago
  • And remember,no one cares about and undertands your product like you do. – Clay Nichols 8 years ago
  • I am really excited to get so much feedback from everyone. Since this is my first product cycle on my own, I really needed external inputs from people who's been there done that. thanks again! – Cloud Mark 8 years ago

5 Answers


6

I'd suggest another approach - talk to prospective customers, share your research with them, and validate your product offering. This customer development model demystifies the "sales process" and breaks "the build it and they (customers) will come" mentality that fails a lot of startups.

Reading a book, reaching out to your customers and integrating their feedback into your product development iterations is much cheaper than outsourcing the sales process altogether.

I would also take a close look at the questions you are asking, and the approach you use to capture those conversations. Here's a vimeo that might be helpful in reviewing your approach http://vimeo.com/40192415

answered May 23 '12 at 12:02
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Jim Galley
9,952 points
  • Thanks Jim. I understand the concept of getting a MVP product out and then iterate. I believe that's what I've done so far, as it did not take too much time to get the product ready. I talked to a few prospects validated the features are very useful to them. Now I'm trying to reach a bigger set of target audience. – Cloud Mark 8 years ago
  • Perhaps you need to talk to a few more ;) But I'm not there - you know better than I. Maybe recycling some of the contacts would be in order - http://jasonevanish.com/2012/01/18/how-do-you-get-back-on-the-customer-development-horse/ Good luck! – Jim Galley 8 years ago

2

Have you considered facebook advertising? It sounds like it would suit you well. With facebook advertising you can target people based on their profession even if they aren't actually looking for what you have. It's really the key difference in my mind to search engine advertising.

I would also suggest finding any forums that your target audience might be involved in (industry specific forums) and get active and post in those. You could also see if there are any publications that target them you could advertise in, often it's not as expensive as you would think.

Are there associations for your target market? If so there may be sponsorship or advertising avenues through them, often a paid email ad through an association is quite affordable and can be very well targeted.

If that doesn't work out, I would definitely do some cold calling yourself before considering hiring a sales guy. Even if you do plan to hire someone, doing it yourself first will have you much better equiped to both hire and then manage them. Otherwise you are trying to set goals and manage someone to do something that you have no idea about.

answered May 23 '12 at 12:12
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Joel Friedlaender
5,007 points
  • Hi Joel, I haven't thought about facebook ads, will definitely try it out. My target audience is a subset of a few different professions, i would need to see how precise the targeting is for me. I started to research both forums and associations, but I have not been able to find enough time to do a good job. I will probably revisit these channels. Thanks for all the advice, they are very helpful. – Cloud Mark 8 years ago
  • If you can't get specific enough with the targeting, I would consider using broader targeting but make sure your ad is specific. That should reduce the number of unqualified clicks and optimise your spend. – Joel Friedlaender 8 years ago
  • "targeting small-size companies" and you think FB advertising is the way to go? Really? – Ryan 8 years ago
  • Absolutely @Ryan. There is not a lot of places you can target someone that isn't actively looking for your product, Facebook is great for this. Obviously you need to track and measure your conversion rates, lifetime value of customer, etc. but I think it's a great medium for targeting small business. – Joel Friedlaender 8 years ago
  • I agree. Facebook ads are very easy to setup. Based on Joel's input, I've done it today and already have a few clicks to the site. Since I'm doing CPC, I made sure the Ad creative serves as an additional qualifier for the intended audience, in addition to the facebook targeting profiles. – Cloud Mark 8 years ago

2

Perhaps you should consider hiring a business student with exlusively variable salary. It doesn't cost you alot and I guess sometimes can bring in even higher motivation level as fixed salary. Offering constant source of revenue in the future (as long companies don't cancel subscription) should be enough to get someone willing to put in their efforts with relatively low expected income in very short term.

answered May 25 '12 at 00:20
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Matej Zlodej
273 points

0

3 weeks is a short time, allow some more time. IMHO hiring good sales people is harder than hiring good programmers. If a salesperson knows how to sell they can expertly sell themselves and will convince you they are the best you can find. And a good sales person is always looking for an easy to sell product. If your sales are low/flat they won't be interested.

In addition to the other answers you might want to invest some time into marketing and see if you can develop a clearer message about your solution for your market.

Ask your prospects how they would describe your product/service. Their answers are often surprising.

Plus, without knowing more than your question gives, your price sounds too low. $20 or $40 a month 'looks too cheap to be good'. Try $99 a month/$990 per year and see if you get a better response. (Note -I'm only guessing at those prices, I don't know your product or target market)

answered May 25 '12 at 03:25
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James
1,231 points

0

First, I'll answer your direct question:

I'd continue doing what you're doing for a few months at least to make sure you've given it enough time. I'd also hire paid search consultant (I hired Andy Brice for 4 hours and it was well worth it. I suspect Patrick McKenzie would be great too (I've read his stuff for years but don't have experience hiring him). (I have no financial relationship with either of these folks. I'm providing a recommendation b/c there are a lot of quacks out there.)

There are a lot of great answers here and one more from me:

  • 3 weeks is a short time. That's not even enough time to know how long your sales cycle is. (It might be 3 months).
  • Sales isn't actually that difficult when done right. Good salesmanship is about listening, not speaking. And you probably already know how to do that (that's how you knew what to put in the product).
  • Learn the job before you outsource it (to a sales guy) so that you know how to evaluate that guy (or gal!) and can properly instruct him. So you should already have learned what the common concerns are that customers will have, etc. And hopefully have put this into marketing literature. This is analogous to truly understanding a problem/solution before "coding it". So, when you hire someone you already have an idea of:
    • Common questions you need to cover or have answers to (FAQs).
    • Common objections ("this is too expensive", "we can't share our data with an SaaS app", whatever.)
    • This will opens up the possibility of hiring a less experienced sales person b/c you've done some of the critical leg work.
answered May 25 '12 at 23:04
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Clay Nichols
737 points

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