Founders often see a recruiting firm as a crazy expensive expense. Whether a purely success-based search for an engineer or a retained executive search with a fixed fee of over $100K, they don’t come cheap. Why do you pay this amount if you can spend some time finding the candidate on your own or utilizing your network? First, you should rely on your network to find candidates. The problem is that your network only goes that far, and in most cases, it’s primarily based on luck.

We’ll suggest an alternative way to think about the expense of recruiting. Let’s say it’s time to hire a sales leader. You are burning cash every day, which means that every day without a sales leader is a month without commercial results. These can be much more than $100K, meaning you are not capturing the opportunity and potentially letting the competition win.

A recruiting firm provides a more predictable timeline for hiring. If doing it alone or relying on your network, you should think about what has the higher price - a one-time expense of $100K that increases your chance to find the sales leader at the right time or the risk of delaying this hire by months?

If the position is critical, i.e., your startup won’t be able to move forward without filling it on time, a paid search process might be your best shot.

Once you raise your Series A, it’s usually time to hire salespeople for two main reasons. The first reason is scale. The founders can’t handle a pipeline of tens or hundreds of deals alone. The second reason is expertise. Strong sales leadership brings expertise in closing deals, building the sales process, and growing a team.

So you decided that you want to bring sales expertise to your startup. Who should you hire? These are the most critical factors that you should consider:

  1. Individual contributor vs. sales leader: hiring an Account Executive vs. a VP of Sales are two different paths. On the one hand, it may feel too to bring on a VP at this early stage, but on the other hand, if you hire an individual, the CEO will have to manage her directly. Therefore, unless the founder has prior sales experience, we recommend bringing a sales leader who can build the processes and the team.
  2. Deal size: if your deal size is consistently over $100K, you need an enterprise sales team. Mid-market is considered less than $100K on average, and below is SMB. Don’t bring someone not a good fit for your deal size.
  3. Domain expertise: having experience selling a similar product or solution will significantly reduce the ramp-up time and drive results quickly. If you can, try to bring someone from the same industry.

Thinking about these in advance will help you grow your startup faster and reach your first millions in sales!

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