Beyond your first sales hire: Sales team, assemble!


If you want to grow your startup, you’ll need a sales squad that understands your mission and is ready to grow the company with you. Be in the driver's seat for your follow-up sales hires, to shape a team that’s aligned with your culture and equipped to educate the market.
After you hire and onboard your sales leader, the journey to scaling your startup's sales force is just beginning. The next critical step is to hire the rest of the sales team.

This phase of hiring demands careful consideration, as the collective skill set, culture and execution capabilities of these employees will significantly shape the trajectory of your company. 

In my experiences at Vimaan and other startups, I've seen firsthand how the right combination of talents in the sales team can amplify reach and impact across diverse markets.

This guide will take you through the process of building a successful sales team that has the skills and characteristics you need.

Your sales team, part two: Constructing a versatile core

As the founder, you should be involved in at least the first and second layers of hires (and possibly beyond).

The second tier of employees sets the tone for your company's culture, execution strategy and ultimately, its future success.

It's essential to assemble a team with complementary skill sets and diverse expertise. The complexity of today's business environment — particularly in tech-driven industries like ours — demands a sales team that can leverage each other's strengths across:
  • Different customer industries
  • Varied organizational structures within each sector 
  • A wide range of technologies like hardware, software and machine learning
By focusing on complementary talents and expertise, you can ensure your sales team can effectively reach and resonate with a broad spectrum of customers. Don’t just fill positions — build a cohesive, dynamic team capable of driving your startup's growth and reinforcing its position in the market.

Sales hiring wins and cautionary tales

As I’ve built startups, I've encountered successful and challenging sales hire scenarios — and each situation offered valuable lessons on the importance of alignment between a salesperson's skills and the company's stage and market.

The ingredients for sales magic: Industry insights + company alignment

At my first company, which specialized in disk drive components, we onboarded a sales professional who was deeply familiar with the domain and genuinely invested in the company's success.

This person’s dedication and domain expertise made the sales process exceptionally smooth, with minimal friction. Our company’s OEM business, despite its limited customer base, thrived under the salesperson’s guidance. This experience underscored the importance of hiring sales team members who have the right industry knowledge and are truly aligned with the company's mission.

Learning from sales hiring missteps

Conversely, at a subsequent venture focused on fingerprint sensors, we initially replicated our OEM sales approach with a new hire from a similar background. Initially, this strategy seemed effective as we targeted PCs and laptops.

But as we expanded into enterprise, government and point-of-sale applications, it became evident that we were creating a new market. The sales professional, who was skilled in more linear sales processes, struggled to adapt to the diverse buying behaviors and needs of these new segments. Ultimately, we had to regroup and restart the hiring process to find a better fit.

My hiring experiences — both the good and not-so-good — have taught me the crucial role of strategic alignment in sales hires, especially in startups where markets and product applications are evolving rapidly. 

After you hire your sales leader, you’re looking for sales team members who are well-suited for the specific challenges and opportunities your startup faces.

Best practices for successfully expanding your sales team

How you build your sales team will significantly impact your startup's path. In this guide, I’ve drawn from my startup experiences to lay out the blueprint for strategically growing your sales force, and ensuring alignment with market demands and your company's vision.

Here are the things to keep in mind when hiring your second tier:
  • Stay involved in hiring to preserve company culture and execution strategy.
  • A sales team with complementary skills and expertise is better positioned to tackle diverse market challenges.
  • The right sales team composition is essential for navigating and capitalizing on market opportunities.
  • Learning from successful and challenging hiring scenarios will sharpen your future recruitment strategies.
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