What makes a Startup Sales Person different?

I love when I talk to recruiters who ask the basic sales questions for recruiting sales people:


-What % of quota were you?


-How big is your rolodex?


-How many people did you manage (if you’re a sales manager or wannabe)?


They seem to focus just on these types of questions and not the stage of company they are hiring for. I believe there’s a huge difference in the sales skills of a start-up Sales executive or manager and an established large company looking to hire that sales talent. The basics can be simplified I believe into a military analogy. Start-up sales peoples are the Navy Seals, Large Company sales talent is the Army Infantry. By in large I’ve found this to be true across all of the companies I’ve worked for, advised or consulted with. Let’s dig a little deeper.


Who are the Navy Seals and why are they such a special and rare breed? This Inc article explains some of their character beliefs, http://www.inc.com/brent-gleeson/7-motivational-navy-seal-sayings-will-kick-your-butt-into-gear.html


The one I liked the best to get my point across. “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”. This is so very true in startups. Quality sales people and leaders are hybrid skill sets always improvising and looking for the best innovative avenue to build a relationship, sell their value and close a sale. They employ high IQ and EQ, they have sales, marketing and business development skills and they can adapt to whatever is thrown at them without necessarily a plan. The most successful startup sales people I worked with asked lots of questions got lots of information from the market, prospects and other execs and then improvised the unique plan that would land them an account.


The Navy Seal is a different person from the Army Infantry. The Army Infantry is an execution machine and an excellent sales person for the right stage. They understand a plan, how to execute that plan with attention to detail and relentlessly follow through until complete. When a company is established, has case studies, existing accounts and a credible name the Army Infantry sales person is an excellent fit. In fact in a lot of cases they are better than the Navy seal for this assignment.


So when you’re thinking of your next sales hires, recognize the stage you’re really at and hire the right fit, the Navy Seal for startup, the Army Infantry for established companies.