I know what you're thinking: "What person in their right mind would earnestly pursue a sales gig at an unproven startup?" It's a fair question, but believe it or not, some of the best of the best sales mavericks prefer working for startups over working for larger, more established businesses.
Yes, the financial uncertainty, late nights, and coffee binges are enough to repel droves of qualified salespeople, but working for an up-and-coming startup comes with its own set of unique benefits, too. Here are just a few of them:
- Startup salespeople often enjoy the benefits of a more light-hearted, laid-back environment.
- Startup salespeople are generally given more responsibility. The result? They grow more quickly.
- Startup salespeople more fully appreciate hard work, accountability, and self-sustainability.
- Startup salespeople work in smaller teams. As such, they're recognized for their success.
- Startup salespeople often have the opportunity to learn from innovative entrepreneurs.
See what I mean?
Startups aren't necessarily the right fit for all salespeople, but for the right candidate, there can be nothing better. So, do you feel like you fit the mold? If so, don't pounce on the first startup offer that comes down the line. Instead, do everything within your power to land a sales position at a company that's worthy of your talent.
Not sure how this is to be done? No worries – the following three tips will point you in the right direction:
1. Flattery at Its Finest: Research the Startup in Question
You wouldn't think of making a sales call or showing up at a prospect's office without having first researched a decision-maker's company, industry, or personal interests, would you?
- You can conduct a basic Google search to see what can be learned about the startup in question.
- Using the startup's website and LinkedIn, see if you can speak with a current employee.
- Take to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get a feel for company culture.
Financial viability, client history, marketing capabilities, product or service offerings, and alliances – they're all topics worth investigating before you sit down for a one-on-one interview.
This might seem like a lot of work, but it's beneficial for a number of reasons. For starters, you don't want to get hired only to soon realize you're not working for a good company. It's sad, but true: The vast majority of startups will fail, and you don't want to voluntarily board a sinking ship.
Next, by having done your due diligence, you increase your chances of impressing a potential employer during the interview process. Don't expect to get the red carpet treatment for your knowledge, but rest assured that hiring agents (at least the good ones) will always take note.
2. Quantify Your Value Proposition
You're a salesperson, so this shouldn't come as much of a shock to you: Sales is a numbers game. Everything you do is quantified to show exactly how valuable you are to an employer.
Shoddy salespeople shy away from numbers, making excuses for why theirs aren't quite up to snuff. On the flip side of things, industry-leading sales talent embrace numbers, using them to set well-defined goals, push themselves tirelessly, and keep themselves accountable.
You might not yet have signed on the dotted line, but to increase the likelihood that an offer is eventually sent your way, quantify your value proposition by talking openly about the numbers your sales career has generated for past employers. In addition, these sorts of numbers should also be highlighted throughout your resume.
Hiring a new employee is a risky investment, especially for startups. When you quantify your value proposition with sales metrics and past achievements, you build bonds of trust and confidence between yourself and the startup you hope to work for.
3. Be Prepared to Ask Questions That Actually Matter
It's an interview. You're the one in the hot seat – why should you have to put more pressure on yourself by stepping into someone's office with a mental list of meaningful questions?
Well, here's the thing: Game-changing salespeople are known for asking clients questions to gain a better understanding of what they need. Once a genuine need has been identified, salespeople are able to talk about their products or services from a more favorable position.
In an interview, when you ask appropriate, yet critical questions, you demonstrate that you possess two of a salesperson's finest, most sure-fire tools: the ability to ask questions and the ability to listen intently as answers are given.
On top of that, by asking questions of substance, you show your interest in the startup itself.
Remember to be sincere with all of this. Boring, run-of-the-mill questions – though better than nothing – simply won't get the job done.
Questions like "How long have you been in business? and "What's your favorite thing about working here?" are certainly not bad questions, but the kinds of startups that attract widespread attention and experience rapid growth will expect more from their sales candidates.
(Click here for a list of high-quality questions to ask during an interview with a startup.)
The above tips aren't anything out of the ordinary. They're simple, tried-and-true methods that've proven helpful to salespeople who hope to join a top-notch startup.
The biggest issue, though? While these tips are easy to follow, few are the sales candidates who make the conscious effort to follow through on all three of them. For you, this is good news: Cling closely to each one, and you'll soon find yourself making sales at the perfect startup.
Amy Volas has been a sales fanatic, recruiter, and entrepreneur for 20 years. She is currently the head of Avenue Talent Partners.