How quickly should startups hire a head of sales?

by - July 18, 2022

Everyone understands that businesses need sales to thrive. Without them, all you have is a product or service no one is buying. That’s why founders want to hire a head of sales early. But is this always the best approach? And just how quickly should your startup fill important roles, such as sales positions? Here, we’re looking at why an early hire isn’t always the best route and what you should do instead to ensure success for your business. 

Sales, taken care of

Once the business is up and running and funding is in place, founders begin thinking about the roles that need filling. For many, this means hiring a head of sales who can come in and build the sales side of the business. 

While this might seem like a smart move, too often, founders bring in a head of sales and leave it up to the new hire to drive leads and conversions. However, if the business is still in its early stage, it’s unlikely that you’ve defined a sales process. It’s asking a lot of a new person to come in, understand the business better than the founder, and increase revenue through sales. 

Too important to hire someone right away

Taking all the factors into account, hiring a head of sales right away isn’t the best move. There is too much at stake for founders to step away from the sales side this early in the company’s lifecycle. 

Before hiring a salesperson, you should have a process in place that works. Ask yourself how many sales you’ve won and the number of customers the business has. Also think about customer lifetime value and the length of your current sales cycle. 

You’re probably not ready to hire a head of sales if you don’t have a clear answer to these questions. They are important elements that lead to a successful sales setup. There’s no definitive answer, but most startups shouldn’t think about hiring a sales person until they have at least between 10 and 20 clients. You need experience yourself in how to sell your product and proof there’s interest in what you offer. 

The three P’s

So how do you get those clients? At Sales for Startups, we go by the three P’s. Proposition, people and process. 


Don’t hire anyone until you nail what you offer and have a sales strategy in place that works. Without a strategy, you’re essentially hoping for the best and don’t have a clear approach. It’s impossible to expect a sales person to succeed if they don’t have a foundation to work from. 


Once you’ve defined the sales proposition and have a strategy that works, it’s time to think about your first hire. At this point, they’ll come on board and have your knowledge and leadership to work from so they can help build and deliver the strategy.


The infrastructure is in place, which means it’s time to build the process. Here, you and your new head of sales can refine, tweak and adapt, ensuring the sales proposition is as tight as it can be and designed to win more business. 

The right hire at the right time

It can be tempting to hire a head of sales as soon as there’s capacity to do so. But it’s better to be patient, and ensure you will be able to enable the new hire and there’s a strategy for them to deliver to. Do that, and your new sales hire will be well equipped to drive the business forward.


Further Reading

Patrick Thorp
August 28, 2020

Creating a winning pricing strategy to drive B2B sales

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James Ker-Reid
June 10, 2022

Why SaaS businesses use sales consultancy

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January 16, 2022

B2B Sales: 3 Processes that Tech Start-ups Can’t Ignore

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