Before we were known as the leading recruiting company for product management, we were known for recruiting software sales talent across North America.
During our 20+ years of experience building a sales team, we’ve seen the skills and experiences that make salespeople successful in startups. When hiring a sales leader for a fintech startup, make sure they possess these four qualities:
1) A Rolodex of C-suite Decision Makers
Our experience has shown us that the number one requirement most fintechs want is a salesperson with an active Rolodex of C-level stakeholders at banks or financial institutions.
This is not unusual given how long a sales cycle typically takes when selling to a bank - 6 months, 8 months or 1 year, depending on the complexity of the solution and the scale of value the fintech delivers.
Our clients have found that salespeople who know how to engage with those stakeholders and how to have credible conversations experience less friction and thus accelerate sales cycles.
2) Selling Business Value
The tech industry has always been a melting pot for talent who approach their roles from a technical perspective, but for sales, you need someone who approaches their roles from a business perspective.
A salesperson's ability to translate technological innovation into business value that unlocks growth, adoption, and/or engagement is a salesperson who is likely to be successful in selling to banks.
This report by PWC cites that transformation across the banking industry is being led by how a bank's customers define what they want from a bank. Increased competition from neo-banks, fintech apps, and real-time-rail initiatives are changing consumers' expectations of the financial brands and products they choose to use.
Our clients have shown us that software salespeople who have the capacity to position technology solutions through a message of business value are those who succeed more often.
3) Confidence in Nascency
Over our history, we’ve been retained by a couple of early-stage fintechs whose product was little more than a napkin drawing and a few slides on a deck.
All of the Founders asked for one thing - a comfortable salesperson working in a nascent, ambiguous environment who would have to "figure it out" to get the first paying customers.
While it could be assumed that any salesperson armed with a lucrative comp plan and a limitless territory could be successful, that is often not the case. Our experience has taught us that many sales organizations silo their teams into different parts of the cycle:
- Marketing drives ToF and MQL
- BDRS or SDR qualify leads or begin cycles
- SMEs and SEs are pulled into calls
- VP closes the deal and asks for the signature
In a seed-funded startup, one person may own the end-to-end sales cycle from the point of lead gen to closing. Many successful global tech brands are seen as aspirational (if only we could hire someone from Salesforce), but their sales teams may not necessarily be the right hire for the stage of the company.
The startup persona has unique soft skills that make them successful:
- Ability to qualify an opportunity to determine where to invest their time
- Capable of vision-casting and drawing stakeholders into a solution that might not yet exist
- Able to create a message to turn early adopters into investors and champions that help win other customers
- Low ego and prepared to do their own demo
Hiring the right sales persona is key to successful outcomes.
4) They Have the Numbers
The 80/20 rule suggests that 80% of a company's revenue comes from 20% of the sales team. However, sometimes hiring decisions can become complicated when the hiring criteria are weighted more heavily on subject matter expertise or soft skills such as cultural fit or personality.
Hiring successful salespeople should come down to those with past success and similar quota attainment and metrics. Focusing on those attributes can help fintech leaders level the playing field and curate their hiring decisions.
One of our Sales Practice's services is providing our fintech stakeholders with the data to expedite the selection process. Quota attainment, ACV, length of sales cycles, number of deals closed in a year, President Club awards. This is the language of a salesperson and is critical to evaluate before investing time in an interview.
To discuss real-time salary insights or specifics to your Sales Leader search, book a call with our sales practice or check out our Salary Insights from a recent Enterprise AE search.