Hiring a Sales Team: What Roles to Fill (and How to Decide If You Really Need One)

by Briana Morgaine 7 Minutes
sales team

Image via Pixabay.

Your business is taking off, and you couldn’t be more thrilled. Now, it’s time to consider where to go next.

You want to continue growing your business, and right now that means maximizing your sales potential.

So, you’re considering hiring a sales team. But, what roles do you need to hire for—and how do you know if you really need an entire team, or just a single salesperson?

We’ll go into all those details in this article, so keep reading.

Before you start working on that job posting, it’s important to critically assess the needs of your particular business. It might seem like I’m speaking in generalities here, and I am—after all, the needs of each business are going to be very different.

sales team

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What makes up a “sales team,” exactly?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: A sales team is clearly a section of staff dedicated to selling a business’s product or service to customers. As a whole, a sales team is responsible for meeting the growth goals of a company in terms of the sale of products, subscriptions, services, and so on.

However, there isn’t just one way to create and compose a sales team. Just like each business will have unique needs depending on their stage, size, and goals, so too will every business need to tailor their sales team to meet their expectations.

We’ll get to the different roles that make up a sales team in a minute, but before we get there, it is necessary to ask yourself a very important question: Do you actually need a sales team for your business as it stands currently?

sales team

Image via Pixabay.

Do you really need a sales team?

A sales team is—you guessed it—comprised of many different roles. To fill out a sales team, you’ll be hiring multiple salespeople, as well as most likely additional managerial oversight. You may also need to look into hiring customer service team members, and potentially human resources personnel, to help organize your growing staff.

If you’re thinking that this sounds a little unwieldy for the stage your business is currently in, the reality is that a fully-fledged sales team might not be exactly what you need right now.

If, for example, you are currently in the process of launching a brand new startup, it’s understandable that you’re eager to make sales and turn your idea into a viable business. However, as tempting as it may be to hire the best salespeople you can afford, it might not be your best use of money upfront. While adding a sales team to your new startup would likely make the sales process easier, it may be an added expense and hassle that you can afford to wait on until your business has taken off. his may look like you (and your

This may look like you (and your co-founder or other key initial team members) wearing many hats to start, but this “hand-crank” method of launching a business will leave you with more cash to spare, and a deeper understanding of your customers than if you had jumped right into hiring a sales team.

Similarly, another instance in which hiring a sales team and entering into a sales commission agreement might not make sense is if you run a service-based business where scaling quickly is difficult (or impossible). If you’re the main talent behind your new marketing business, for example, hiring a sales team may hurt you rather than help you—and you might end up with more work than you can take on as one person.

If you find yourself in one of these positions, but you’re reluctant to become your own salesperson, don’t worry—you are definitely not alone. Most small business and startup founders go into business without an extensive sales background.

If a sales team isn’t right for you currently, and you’d like to learn the basics of business sales, check out these articles:

sales team

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How to determine if the time is right to add more salespeople to your team

Are you unable to pursue certain sales opportunities because you simply don’t have the bandwidth to pursue them?

Asking yourself this question is probably the most basic way to determine whether or not it is the right time to add salespeople to your startup team.

If you feel well-equipped to handle all your sales prospects, a sales team is probably unnecessary at this time. Similarly, if you are at maximum capacity in terms of your workload (for example, if you run a service-based business that relies on extensive work with a set number of clients at a time, and is therefore difficult to scale quickly), adding salespeople is not a good idea—you will likely be overwhelmed with work and end up unable to take on new clients anyway.

However, maybe you could really use an additional team member to take charge of sales calls and do what you don’t have time to do. If you find yourself wishing you had increased bandwidth in order to put more effort into more targeted sales strategies, it might be the right time to add salespeople to your team. Or, maybe you’re at the point where you feel your skill set is better suited to other areas of the business, and you’d like to hire someone with a background as a great salesperson. If you have the capacity to bring someone on, this is definitely a good move here.

Hopefully, by now you have a sense of where you fall and an idea of whether or not hiring a sales team is right for you. Keep reading to learn the key roles you should be looking to fill on a sales team, and what to look for in the candidates who take on these roles.

sales team

Image via Pixabay.

The key roles you should fill on your sales team

1. Account executive

When you think of the traditional salesperson, you are likely thinking of an account executive. An account executive is in charge of selling goods or services to prospects and making tailored pitches in order to increase the likelihood that they will close the deal and convert these prospects to paying clients. Oftentimes, the company will set sales quotas that must be met by the account executive.

Note that this person is not usually the one actually finding and bringing in leads; the account executive is responsible for turning qualified leads into customers, not finding the qualified leads in the first place. While a smaller company may combine these roles (after all, startups that function as sole proprietorships and partnerships often involve members wearing innumerable hats), but for the purposes of defining the members of a sales team in the traditional sense, consider the two separate.

2. Sales manager

On traditional sales teams, the sales manager generally serves as the direct superior to the account executive. The sales manager is in charge of making sure everything runs smoothly with sales staff; they help set goals, keep track of key sales metrics, and provide motivation and support for their sales staff.

3. Sales development representative

If an account executive isn’t the one qualifying leads, then who is? Enter the sales development representative, whose job it is to qualify leads that are then passed on to account executives.

They may be in charge of prospecting for leads in the first place, or they may be given a list of leads via a marketing team email list or similar. Whatever the lead-generation process for a specific company is, the task of the sales development representative is to make sure these leads are qualified and move them through the sales pipeline.

4. Customer service representative

Once the sales executive has closed a sale, a prospect becomes a customer. At this point, they no longer are in the hands of the account executive (although the account executive may step in or keep a light touch for very “important” clients). Now, they are passed to the customer service team, where customer service representatives are in charge of ensuring that they are satisfied.

When you think “customer service representative,” an image of a vast call center might come to mind, complete with countless headset-wearing customer service agents. But, don’t be put off by this vision—a single customer service representative (or a small team) is likely enough for a new business.

sales team

Image via Pixabay.

Is it necessary to hire for all these roles?

If you’ve determined that you would like to bring on a sales team, but you’re not quite ready to hire four or more people right away, it is possible to combine roles to start.

If you want to test the waters before bringing on a complete sales team, consider hiring a single salesperson; they can fill the role of account executive, and you can work with them to generate lists of leads. If you’re just starting out, they will likely not have a huge list of clients—and therefore still have the bandwidth to act as a customer service representative. Your clients will also probably appreciate the personal touch, which is a nice bonus. Finally, you can work with your salesperson to determine sales goals, and take on the role of sales manager for the time being. Voila—a miniature sales team, scaled back to fit a fledgling business.

Does your business have a sales team? When did you know it was the right time to bring on salespeople? Did you hire a full sales team to start, or bring people on slowly? Let me know in the comments—I’d love to hear how others went about this process. 

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by Briana Morgaine
Briana is a copy writer, copy editor, and freelance writer, covering the various facets of the small business and entrepreneurship space. She can be found writing for Bplans, and also on Twitter.