Business Development · IT developments

IT service Startup, should I find Co-founder or hire Employee for Sales?

Ashish Khandelwal Looking for Sales & Marketing Partner for IT Services

April 16th, 2019

I have been running my IT service startup, so far working on projects from my network, however we need to expand to generate more leads. I am not sales background, I am core Technical and Product Management guy, should I hire Sales person or Find Co-Founder for Sales. My preference is to find Co-Founder because we need someone to bring expertise and work with dedication, feel like his own company. What do you suggest guys?

Paul Garcia marketing exec & business advisor

April 16th, 2019

It would be my guess that neither of those options is actually going to work for you today. I understand that you are not comfortable being a salesperson, but it also sounds like you might not have what I'd define as a company yet either. Essentially you're a freelancer or contractor. That's not the same thing as a business, even if you have some people working with/for you.

The owner of the company, like it or not, is the primary salesperson for the company until it gets to a point where they cannot work on the business because they're too busy working in the business.

There's really no such thing as a Sales co-founder. And you've already founded your "company." What you're looking for is a higher volume of business. People don't have an (ownership) interest in a company to do just sales. That is an unreasonable risk for a sales talent.

What your description speaks to is a complete lack of a sales process. And that may not exist because you likely haven't developed a marketing strategy or refined your product/service offering in a way that makes you distinct and of saleable value to people you don't already know.

Sure you could build a referral business from your existing clients, even if you're uncomfortable asking them for referrals. But that's not what makes it a company, that's still just more consulting for you.

Most people who start companies don't have a background in sales. And sales is one of the six core business skills any enterprise will need to run. But since no one person ever masters more than two of the six business skills, they always rely on either employees or external providers to fill in the skill gaps. You're no different. (And no, technology is not one of the six business skills.)

Being the first person to run sales in a company does not make someone a co-founder. It just makes them the first salesperson. You're not ready to hire ANY salespeople if you haven't perfected your sales process. You're probably wrinkling your nose and thinking you couldn't possibly create a sales process. But that's not true. You as the owner know everything you need to know (or should) that would lead to developing a sales process that you will then test, refine, test more, refine more, and practice until a trained monkey could do it (your first salesperson).

If you expect someone to come in without a proven sales process and magically deliver leads, if anyone even agreed to do it, it would be a horribly inefficient sales engine. If you drop in a salesperson with no program or training to follow, they are set up to fail, because as salesperson is not a process development person. They follow a process, take direction, but they don't invent a process. That's your job as the executive.

An employee can feel one of two ways. They work for the company or they are the company. It has nothing to do with ownership or founder status. It has everything to do with culture. Culture is not free coffee, it is the way that people work together and how problems are solved. When employees have a clear vision to follow, are heard and engaged, are proud of their efforts, and are empowered with authority to make choices that take the company in the right direction, that's when they feel it's their own company, not because someone hands them a stock certificate. Even employees who actively sabotage the business can hold a stock certificate.

If this is your web site ( there is not a single thing shown that makes you unique, no differentiator, value proposition, or even niche. (And the web coding is broken) You're not getting more sales today because you aren't communicating any benefits to potential customers. You mention some features, but those features are all commodities, and people don't buy features anyway, they buy benefits. The referrals you're getting are likely on the merits of your previous customers, not your own.

So, what to do?

You don't need a salesperson (yet). You need a marketing strategy. What will benefit you most today is figuring out how your product fits your market best. That will define which elements of your business to highlight and which to set aside. Know why your current customers hired you, what made you the best choice over so many others, what they would have done differently with you if they were able to, and how they would describe you to their colleagues.

You can get assistance with your marketing strategy from a number of various sources: books, coaches, agency, several options. While it helps to understand primary marketing concepts, you don't need marketing experience if you can follow instructions from a book. Pick a marketing philosophy that you like and stick with it like your true faith. I might recommend that you buy the entire collection of Seth Godin books because they're super-easy reads for people who aren't comfortable with marketing. And they will dramatically help you master concepts that will set your business apart from others. For about $200 and maybe 20 hours of your time you can take a massive leap forward in understanding the next steps that will help you represent your business as having something people want to buy.

Good luck!

Andy Freeman Product Management and ... - Looking for new opportunities

April 16th, 2019

It would help if you told us what you think being a co-founder means. Yes, you want them to do sales, but what do they get out of it that's different from being a sales person?

It's interesting that you write "feel like his own company" because you didn't mention that they would be an (significant) owner. Instead, it sounds like you're looking for cheap labor and hope that they'll be satisfied with a title.

That may not be the case, but that's all you've written.

Steve Owens Startup Expert

April 16th, 2019

I agree, the right co-founder will be a better choice.

However, the wrong co-founder will be a train wreck. It is very hard to know if it will work. Get a lot of outside opinions before partnering with any co-founder. In all likelihood, you will never find the right guy. I have been looking for 30+ years. I have tried many, and still trying, but so far, no luck.

For sales (and marketing) to be successful, you need a proven process that is composed of many steps. First, create the system, then hire people to run the system. You should find a consultant to help you create the system, and validate that it will work. Then hire people to run the system once you know it works. BTW - it is likely you need several people to run the systems, not just a "sales" guy. Hiring a "sales" guy without all the other stuff is not going to result in anything.

Good luck.

Clay Nichols Helping other startups grow after launching 2 successful startups.

April 18th, 2019

If you had much we're much more confident and in your sales skills sales skills would you be willing to do the sales work yourself?