Startup sales jobs – 5 ways to know you have what it takes to succeed

If you’re exploring startup sales jobs, keep in mind that to succeed in these roles you need a certain mindset and way of selling that’s fundamentally different from your peers who are working at larger companies.

From my experience having worked as an investor and operator in and advisor to startups, these 5 traits can be good indicators that you have what it takes to succeed selling for a startup company:

You want a leveraged compensation plan

Startup sales jobs often provide a lower base salary than market rate in exchange for a package that is heavily leveraged via uncapped commission upside and a reasonable chunk of equity. 

You don’t need a big expense budget

If you’re going to need expensive junkets and fancy dinners with prospects to generate sales, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening at a startup. Startup sales jobs don’t come with big expense accounts. Frugality is part of the territory!

You can sell the product as spec’d

You should be able to find prospects who will buy what your development team has built. Getting prospects to buy as-is will be much harder than finding prospects who will buy your product “if you add a few additional features” (startups get this line from prospects all the time).  The latter kind of prospects will sap your and your company’s time and energy, so find the ones who have a true, burning need for your product as spec’d.

You’re a hunter and individual contributor, not a VP of Sales

A VP of Sales is a great addition to a startup once it figures out a scalable, repeatable revenue model and needs an experienced manager to shepherd a growing sales team. Until that point, startups sales jobs are best filled with people who are hunters, love selling startup company technology, and enjoy having a huge territory in which to sell. If you want to dive deeper on this topic, here’s a great post by VC Mark Suster about what skills make (and don’t make) an awesome startup salesperson.

You don’t need marketing support

Most early stage startups haven’t sorted out their product, let alone the marketing strategy and execution.  Expect to be pounding the phones and your personal network to dredge up leads.  Over time, if your company is successful and makes a few sales, you’ll be able to take what you learned in that process and work with your (likely 1 or 2 person) marketing team to build the initial marketing assets and campaigns.

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