There are lots of different sales models an enterprise company can choose from. When we started selling MobileIron, we thought a direct model where we call on customers ourselves would work best. But we weren’t really sure. And that’s OK. You won’t know for six to nine months whether it’s best to sell your product direct, or if you should sell through the channel, or on your website using a freemium model, to pick some examples.
We hired our first sales people about 90 days before our product was finished. The timing worked well, in part because no decent sales person will join a company any earlier than that.
One of our guys was a midlevel guy and the other was pretty junior. They just went out and talked to customers. After every sales call, they’d write on this big whiteboard everything about the conversation that went well and everything that didn’t. It just sort of happened by accident but ended up being important.
We didn’t know back then how people would respond to our sales pitches. Should we lead by talking about security or management? When should we bring up deal terms? We learned all of this during those first 50 conversations. That was when we validated our sales model and those whiteboard notes ended up becoming our sales playbook.
We only hired a VP of sales later. Direct sales, channel sales and freemium all require a different kind of sales executive, so we needed to get our model down first. Also, the really good ones will want to make sure you have traction in the marketplace before coming on board. We found ours by finding every networking company that had been acquired recently and talking to their head of sales. We got all three of our finalists that way.