Many of the start-ups we observed while doing sales assessments and sales re-engineering projects follow quite similar evolution when it comes to sales.

Stage 1.

“So we need to get sales, let’s hire somebody’

Then  it goes like this: “Great guy, what are his expectations? So much? Let`s find somebody who wants to work commission based?”

And start-up finds such a sales rep. And in one (or three or six) month something goes not as planned or sales rep says that sales strategy is wrong. Start-up CEO (or other person responsible for revenue) steps in, starts making experiments and changes and  it makes things even worse.

Usually the sales sales rep also leaves as it is rather hard to survive through experiments when you are commission based. “But there were sales!” –  one would say. Naturally if the product or service is any good you can stumble into a company willing to buy.


Stage 2.

At this stage start-up decides to hire somebody more competent, preferably from competitor. Of cause they are surprised by the cost. Again. And the sales rep usually has no experience building sales organization, just being part of it.

So as soon as person is hired he is expected to give results. Immediately. However a new sales rep need to test his concepts, build a business model, work through delivery process with a team. This usually takes time and contradicts the need for immediate result. So CEO (or other person responsible for revenue) being afraid to loose sales steps in and fires the step 2 sales rep. Because there were no immediate results.

And they hire next sales rep.


Stage 3.

There are several sales rep and through chance, miracle or search identify a channel that delivers consistent results. Great results. Since the start-up hired outside sales reps at least twice with no results – they make most obvious move. And promote one of the sales rep to a sales manager because (you can insert any appropriate reason here)

The business is growing, although CEO (or other person responsible for revenue) believe the growth could be higher. Sales team implements CRM and other systems, buys books and goes for training, And this could last several years: there is growth and there is a compromise that sales manager has with his team and with the CEO  And the results are also more like compromise and any market change or outside move threatens them.

CEO (or other person responsible for revenue) starts to push on a sales manager to get higher growth and better results and sales manager leaves. He now has experience and results and can earn more.



The good news is that there are companies that manage to go through and successfully through any or all of the stages. There are even more companies where stage 3 drags so long it becomes permanent. And there definitely are companies with unique niche, product or service.

Now, is there any solution to it? The answer is simpler than it seems.

  • Good sales rep costs a lot, but a disciplined employee being part of the working sales system can deliver results.
  • Good sale manager cost even more and he is usually trained to manage the sales systems, not building it from scratch.
  • Both good sales rep and good sales manager are unlikely to leave the company where they perform and the proper motivation system is in place.


Just understanding and accepting the facts above will allow you to escape illusion.

And it is the best thing you can do. Next, you can either higher people who are trained to develop sales systems or learn yourself.

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