Imagine you are selling a $100,000+ product and you yourself as CEO/founders have limited knowledge selling to the customer base. You’ll be very tempted to hire someone with a seemingly magical rolodex.
What doesn’t work for sure is hiring someone with (x) no domain expertise who also (y) has also only sold small (e.g, $10k) deals. That’s a Double No.
Because reps with a lot of industry experience in bigger deals don’t always quite have the rolodex they claim — but they often can bring you at least 1 or 2 strong leads. At $1k a year, so what? But at $250k a year, those two ringer deals can more than justify the hire.
Rarely have I seen a sales rep’s enterprise rolodex from past jobs really bring in more than a couple of deals. But I have seen those couple of deals alone be worth millions over the lifetime of those customers. I’ve experienced that myself. So my vote is to try both in the early days, if the ACV is large.
- Hire the best AE you can find with deep industry experience and see if she can quickly bring in 1–2 strong, qualified opportunities from her network. Even if she isn’t great for your company at this stage … those 1–2 deals may be.
- And also hire the best AE you can find just with general experience at your price point. You’ll end up hiring a “better” rep here because you won’t cut her or him slack for the domain expertise.
See who does better. Maybe both perform.
For highly transactional sales, ignore this advice. Too many leads, too much velocity, for the rolodex to matter. And domain expertise without a rolodex? You can pick that up in 60 days.
But running a quick experiment on if a seasoned AE can bring in 1–2 big names, at least as far as a qualified opportunity? It’s not that expensive, not really. Just be careful about judging the experiment quickly. That qualified opportunity from her rolodex should come fast it she really build a few strong customers relationships in her past roles.
Just judge the experiment fairly quickly, and make sure The Other AE you hire is even stronger. Don’t just hire one. More on that here:
(Cross-posted @ SaaStr)