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  • Nitya Kirat

3 Pitfalls of Hiring the "Rolodex Salesperson"

A big challenge that most B2B SaaS companies encounter is in picking their first few sales people. It's a HUGE decision, and one that more often than not, doesn't pan out the first time, at a serious cost of money and time wasted.

Some tech startups look for salespeople with a Rolodex for their early hires, which seems like the easiest path, but isn't always a good idea.

Below are 3 reasons why hiring a Rolodex salesperson may not be wise for your company:

1. Their contacts might be happy with what the previous company is selling them

It is unlikely that the prospect (former client of the salesperson) will change from a company offering them excellent services to a company they do not know (your company) just because the salesperson has switched companies. It might be the same person who made the decision to go with the previous vendor, and doesn't want to go back to their team and say "they were wrong".

2. The salesperson has forgotten the science and art of "hunting"

A "Rolodex salesperson" boasts of "plenty of contacts", which they have worked for several years to build. So what happens after they try sell to their Rolodex? A "Rolodex salesperson" will no longer be effective once they use up their favors among their Rolodex. They will have to revert to the skill of hunting, a skill they have long forgotten and might not be enthusiastic about.

3. What you are selling might be very different from what they have sold before

A "Rolodex salesperson" with great success from their former brand might not transfer the success to your brand, especially if they are not familiar with it. A salesperson who has had success calling and saying, "I'm with Microsoft/Amazon/Google/Goldman Sachs/Bank of America/Salesforce etc." is used to a different conversation than someone calling from a startup or smaller company without that brand recognition.

As a business owner, you should not be fooled by the valuable client contacts that a "Rolodex salesperson" has promised, as they might not necessarily bring the returns you're hoping for.

One way to to mitigate this is to prove out the sale process yourself. If you can prove the sales process out, you're in a more powerful position to build the right sales team. Technical founders who build selling competency themselves increase the likelihood of success, with a steeper revenue ramp, and better chances of their next raise.


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