Order takers versus order makers

I have to admit that hiring excellent sales people is not an easy task.  Any sales person worth his weight can pitch with the best of them, articulate a strong value proposition, and demonstrate a nice track record of success.  I like to look at past experiences on a sale person’s resume and a history of overachievement.  All that being said, I have also had plenty of sales managers come in the door with all of the criteria but just flail.  Some have ridden a hot product in a hot market and others for some reason just cannot make the transition from one company to another or one market to another.  One of the fundamental criteria that any startup needs to look for is hunger.  If you are a sales rep at an early stage company with no name, no brand, and an unproven product, you better be hungry, make your calls, schedule your meetings and not take no for an answer.  What this boils down for me is the difference between "order takers" and "order makers."  In one of my portfolio companies we thought we hired the best team with significant industry experience having ramped up a startup to a successful IPO.  What happened, in my mind and the CEO’s mind, is that they got fat and happy.  At the peak of their success from the prior company the sales team had performed so well that they transitioned from order making to order taking.  Instead of going out and playing the numbers game-doing the dirty work, making the calls, and having the meetings, they expected resellers and customers to come to them.  They expected the fax machine to ring with orders.  They went elephant hunting in search of the big win which proved to be elusive or too lenghty an endeavor.  So whatever you do when you hire your next group of sales reps, make sure they have the qualifications but more importantly make sure that they have the hunger and desire to win.  Make sure that you have "order makers" and not "order takers."

Published by Ed Sim

founder boldstart ventures, over 20 years experience seeding and leading first rounds in enterprise startups, @boldstartvc, googlization of IT, SaaS 3.0, security, smart data; cherish family time + enjoy lacrosse + hockey

10 comments on “Order takers versus order makers”

  1. Here is a challenge question: How do you migrate to new biz dev guys without destroying in progress relationship cycles? Biz dev (Channel dev) aren’t able to close deals. However, they are good at generating interest. What’s an entrepreneur to do?

  2. The new sales team has been on the ground for 2 quarters. Sales is a metrics game-feed the funnel with qualified leads (marketing helps), get meetings, determine need and budget, etc. So from that perspective the numbers at the top are improving and the sales are beginning to improve. The first quarter was pretty much flat (transitioning existing deals, etc) but the second quarter is already showing nice progress.

  3. Was sales leadership in place, or was the sales team being managed by the CEO?

  4. Ed – Wonderful blog and couldn’t agree more on finding ‘order makers’. In fact, I’ve spent about 18 years working on that very issue. From college, I’ve climbed the sales success ladder into sales management of Fortune companies and did two start-ups before finally starting my own company – “helping companies measure and predict people performance”. In all my hundreds of hirings and firings the question you raise is amazingly complex. The old notion of great sales people can sell ‘anything’ is completely false. It all depends on the type of product being sold – is it a relationship/long sell? Short sales cycle/transactional? Technical v. conceptual? As you mention, making ‘new’ sales calls v. working established accounts or taking orders? All much more complex than people give it credit for. For that matter, it doesn’t just apply to sales people. Our start-ups were crushed by the inefficiency of our leadership core. We had CIO’s & CEO’s coming from Fortune backgrounds who couldn’t adapt to the run & gun start-up environment. People are a combination of their backgrounds, knowledge and success behaviors. It is in ‘cracking the code’ of success of a particular person that one can answer with greater certainty – am I getting an ‘order maker’. A quest of which I have devoted my company towards. Thanks for your article!!

Comments are closed.