Founder Seeks Pathfinder for Mutually Beneficial Relationship

Rob BakerPathfinder SalesLeave a Comment

picture of two jigsaw pieces

B2B tech founders will find they are best served by considering their all-important first Sales hire, The Pathfinder, as a ‘Comrade-in-Arms’ rather than a pure Sales functionary.

According to Merriam-Webster, a business centric definition of a ‘comrade-in-arms’ is “a person one worked together with to achieve something”. Those few words perfectly encapsulate how B2B tech founders should shift their mindset to one of bringing into their startup a business partner for a journey of discovery. Think of it as a ‘Wingman’ to your ‘Captain’, adept and reliable far beyond serving just one specific purpose, as a sales rep type would.

Your Pathfinder should bring a complementary set of skills to bear, built upon shared vision, values and excitement around the possibilities presented by the niche or disruptive technological proposition, either one that is qualified or yet to be discovered. All too often, as previously outlined in this blog, one recurrent mistake startup founders make is searching for archetypal Sales people, usually those of the Playbook variety:

  • Multiple years of exceeding quota achievements,
  • Extensive sales training courses and certification,
  • Deeply filled rolodex contacts,
  • Blue-chip clients, 
  • Blue-chip employers,
  • Sales recognition awards.

While it is more than conceivable that your Pathfinder could emerge from such a profile, evidence and multiple years of data from various industry surveys suggests otherwise. At The Right Five, our experiences garnered over many decades of working in the high-tech sector, have led us inexorably to the fundamental conclusion for why there is consistent disappointment with the first Sales hire and a lack of success in the startup space, both in bootstrapped businesses as well as those at the seed investment stage…

…Founders, in most cases, place job advertisements for their first Sales hire (whether they know they need a Pathfinder or not) and list out the attributes of a Playbook salesperson, not those of a Pathfinder. The B2B tech startup, by definition, does not yet have a Playbook for selling their tech proposition, ergo why would the Founder be listing out the attributes of a Playbook salesperson to fulfil their need?

It is a major part of the job of a Pathfinder to develop the Playbook that future Playbook salespeople will follow. The Pathfinder role requires, at its core, a person with a set of characteristics and skills that differs markedly from what one might refer to as ‘standard sales’. Such a profile features qualities such as:

  • Curiosity around the challenge of ‘why’ more than ‘what’,
  • Motivation to build something meaningful,
  • Dealing with ambiguity,
  • Maintaining discipline and focus,
  • Tenacity and patience,
  • Positivity and perseverance,
  • Success of the team more than any one individual.

This raises the inevitable question for a Founder: “Given my very limited time and lack of experience of hiring ‘good salespeople’, how on earth do I go about finding and bringing someone with these traits into my business?”

Well, the simple answer is, it’s not easy. However, The Right Five has you covered. Our own B2B startup experience coupled with years of research has codified the required Pathfinder skills into an assessment your candidates can take to identify which of them can be counted as Pathfinders and which cannot.

This assessment and your private dashboard for further analysis of the Pathfinder candidates is available in the cloud. This then enables you to derive the optimal five (or more or fewer, your call) Pathfinder candidates for next stage interview.

Your Pathfinder can be so much more than someone to get your Sales engine up and running. If the journey on which you are about to embark is set up and engaged the right way for sustained success, this Pathfinder will likely evolve to be your trusted confidante, your wise counsel, your Comrade-in-Arms.

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