Square Is Avoiding Hiring Salespeople

Square CFO Sarah Friar at the 2013 Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet ConferenceSquare CFO Sarah Friar at the 2013 Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference

Photo: Owen Thomas, Business Insider

Square is expanding at breakneck speed, doubling its workforce to 1,000 this year as it moves into a new headquarters.But CFO Sarah Friar says she wants nothing to do with hiring sales personnel.

“I’m least excited about the day that I have to hire a salesperson,” Friar told a room full of investors at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco Tuesday. “I will push that out as long as humanly possible.”

Traditional payments companies have used feet on the street—or voices on the telephone—to sign up customers for credit-card processing. Even innovators like Swipely are hiring salespeople to drum up business.

Square’s doing things differently. It distributes its iconic card reader in 65,000 retail stores, including Starbucks locations, thanks to a broad deal Square struck with the coffee giant last year.

Friar said that Starbucks, in particular, has proven to be a good venue for getting its service in front of “micromerchants” starting new businesses—since they use the free Wi-Fi at Starbucks to get their ventures off the ground.

Once a business has a reader, Square uses sophisticated analytics not just to get their account approved, but on an ongoing basis to understand what makes some merchants get active with Square. One tell-tale sign: When a restaurant or cafe starts adding menu items to Square’s Register app.

On Tuesday, Square announced that it had signed up Blue Bottle, an Oakland, Calif.-based coffee chain with 11 locations.

Friar also confirmed that Square had a deal with Burberry, the British retailer, for Square payments. Square’s directory lists three Burberry locations in San Francisco and New York as accepting payments.  

Friar said the company was hoping to do more deals like that with midsized businesses.

“Six to seven months ago, it was all about the micromerchant,” Friar said.

The challenge is that those businesses may expect higher levels of support than Square provides. Square doesn’t typically offer telephone support. Most inquiries are fielded by the website or email, and Friar, who runs the support team, says they get answered in “four to five hours.”

That’s not going to please businesses doing a large volume of sales when their iPad or iPhone running Square goes down, or the Wi-Fi goes out.

So does Square really get by without salespeople? We searched LinkedIn and found a handful of employees who listed their function as “sales,” though they typically had job titles like “business operations” or “custom engagement.”

Likewise, Square’s career site lists “business development” and “support” jobs—nothing in sales.

Interestingly, Square makes it easy to apply for creative or engineering jobs with big buttons that encourage applicants to “get in touch.” That’s missing from its page listing business jobs.

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