Word always travels fast when a company is doing well, and
growing quickly. The flood of resumes can be overwhelming. No matter what roles
you want to fill, you’re certain to be glutted with hundreds of applicants—many
of whom will be highly qualified. The tendency of small companies that need to
ramp up quickly is to hire quickly. For some positions, this works. For sales
hires, it does not.
Speaking from experience, having managed sales teams for
several high growth, tech companies, it is worth your time and money to create
a well-defined process for recruiting, hiring and onboarding new sales hires.
These men and women will be the face of your company. Sales ability is
important, but you also need a salesperson who has the right qualities to
execute your growth plan and believes in what you’re doing. You also need to
give them the knowledge and tools to be successful.
In this two-part series I’ll share a 3-step approach for
planning, hiring and onboarding your sales team that will ensure success.
Step 1: Build a Pre-Hiring
Before you start building your sales team it’s important to have
a game plan that is driven by facts, not by a gut feel or based on what the
competition is doing. Deciding you need a sales team to cover Chicago just because
your competitor does is not the right approach. Decisions about how many sales
people you need, when you need them and where they need to be geographically
located should be a data-driven process tied to specific objectives and goals.
Once you know what you need, it’s time to find the
Step 2: Get Ready to
Sell the Salesman
- Draft the job description. Be specific
about the qualities you need that go beyond just strong sales performance. If
your sales strategy targets specific industries you’ll have better success with
someone who has prior experience and contacts in that industry.
- Look for talent on your own. Don’t wait
for prospects to come to you. Identify companies that are similar to your own
company—members of their sales team may be actively looking for a new
- Use recruiters. Whether it’s an in-house
or a contracted recruiter, these experts can identify, pursue and screen candidates
usually more effectively and quickly than your HR department. It’s money well
- Prepare your sales pitch. Have a strong story
about your recruiting process and your company when speaking with sales
candidates. Prospective hires want to know what you’re looking for, where
you’re going, and what to expect during the hiring process.
- Build your interview process. Don’t be
afraid to enforce a rigorous interview process for sales candidates. I suggest four
visits—2 phone interviews, 1 in-person interview, and then a final review where
the candidate provides a mock sales presentation. Investing the time upfront to
thoroughly vet your candidates ensures a good fit for both parties.
The Importance of Culture
It’s been my experience that companies often look at sales
people as individual contributors. As such, they are less likely to screen sales
candidates against a company’s core values. This is a mistake.
Management consultant Peter Drucker once uttered the now
famous quote, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” His colloquialism speaks
to the reality that great strategies can be resisted by strong cultures. Too
often, companies faced with high growth pressures jump quickly on salespeople
who meet the job description, and in the process fail to determine if the
person is a good fit with their company.
I speak from firsthand experience, having hired a
salesperson because I was blinded by his performance. It wasn’t until I’d
invested considerable time and money to train him and get him in the field that
it became clear he wasn’t a good fit. If a sales hire’s personality and values
don’t align with your company’s core values they’ll lack true passion for your
business. They’ll question the company’s strategy, their performance will suffer,
they’ll become unhappy, and eventually leave the company.
If you already have an approach for vetting new hires for
cultural fit—great!—just make sure it extends to sales hires. If you don’t,
it’s worth the time to put one in place.
In my second installment, I’ll discuss step three –
onboarding your new sales hires. Stay tuned.