Hiring the first few salespeople is a very big deal for small SaaS vendors as it can often make or break their success.
A big part of what we do at Rev. Engine is to help CEOs of emerging SaaS vendors build a solid foundation for new salespeople to thrive upon while we sell on their behalf.
Here are some facts:
- 90% of Tech Start-ups Fail (Forbes and Medium)
- Cost of hiring a new salesperson is 150% relative to their base salary (Excluding holidays, statutory leave, sick leave, and the cost of hiring the wrong salesperson).
- 6 months is the average time it takes for a new salesperson to be productive. Provided sales enablement capability in place. In small vendors, this is often much longer or never happening due to hiring the wrong candidate, lack of on-boarding, lack of time and metrics.
- 84% of reps achieve quota at companies with best-in-class sales enablement strategies (Aberdeen).
- 32% of organizations say over the next 12 months, sales enablement will be their top marketing priority (HubSpot).
- Organizations that track engagement have cut their sales cycles by 18% (Aberdeen).
I have been in sales for longer than I care to remember, I’ve seen all sort of training programs, but one ex-employer was remarkably good at recruiting relatively junior and cheap salespeople and turning them into revenue machines. Working for that organisation was one of the best experiences of my career and a fantastic achievement. Those days formed the basis of what Rev. Engine is today. I want to share with you what are the main four criteria such organisation used when it came to recruit the ideal sales candidate, of which only 3% got the job:
This is the most important characteristic of a salesperson, it’s what keeps us going in the darkest times of daily rejection, it makes us stand up after every fall. This company would try to understand if you were a driven individual by gauging what made you tick, what you wanted to achieve in life, by when, what was your plan to get there, etc. They would then try to make a clear connection between you achieving your quota (making the required number of daily cold calls, emails, discovery meetings booked, demos delivered, etc) and you achieving your wildest dreams. This might sound like a psychological war game, but it’s greatly beneficial, helps us be in control and increases the chances of achieving our objectives. As Tony Robbins said, “in order to achieve success, we must first be able to define it”. Understand what drives your candidate and make a connection with your sales quota. Ensure you give them the rights tools and put the right metrics in place to measure performance, identify areas for improvement and provide training accordingly. You will be amazed at the results.
This is also an important factor. I have seen companies hire senior salespeople with 20 years of experience who managed to sale almost nothing, moreover, the guys would distract sales and marketing from their objectives as everybody wanted to help the “sales gurus” a trans-Atlantic pipeline with deals of at least 7 digits that never closed. The problem was assuming that the sales gurus didn’t need training and that they could sell for a small vendor in spite of coming from a big company. I have also seen entire teams of salespeople leave the company after only a few months; relationships with management had started to deteriorate due to lack of deals closed, the real culprit here was management and their lack early warning KPI (number of weekly emails, calls, etc.) to spot issues early and training mechanisms to address the areas that needed improvement (e.g. lead generation techniques). Don’t go overboard looking for an expensive sales guru, have a look at the requirements of your competitors (jobs descriptions) and work backwards. It’s much more effective to hire relatively junior salespeople with some sales experience and give them the onboarding, sales methodologies, sales process, tools and training they need to be successful. Also, make sure you know your numbers, how many calls per day do you need to make to close a deal? If you know that you must make 100 calls/emails to close a 50K deal in 6 months, then you can monitor early sales performance, if you see they aren’t hitting the KPI, you will have spotted an area of improvement.
Obviously nobody wants a dumb salesperson but, the point here is that the salesperson must be able to read the room, understand who’s present, understand their wants and needs, etc. Good salespeople must relate to buyers and vice versa. Conducting role plays during the hiring process can help you identify this.
Are you trying to get a bunch of guys in their early twenties wearing hoodies to convince a 50 odd CIO to change their strategy and point of view with? Think again, no challenger sales methodology is going to help here. Ultimately, the sales professional you should look for, should look, talk, walk and behave like the people you want them to sell to.
Looking back, I remember that I used to feel so frustrated, the pressure was so intense; their culture of excellence, their no limits mindset, in my years in that organisation often I would leave my desk almost in tears of frustration but, I also made some of my most significant achievements. People say that two years in that company equate to an MBA and, judging by my transformation (from a relatively junior salesperson of very transactional and price sensitive commodity products, to selling strategic services to CEOs that would help them achieve their ambitious growth targets), I believe it’s true.
Hiring the right sales guy is no easy task, it takes time and effort and it might even make sense to hire more than one person at the time (if your budget allows it) to create a bit of healthy competition and see what works for you. Regardless, taking a long hard look at your company, your most successful salespeople, your competitor’s job descriptions and LinkedIn profiles and applying the above criteria, can give you a good head start and increase your chances of success.
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