Recruiting sales reps at a startup is so important that, David Skok, entrepreneur turned VC, considers recruitment the third critical startup skill.
I’ve helped hundreds of customers hire sales reps at their own companies, and these are the top 3 mistakes I see startups make when recruiting sales reps summarized in an infographic below.
Mistake #1: Going with your gut when it’s not backed up by data
I hear it all the time – hiring managers say “I just don’t think they are a fit” which is code for “I don’t like them.” This is controversial, but I don’t think you should recruit using gut feel. Why not? When it comes to recruiting sales reps, your gut has a 50% failure rate.
Instead, use data to recruit sales reps
Try to focus on results of a personality assessment to measure fit, experience at your average deal size, experience beating quota, and the requirements of the sales role such as outbound prospecting or running renewals.
Mistake #2: Focusing on domain experience
The problem with recruiting sales reps based on domain experience is that prior experience isn’t that highly correlated with future performance. In some cases, previous domain experience can even hurt because a sales rep can get stuck in their selling methods and fail to adapt to a new environment.
Instead, assess job-related selling skills
You can choose to train new fundamental sales skills or domain knowledge. As long as the sales rep is smart and adaptable, he or she can quickly learn the domain knowledge required for the role. So if you need a hunter, find a prospecting champ, if you need a farmer, find a renewal expert.
Mistake #3: Making assumptions based on a sales rep’s resume
When it comes to assessing a sales rep’s resume, the number one thing people focus on tends to be the title of their last position. But this is can be misleading. For example, they might have the job title “Sales Development Manager” and you might think they’re overqualified for your Account Executive role. Except, the sales candidate is an individual contributor but the company they work for likes to put “manager” in their job titles.
Instead, collect other sources of data on the sales rep
Data such as the sales rep’s personality, selling style, company culture preferences, and salary expectations are more correlated with selling success than the limited information you can extract from a resume.
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