The Moneyball Approach to Hiring Your First Salespeople

Hiring your first salespeople at a startup is a huge milestone. It’s typically the point where you start building a scalable business that isn’t reliant solely on the founders. Hey, I love selling, but my goal is always to hire people around me that are better than me at various tasks and sales is no exception.

The first step in hiring salespeople is realizing when you need them. In our case, Ideal Candidate is about a year old, we have happy (paying) customers. I can safely say we’re out of beta and ready to hit the road selling. In the movie Moneyball, the Oakland A’s used data and stats to build their baseball team and that’s exactly what we did for our sales team.

This being our second startup, we’ve learned a couple of things. Here are three steps we took to hire our first salespeople at Ideal Candidate using data and science.

1. Find a Success Benchmark

The problem with hiring your first salespeople is that you don’t have a reference of comparison. Who should you hire? What type of skills and experience should they have? With larger companies, they have a roster of salespeople that they can use as benchmarks for hiring. We – and many other companies – have nothing. What we did was find a known top performer. Not just any top performing salesperson, but one who was successful at a startup company with a similar company culture. We were lucky because we used a top performer from our previous company so we knew this person was also a cultural fit who worked well with the size of company we are now. If you don’t have someone in mind, network and ask a VP of Sales. Every VP of Sales can fondly recollect their top performers.

2. Create a Success Benchmark

We sought a top performer to create a benchmark we can use to compare sales candidates against. Our benchmark consists of three sections.

  1. Resume data
  2. Cultural fit data
  3. Psychometric data

Resume data is the typical stuff. What level of education is indicative of success, how much prior experience, etc. Basically everything you can get from a LinkedIn profile. The cultural fit and psychometric data are compiled based on a detailed and accurate questionnaire. Think of these two sections as an eHarmony style questionnaire asking about personality, values, and preferences. We used Ideal Candidate to figure all this out and statistically create the benchmark. You can manually create this as well using a combination of traditional assessments and placing all this data in a spreadsheet.

3. Compare to the Success Benchmark

Once you complete the previous two steps, you’re ready to start sourcing job candidates. At this point you can use traditional methods to source candidates (e.g., job postings, networking, LinkedIn). In our case, we used Ideal Candidate which has thousands of candidates already fully profiled and ready to go. Using a complex algorithm, Ideal Candidate instantly tells us the percentage match of each candidate to the success benchmark. This can all be done manually as well but it gets a bit mathy and tricky.

Outcome = Home Run?

Using our own system, we interviewed 10 people and hired 2 within 3 weeks. The best part was how easy it was. Our new salespeople started in the New Year and they’re off to a great start. We’ll keep you posted on our progress and how our salespeople are doing in the future.

Using gut feel just doesn’t make sense to me, especially because we’re biased to only remember when it was right but forgetting all the times when it was wrong. I’ll pick using data every time. Of course you can hire people the old fashioned way, with zero data, but we see that as gambling with your time and money.

What do you think about our Moneyball approach to hiring our first salespeople?

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Somen Mondal

CEO at Ideal
Somen is the Co-Founder & CEO of Ideal. Prior to Ideal, Somen served as Co-Founder & CEO of Field ID until it was successfully acquired by Master Lock LLC (a subsidiary of NYSE:FBHS) in December 2012. Somen’s leadership has helped earn Field ID a spot on the Profit Hot 50 and Deloitte Fast 50 Companies-to-Watch lists. In 2012, Somen was named winner of the Ontario Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in the “Emerging Entrepreneur” category.