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The Winning Formula to Hiring A-Players

David Duncan

December 19th, 2016

Imagine this scenario; we’ve all been there: The pressure’s on from the CEO to grow the sales team and hit aggressive growth targets, and you have only a few weeks to hire a whole bunch of new reps to ensure that the quota reached. To make matters worse, you don’t have any budget for any recruitment agencies or in-house recruiters. This situation is common, especially in the first few years of the growth phase.

In your gut, you know the worst thing you can do is make a rush hire, but the heat is on, and to not quickly put bums on seats would look like a sign of incompetence. You put the job ad out onto multiple platforms and the CV’s start trickling in. The reps you interview seem great on paper and interview well. You make the hires, but from day one the warning signs start to appear for a few of the reps. It’s too late, you’ve made the hires and have begun the training and onboarding process. By month three, some of the reps are still struggling to get their first sale over the line, and by month six it’s just not working out, and you have to put them on a performance plan or let them go. All in all, the entire recruitment and onboarding process for the reps that didn’t make the final cut has wasted hundreds of hours of training and thousands of dollars in time and pipeline loss. Research shows that the cost of a mis-hire can be anything upwards of $100,000 depending on your industry, average deal size, and the amount of training required.

With high costs so evident, why do organizations continue to make bad hires? Well, CareerBuilder.com looked into this, and 67% of bad hiring was down to either needing to fill the job quickly or going into the process with insufficient talent intelligence.

So, how can you avoid the pitfalls of a bad hire? How can you look beyond the CV and the great interview sales technique?

I’ll show you how we do it at Epos Now below.  One of the biggest challenges in growing the business organically (without VC funding) from 0 to 300 employees and $0 to $30m in 5 years is that it’s not always been possible to spend thousands of dollars on recruitment agencies or heavily experienced sales professionals.

I have carried out or been involved in at least 500 interviews over the last five years at Epos Now, and after every new hire, I look to tweak the recruitment process slightly to ensure we recruit only the best sales talent.

The first step in my process after an initial CV sift, and telephone screen is the face-to-face interview. Rather than just relying on previous experience or interview sales technique, I am looking to score the candidate out of 50 on the following ten characteristics. Here is an example scorecard that I’ve completed:

sh-chart

1 – Unsuitable / Poor

2 – Did not meet expectations

3 – Average / Might have concerns

4 – Meets Expectations / Good

5 – Superstar / Exceeded Expectations

Anything under 34 – consider for rejection.

Here are some of the example questions under a few of the above characteristic sections that I ask throughout the interview process to highlight potential A-players.

Preparation

  • Which of our products interest you most? Why?
  • Which two of the following do you consider our closest competitors?
  • In what year was our company founded?
  • If you had only thirty seconds, how would you explain what we do to someone you met in an airport/coffee shop/etc.?
  • Why a sales career? Why here?

Previous Success

  • What figures were you hitting in your previous role?
  • Describe your typical sales cycle? (most recent role or most relevant example)

Competitiveness & Results orientated

  • Where are you currently competing in with friends? Where are you in the ranking?
  • What is your greatest achievement? What puts that above the others? What did you learn from that experience
  • What goals have you set for yourself this year? What have you done to hit them? How did you go about setting these goals

Passion

  • Tell me about something you love to do and why?

Coachability

  • Who’s the best coach you’ve ever had in your life and why? What did they teach you? How can you apply those lessons to your job?
  • Tell me about a time you failed or something didn’t quite go your way. How did you come back from it?

Cultural fit

  • Conduct the “canoe test.” In other words, if they were in a canoe with you for a day, would you push them out?[1]
  • Have them sit with the sales team for an hour or so and step away to observe their behavior, how they interact with others socially, whether they ask questions/take notes and whether they are engaged

There are some authorities out there that place more weight on one characteristic than another. Mark Roberge in his book, The Sales Acceleration Formula, puts more weight on the following three characteristics in particular: coachability, intelligence and passion. However, some of my best reps have never been the most “intelligent” on paper or even that passionate. I do however believe that coachability is one of the most important factors, combined with a sickening work ethic and drive for their career progression. Overall, as long as you take nuances like this into account and followed this above process each time, 90% of the time it will provide you with a much better idea of whether they’d be a good fit for your team or not compared to a “gut-feeling” technique.

Closing out, the above process is one I’ve followed diligently over the last couple of years and has provided Epos Now with the following three positive outcomes:

  1. Reduced involuntary attrition by 50%
  2. Decreased ramp-up time from 5 months to 2 months
  3. Increase average rep performance by 30%

P.S. If you like what you just read, will you please share this article so that others might stumble upon this process?


[1] Mark Roberge – The Sales Acceleration Formula

[2] Trish Bertuzzi – The Sales Development Playbook

About the author

David Duncan

David Duncan is an award winning VP of sales for the 13th fastest growing Tech company in the UK and fastest growing POS company in the world (all organically funded, no VC!). Results driven sales leader with a proven track record of 156% annual growth for 4 years in the UK before spearheading the US expansion in 2016 with 1,300% organic growth YTD. Contact David at david.duncan@eposnow.com

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