An article from OpenView Ventures found that north of 25% of sales reps will fail in their role. HubSpot found that it takes 18 or more calls for the average salesperson to connect with the average lead. Further, callback rates are south of 1 percent, and less than one in four sales emails are ever opened.
Suffice it to say that effective B2B sales is an uphill battle. As you begin putting together your high-impact sales team, here are five key steps sales leadership should keep in mind.
1. Hire Quality Salespeople from the Outset—and Quickly
As you begin to scale, it is critical that you hire high-quality people from the get-go. Every week that passes without your adding a new account executive to your team is another week where your competitors are making inroads against you.
On the flip side, when you make poor hiring decisions from the beginning, bad things can and will happen. Keep in mind that one bad decision won’t set you back just two or three months of salary expenses. You’ll also incur significant opportunity costs—time you’ll never get back again.
2. Scale by Specialization
One of the biggest characteristics of high-performing sales teams is the fact that they’re filled with individuals that possess complementary sales skills and competencies. The best teams have many highly specialized folks, each of whom brings different selling skills to the table.
For example, a founder or accounts executives might start out doing prospecting, demos, presentations and negotiation. Later, you might add dedicated sales development staff to fill the calendars of these account executives. And as things begin to scale, more account executives are added to the mix followed by dedicated account managers.
As you go through the process, you need to consider your hiring profile, or the raw and professional characteristics you are looking for in your ideal candidate. When it comes to raw characteristics, you might want someone who is a go-getter that gets things done. You might also be interested in competitiveness, coachability, and charisma, among other traits.
From a professional characteristics perspective, you might be looking for someone who is experienced in your industry and has had success working for startups, for example.
Achievement characteristics are another point to consider. Ask for artifacts of the sort of achievement you’re after: quota attainment, activity metrics, and so on. One thing to note, salespeople are used to selling, and spinning data to support their goals—and they will sell you on hiring them.
Lastly, consider avoiding relationship hiring or “hiring a Rolodex.” The notion of hiring a sales professional for his or her Rolodex is a dying one, and this value proposition should by no means excuse the absence of other requirements. Give that position to someone who meets the requirements that are going to drive success.
3. Articulate Your Hiring Profile
Understanding what you’re looking for is one thing. Effectively communicating those desires to candidates is quite another.
Once you’ve determined the exact sales skills and competencies needed from the person you’re trying to hire, take as much time as you need to put together a document that effectively communicates that information. This should help candidates figure out whether they’re the right person for the job—or whether they’d prefer working in a different kind of environment.
Not sure what a hiring profile looks like? Check out this Google Doc from TalentBin for inspiration.
4. Figure Out Where to Look
You know what kind of salesperson you want to hire. Unfortunately, the best candidates are unlikely to proactively pursue your opportunity. In fact, most people who get jobs aren’t looking for them in the first place.
If you want to add the best people to your team, often you need to find them yourself. To do that, you can:
- Work with staffing agencies
- Launch a referral recruiting program, incentivizing employees to successfully recommend people for positions
- Post job descriptions on job boards (e.g., LinkedIn, Craigslist, and Indeed)
- Source candidates yourself using talent search engines (e.g., TalentBin)
For the best results, you’ll want a four-pronged strategy that includes each of these avenues.
5. Optimize Your Screening, Interviewing, and Closing Processes
Believe it or not, many organizations don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish when it comes to screening and interviewing candidates.
At this stage in the game, the key thing to think about is authentication. Your screening and interviewing efforts should help you confirm that the candidates you’ve identified do in fact have the selling skills and sales leadership capabilities you’re looking for.
Here are some tips on how to approach this part of the process the right way:
- Use asynchronous screening processes to save time while getting more information (e.g., a short writing prompt)
- Conduct a quick phone screen to verify the candidate’s “intellectual acumen”
- Ask candidates to research something for no longer than 30 minutes and give a mock presentation
- Have in-person interviews to either pick up something you missed earlier on or help the team build consensus around the new hire
- Check references—both personal references and back-channel references
Once you’ve identified the candidates you prefer, there’s only one thing left to do: Move as quickly as you can to extend an offer. Move too slowly, and there’s a good chance your competitors will gobble your prospect up.
Lastly, once you have a signed offer in hand, move as quickly as possible to generate and maintain momentum. Try not to leave too much time between when the offer is signed and the start date; you don’t want second thoughts to creep in. Check out our “4 Pillars of High-Impact Sales Onboarding & Training” to get a few ideas on how to engage hires between the signed offer phase and start date to best avoid any second-guessing from candidates.
Track Your Sales Team’s Progress
Congratulations! You’ve assembled a rock star team of salespeople—or so you hope. Now it’s time to start measuring their effectiveness by collecting sales performance metrics and continuously improving them.
Trust us: You won’t get these insights anywhere else!