How To Hire Top Talent for Your Sales Team.

Build & Manage a Top-Performing Sales Team — Post #12

Introduction.

After we talked about

  1. How to define your company’s hiring needs,
  2. How to set up your interview process, and
  3. How to get continue checking if your hiring process works,

a few weeks ago, many people started asking, “but how do I get the top talent I need?”

That’s a very good question. The answer is manifold. And, as much as I’d like to tell you that it’s gonna as easy a following a 1, 2, 3 step process, it’s not. Getting to talent hired requires resources, which usually include

  1. Something of Monetary Value,
  2. Individualized Opportunity,
  3. A Strong Network,
  4. Professional Support, and/or
  5. Time.

Okay, let’s dive deeper into these areas! But first, let’s take a quick tour of what won’t work.

a sales manager wasting time trying to hire top sales talent
Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash

How to Waste Your Time Trying to Find Top Talent.

As important as it is to know what to do, it’s also to know what mistakes to avoid. Over the course of my career, I observed the following strategies that I urge you to avoid if you seek top talent.

  1. Job Postings: One thing you must understand with top sales talent is that top sales talent is never seeking employment. They might be seeking new opportunities but a top sales rep or account executive is so valuable that a company usually tries everything to keep them. And, on top of this, they’re swamped with job offers. Chances are that a top-performing sales professional with 10 years of experience hasn’t applied for a job for 9 out of those 10 years.
    So, if you want to get top talent, don’t waste your time with job postings.
  2. Aiming Too High: Be very aware of what your job requirements are. In 90% of cases, the sales talent in need requires very specific skills and needs to be able to not only come up with strategies but execute them.
    But, the market is flooded with executives who have 20 years of experience but during the last 10 years, most of them haven’t done any individual contributions. They managed budgets and people. So, if you’re a smaller company or a team that needs to really sell a product, don’t hire a former Chief Revenue Officer or Sales Director whos 15 years away from retirement.
  3. Telling Top Sales Talent What You Need: This one is a little tricky and requires a bit of reflection. You should have a clear business vision and mission. And, it should be translated into an important strategy. But, the reason why top sales talent has become top sales talent is usually not because they follow rigid processes.
    Top sales talent is smart, independent, and eager to execute; especially on their own ideas. So, when trying to find top sales tales, you need to trust them and give them the freedom to perform at their best.
    Another way to think about this is: oftentimes the reason that you’re looking for top sales talent is that you don’t know how to do the job yourself. So, let them help you.

Okay, but let’s not get into the “how to get top sales talent” part.

Someone being happy about money
Photo by Visual Stories || Micheile on Unsplash

#1 — Something of Monetary Value.

As we learned above, top sales talent is never in need of a job. And, as we learned in our economics classes or on YouTube, the law of supply and demand is very real. And, top sales talent is a scarce resource.

And, scarce resources are expensive. Especially in sales, think about it:

  1. Top salespeople know how much they’re worth. They make the deals. They see the numbers. They make the numbers.
  2. Top salespeople know how crucial they are. Without them, the company won’t make money.
  3. Top salespeople know how scarce they are. They’re getting all the offers all the time.
  4. Top salespeople are naturally competitive. So, they’re consistently watching out for the best deal for themselves.

So, if you want to hire a great salesperson, you’ll need to pay good money for it. There is no way around it.

However, if you can’t afford that because you’re a small start-up or because your company is going through some rough years, you can get creative and compensate them differently:

  1. Offer a Stake in Your Company: Oftentimes founders are afraid to give up company shares, but take a moment and think about it. Do you rather have 100% of nothing or 99.7% of something really valuable? The numbers, of course, depend on the size of your company. But, most sales professionals, highly value stakes in a company because they themselves can influence the worth of what they own.
    You can use this as a guide on how much you might wanna offer
    Startup (ideation): 20%
    Startup (product-market fit): 5%
    Small company / Startup Series A: 1–2%
    Medium-sized company / Startup Series B: 0.5%
  2. Offer Great Boni: Okay, you don’t have money right now but you also struggle to get any deals? Okay, offer your potential sales hire 20% commissions if you can afford it. Let them help you get the sales engine started. Sometimes it’s all you need. But, make sure that you’re economical and don’t lose money on the deal.

As a general closing though on monetary incentives: if you catch yourself trying to save money on great salespeople, you can be sure that you won’t get them hired. They’re experts at making great deals. (And, if they can’t convince you to pay their worth, they most likely won’t be able to convince your clients, ergo they’re not top sales talent.)

You don’t make bargains on hiring top sales talent, you make fair deals.

Opportunity being created for an individual sales hire
Photo by Rupert Britton on Unsplash

#2 — Individualized Opportunity.

Sure, top sales talent cares about money, but something they care about equally is opportunity for growth.

Again, sales is very competitive and transparent. Therefore, it attracts people who have an execution mindset.

But, the world is not always colorful and perfect for great sales talent. They might be trapped in a company that is so full of talent that getting a promotion is very hard.

They might be stuck selling a product that bores them by now.

Great sales talent is oftentimes looking for new opportunities. And, most of them want to be in charge of their own success. So, when hiring great sales talent, it makes a ton of sense to consider the following things in your strategy:

  1. Can You Offer Them a Promotion? Would coming to your company make them go from account executive to Chief of Revenue?
  2. Can You Help Them Rise in Status? Again, salespeople don’t only sell products, they also promote themselves. Becoming a quasi-co-founder of the next Unicorn startup might be much more appealing than being one of many account executives at Google.
  3. Does Your Offer Give Them More Power? Would they be in charge of a product, a team of 30 reps, and the overall strategy?
  4. Does Your Offer Give Them More Freedom? Salespeople work hard but they’re also just human beings. Does your company offer them more paid days off, more time with their family? Remote work opportunities? They’re making their money for a reason besides just loving it?

But, remember, I said “individualized opportunity” in the title. If you hire top sales talent, it’s not about you deciding if you wanna hire them. It’s about both o you having conversations and defining the opportunity at hand.

So, ask them what they really strive for and need. Figure out what drives them. Help them create the opportunity that they’re looking for.

An account executive building her network
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

#3 — A Strong Network.

So, maybe this thought has been in your head ever since I mentioned that you won’t get great salespeople through job postings: “How the heck do I do it then?”

The answer is very simple: network.

I only know of a few great salespeople who were hired in any other way.

Sure, some people send out messages and try to get the attention of salespeople. But that won’t work either. It’s gonna feel like a cheap sales pitch to them. And, they dislike cheap sales pitches. They’re professionals. They’ll spot what you’re doing and they won’t like it.

If you want to hire a great sales professionals, you need to get to know people in the sales scene in your very specific industry.

You need to speak to people and figure out who is looking for opportunities. You need to gain people’s trust, so that they make introductions. You need to work your network. And, I’m sorry to say. This takes time.

Oftentimes, it even works like this: you get to know a good sales rep, you stay in touch with them over years, they develop into a truly great account executive, you cultivate the relationship, and some 4 years after you met them, you hire them.

A headhunter pointing an account executive towards a new job opportunity
Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

#4 — Professional Support.

Life is easier if you have money. And, the only way to accelerate #3 is to have money and hire a professional head-hunting agency. You basically pay for them to help you define the right compensation (#1), identify the perfect opportunity (#2), and then tap into their network (#3).

There’s not much more to say other than: a great head-hunting firm will also cost you great money.

When picking one make sure that

  1. They have expertise in your industry,
  2. They are trusted by others and can give your references,
  3. They individualize the process for you,
  4. They don’t appear to be under time pressure,
  5. Everything feels absolutely professional.
Time is required to hire top sales talent.
Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

#5 — Time.

And, I’m sorry to break this to you. But, a great sales hire never happens within a short time frame. Just think about it.

  1. A Top Sales Talent Is Never Unemployed: So, they’ll need to evaluate their options. They won’t just quit their job and join your company.
  2. A Top Sales Talent Has Integrity and Responsibility: Great salespeople usually work for great companies. Therefore, even if they decide to leave them, they won’t just jump overboard and let the ship sink. They’ll show integrity to their current firm, and agree on a transition period.
  3. Hiring Top Sales Talent Requires Individualization: You won’t just talk once or twice, you’ll most likely have multiple conversations to shape the understanding of your offer.
  4. Hiring Through a Network Takes Time to Build the Network: No matter how you frame it or twist it. In the end, most great sales hires are network hires. And building a network takes time and building a relationship with every single person within this network takes time.

So, no matter what you do, hiring top sales talent will always cost you time and require patience of you.

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

Conclusion.

With this, I hope you’re inspired to start to build your sales network and your relationships. I hope you’ll understand not to rush it but still be very strategic about finding the right people and talking to them about what matters most to them.

If you follow the advice above, I’m very sure that you’ll eventually find the perfect candidate who’ll help you reach tremendous growth.

About the Author.

Teddy Lange is a co-founder at Resonaid and is responsible for business development and customer experience. Before joining Resonaid, he’s been a Sales Rep and Junior Sales Manager, and co-founded various companies. He has just finished his graduate degree in Public Policy with a focus on communication at Harvard University. Feel free to reach out to him at teddy@resonaid.co.

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