Hiring a new sales person—it’s expensive, time-consuming and stressful.
What happens if you hire the wrong person?
It’s not just the six months of salary and benefits that you lose to an unproductive rep.
You also lose the time and energy spent to recruit, hire, and train the new person.
And the weeks or months of selling time that this unproductive person occupied on your team, selling time you can’t recover.
Then there are some hidden costs. Loss of competitive edge on deals where you were outsold. Lower morale on the sales team.
Hiring the wrong sales person costs time, resources, and loss of opportunity.
How do you hire the right person?
If hiring on “gut feel” is the wrong way, what is the right way?
Which characteristics do you look for?
What should you ask during the interview?
When you hire sales people that achieve their goals and succeed, how can you repeat that success?
Mark Roberge asked all these questions when he came to Hubspot
When Roberge came to Hubspot, he had an engineer’s outlook. He knew hiring on gut feel would not lead to success for a fast-growing software company.
In an interview with David Skok, Roberge explained that his goal at Hubspot was “predictable, scalable revenue growth.” His hiring strategy was to “hire the same type of successful sales person.”
Roberge wanted a reliable method to hire the right person every time.
Make a list of the characteristics you think are most important.
Roberge began with this question: “What are the characteristics I should look for in a new hire for sales?”
If Roberge knew which characteristics to look for, then he could hire the right sales person every time. He could predict which people to hire by the characteristics they reveal during the recruiting process.
But if you are just starting, how do you even know which characteristics to look for? Roberge began by making his best guess.
In a Harvard Business Review article, Roberge explains that he “drew up a list of twelve criteria that I thought would correlate with success in the sales role.”
He weighted each characteristic and put the list on a card. When he interviewed candidates, he rated them on each of the characteristics.
Roberge emphasizes that the characteristics he used won’t apply to every company. Instead, he says, focus on a process which produces the right mix of characteristics for your company.
The important take away here is the process to get at the answer, not the answer shown above. Every sales context is different. Every buyer persona is different. As a result, the ideal sales person for your company’s context will likely be different than our profile at HubSpot.
Set goals for your sales people.
Roberge then established three criteria for success in a rep.
- Average quota attainment %
- PPR – Productivity per Rep
- LTV – Lifetime Value of the customers who subscribed to Hubspot software
He tracked how well each sale person performed against these criteria.
Analyze which characteristics were most predictive of success
At the end of the first year, Roberge looked at which characteristics correlated most highly with the desired sales outcomes.
After 12 months, 500 interviews, and 20 hires, I hired a graduate student from MIT to run a regression analysis, correlating the interview scores to success in our sales funnel. This was the foundation of our own personalized predictive index. By repeating this analysis every 6 to 12 months, we continually fine-tuned the index to our business. Today, as we hire 5 to 10 sales reps per month, I sleep better knowing this process is established.
Learning through regression and iteration
Over time Roberge added other characteristics to his list. He continued to test which characteristics best correlated with sales performance and modified his list accordingly.
He also had some surprises. For example, he learned over time that “coachability” was highly correlated with the performance outcomes, so he began recruiting people with this characteristic.
You can hire the right sales person every time
Most companies screen and hire candidates based on “gut feel.” They have no way of quantifiably tying their observations during the interview to the future performance of the candidate.
But you don’t have to be like most companies. If you use Mark Roberge’s three step process, you’ll learn the characteristics to look for in new salespeople for your company.