If your company has recently tried to recruit inside sales talent, then you’re probably already keenly aware that competition for all-star reps has never been fiercer.
This is the result of a veritable explosion in inside sales hiring over recent years, motivated by data showing that inside (or remote) sales teams offer exponential returns compared with traditional outside sales teams. Great inside sales reps are therefore in high demand, and I’ve seen many companies struggle to expand sales teams quickly while recruiting reps with the acumen necessary to hit quotas.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to quickly hire inside sales reps, it’s important to adopt the right recruitment strategy. To that end, here's a collection of best practices.
1. Don’t hire a vice president of sales too soon. A lot of companies’ first hire for the sales team is a vice president of sales, but this person rarely lasts 12 months. It’s expected that this sales VP will single handedly expand the pipeline exponentially. But a great sales vice president has to be much more than a good salesperson. He or she has to be a great manager who needs to know how to recruit the right talent, roll out the right strategies and coach reps to attain success. Recruiting the perfect vice president of sales for your company can be a long process; I’ve seen it take more than a year.
While a company is looking for the right sales vice president, it often makes sense for founders to lead initial sales efforts. Founders can simultaneously hone their pitch while acquiring valuable information from customers that helps them swiftly achieve a product-market fit. Then recruit account executives with a bit less experience, as well as dedicated prospectors and lead response reps to create opportunities for your closers.
2. Hire great listeners. Being able to pitch well doesn’t necessarily make a sales rep great. The best inside sales reps are terrific at listening to prospects’ pain points and understanding them before launching into a sales pitch. That means that often the best sales reps are the ones who talk the least. As a litmus test, see if reps just talk about themselves during an interview or if they ask questions and listen intently to your answers.
3. Find reps who thrive on competition. One of the most important things to look for when hiring new reps is the will to win. According to Jeremy Turpen, a top recruiter at Wavestaff, “It's important to identify what's really motivating your candidate. It's not always money. Successful inside salespeople often have a strong desire to be a top performer, have a large impact at their company or realize the potential for career growth. In other words -- to win.” Given this, it’s no surprise that some of the best sales reps are former athletes.
4. Hire reps with industry-specific experience. The common logic is that a great salesperson can sell anything. With enough time, that may very well be true. But time is not a luxury that most companies have when setting up a new inside-sales rep team. If you want to ramp up reps quickly, recruit salespeople who have already sold products or services similar to those you offer. A rep might sell cars better than anyone on Earth, but that doesn’t mean she can walk into a business-to-business software company and start closing deals right away. Find someone who really understands your industry.
5. Build a working sales process before scaling up the size of the team. I always caution clients to try to build a working sales process prior to increasing the staff. In Predictable Revenue, Aaron Ross describes how at Salesforce, he built and perfected a new process prior to adding to his team. The results were $100 million in recurring revenue, a figure that might not have been attained if he had scaled up too soon. If you can, start small and try to find sales processes that work. Understand the composition of your customer base and how to effectively address consumers’ pain points. When you know what works, then you can step on the gas.