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Building to Scale, 'No Experience Required'

This SaaS company realized that recent grads outperformed sales pros with 10 to 15 years' experience. That prompted the company to radically transform its hiring process.
Building to Scale, 'No Experience Required'
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Last year, my partner and I raised $3 million to scale JumpCrew, our social marketing and sales outsourcing business. Our first task: sharing our ideal hiring profile with the new recruitment team. 

Related: Why, and How, to Hire for Potential Over Experience

JumpCrew wasn't our first venture. Over the past seven years, we have hired hundreds of salespeople for JumpCrew, LocalVox and other clients. And during this period, the composition of our teams and our ideal profile of a top performer have both materially changed.

What started as a surprising observation about top performers turned into a fascinating discovery, one which performance data ultimately supported and one which re-shaped our hiring strategy. Last October, that discovery helped us set our 12-month hiring goals and define our ideal team and individual profiles.

Subsequently, the majority of our first 100 hires had  . . . little or no experience in either marketing or sales. -- How's that, again?

Identifying outperformers

Like most companies, we had started with the assumption that our top performers would be experienced salespeople who transitioned to digital marketing with sales savvy. But we were wrong.

In our fast-growth SaaS environment, we learned that recent grads often outperformed sales pros with 10 to 15 years’ experience. In hindsight, we were experiencing a transformative moment in the SaaS economy’s influence on productivity. The impact of new sales and marketing technologies had fundamentally altered what creates "success."

In fact, time and again, our top performers were:

  • very comfortable with social media (i.e., telling their own stories with technology)
  • open to mastering new technologies (Salesforce, Hubspot, Pardot, Marketo)
  • willing to follow the processes set up to optimize new technology.  

In short, we found that more experienced employees brought more bias regarding how they thought they could be most effective. Less experienced employees, in contrast, brought less bias and enrolled in our processes more fully. Above all, our most successful salespeople were those who were team players and collaborated effectively.

We were also able to identify, as our outperformers, reps who took the “Challenger” approach. The Challenger approach describes employees with the insight and confidence to challenge assumptions they know are not true. This seems obvious, but in reality a lot of salespeople don't work that way.

The correlation between those taking the Challenger approach and those who are outperformers was not surprising. A 2007 Harvard Business Review study showed that fully 54 percent of the top performers looked at were challengers (as opposed to "relationship builders," "hard workers," "lone wolves" and "reactive problem-solvers.")

The surprise for us was that even among those we considered challengers, the majority of top-tier performers had little or no experience. Instead, they shared these traits:

  • Coachable -- willing and open to learning (This Hubspot article is a great primer for how to hire for coachability.)
  • Team players -- in whom collaboration and communication skills were key
  • Focused --  with the discipline to follow the process and complete daily activities
  • Confident -- showing a palpable level of mastery within the product (marketing and social media)

Related: The Case for Hiring Employees With Zero Experience

Building an inexperienced sales team

Today's JumpCrew hiring strategy focuses on building teams that blend a few experienced team players into groups that have had little or no prior experience selling or marketing to local businesses. 

As a result, our most recent 50 hires at JumpCrew came from a variety of roles and industries:

  • Staffing
  • Education software
  • Professional sports
  • Music and film
  • Recent graduates
  • Payment processing
  • Brand consulting
  • Healthcare and education

Now, halfway to our 12-month goal of adding 100 jobs in Nashville, we’re very confident that our plan will allow us to scale as a best-in-class organization.

If you too are building a team that relies on sales and marketing automation, or you plan to invest in a CRM system to automate sales and marketing processes, you'll need to define best practices not only for hiring, but for training and development.

In the old economy, companies typically hired for the kind of experience that would minimize the investment required in training. In the SaaS economy, however, hiring and training are inseparable. Success requires that organizations and individuals have a mutual commitment to ongoing learning and skills development.

Choosing the best technology for ourselves and our clients

JumpCrew’s top priority is to earn the trust of our clients. To accomplish this, we only develop technology to enhance communication and collaboration. This approach allows us to identify and support our emerging leaders with the most client interaction.

En route, we've also built our core processes into and on top of our CRM's Salesforce and Hubspot software. The performance data we produce helps us identify who needs more coaching and/or training; and can suggest what type of training would be best. To avoid any protentional conflict in our ability to suggest the best solutions for clients, we do not develop marketing or ad tech software.

We are hiring for scale

JumpCrew is disrupting a market previously owned by local agencies and individual consultants who filled the void of professional firms focusing on social marketing.

To do our job effectively, we need to be more efficient. Our success is driven by process, data and expertise that allows us to offer more effective programs for a cost that's usually less than half that of a local agency. The need to be more efficient reinforces our hiring strategy. Alternately, competing for the limited pool of more experienced talent would drive up our costs and fail to improve our productivity.

What should your hiring strategy be?

The SaaS industry has created a new generation of professional career opportunities in business development, marketing, sales, support and service. Fast-growing SaaS companies offer opportunities for accelerated achievement and should create leadership roles for people with strong communication and collaboration skills. 

The strategy, tactics and methods that should be used to scale should be process- and data-driven, but success may depend on the continued innovation that comes from the feedback of the people working closest to the client. We will always be searching for smart team players with the courage to share their insights.  

In recognition of this paradigm shift of influence -- where feedback from a junior worker can prove exponentially more valuable than insights from an executive -- we at JumpCrew have altered our hiring criteria and eliminated experience as a key hiring component.

Related: When to Hire Raw Talent vs. Job Experience

We suggest you do the same.

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