What makes for a successful sales rep recruitment process?

We asked more than 60 tech sales team leads: How do you define success in a sales team recruitment process for you? The “for you” is an important part of that question. Because while we should do everything to limit our biases, hiring a sales representative is inherently personal — because, from all sides, sales is about people. In addition, when talking about a niche like tech sales, roles and recruitment processes will vary by technology, target markets and verticals.

So what goes into a successful sales rep recruitment process? Just as personal, 60 people had 60 different answers. We summarize the themes today to help you uncover the missing piece in your international sales strategy.

Don’t forget you’re looking for an individual to join your team

“Great sales teams are a mix of different types of people. Sometimes they're all outgoing and charismatic, or sometimes they're all introverted and detail-oriented. Though every team is different, the goal should be some balance between personalities to ensure that everybody can contribute to the process in their own way.” — Mohamed Alawiyat, managing director, More Properties

Yes, some parameters of a successful process will be the same. A new hire is a logical first sign of success. And someone that’s a good fit to have longevity within your organization is a solid second one — Haluk Çavuşoğlu defines that as at least four to five years. As CCO and co-founder of fonYOU Albrecht von der Recke said, a successful sales recruitment process comes down to the “ability to attract the right talent who are willing to bet on the project long term.

As our parter Predicable Revenue’s Julian Marcuzzi put it, success is found in “A great contributor who is an even better culture fit.” Or as Eero’s regional sales manager for the UK and Ireland Nigel Pollard phrased it: “The right person who fits in and I can work with.”

When it comes down to it, using Adobe Digital Experience Cloud sales account exec Miguel Rosado Boulet’s words, it’s all about “finding the right talent that matches the company and team culture and can deliver results.”

“A good team is made up of people who put into practice a shared method, who share information, who do not identify themselves with the product but who are able to understand when a customer is almost yes and they dedicate time to him and when it is almost certainly not and then they move on to the next. Who define a goal of visits and respect it, which every week they feel to correct the approach to the customer based on the information shared. Who are not anxious to sell but who build together the best possible method, which give the manufacturer the information to correct the characteristics of the product. Who know how to use the web as a fundamental channel to reach the greatest number of prospects in the shortest possible time.” — Sergio Di Nunzio, sales manager, Yesssit

Of course, you want your incoming sales reps to be great closers, consistently making revenue for themselves and your product. As René Weilharter, member of the management board at Nexus Telecom, called it, you’re hoping to achieve “a win-win situation for employer and employee.” But, from there, everyone has a different answer to this question because sales team recruitment varies by team, just as every sales representative is indeed different. Which is what you want. You want a sales rep to fit in with your culture and with your processes, tooling and metrics, but their uniqueness is what makes them memorable and differentiates from the sales bots and other impersonal methods that have customers just plain exhausted by cold calls and LinkedIn DMs.

For our CRO Gavin Page, he’s looking for “someone who fits quickly into the organization and who develops and communicates their plan quickly. Ultimately, it is achievement of initial pipeline growth and closure.”

Successful recruitment starts with a clear job description

As head of business development at tech companies for decades and as our CEO and founder for the last 18 years, Rick Pizzoli has hired hundreds of tech sales representatives. For Rick, the buck stops with him — he is the first step in creating a successful sales team recruitment process. He says that “Clarity on the job profile, country, target verticals, scope of work and objectives is critical.” Rick usually recruits within his network, but when he works with a recruiter, it’s important that they listen and deliver on requirements. “We often request vertical experts and then get generalists as a response — this doesn’t cut it.”

This begins with true clarity in the job profile — a job description that doesn’t overwhelm with nice-to-haves and even not-really-necessaries, but that zeroes in on the specific characteristics necessary to succeed in that role. For us, that usually includes proficiency in the local language or languages and a long time having lived there. As Karl Magnusson put it: “The right person in right place.” Yes, a benefit of the pandemic is that you can hire the best person for the job anywhere, but, for our field sales reps and channel sales partners, we believe they must be grounded in their target’s culture. 

And then there’s the technical prowess. This varies by role. Both senior sales representatives and inside sales reps must understand market needs and the business demands for technology. A sales engineer needs to be able to provide a cohesive product demo and answer questions. The more deep-tech, particularly targeting a developer, sysadmin or cybersecurity audience, the more technical the sales rep needs to be. On the other hand, a business development representative really just needs to be skillful at understanding how to dig deeper to qualify a lead and can be trained on your product’s unique value proposition and solution positioning.

Check your references

It’s not just one person’s decision. As CEO of Anevia Laurent Lafarge put it, various stakeholders in the process have to endorse the applicant. You are a team, so it’s not just down to HR but the opinions of the regional sales manager and anyone that has to work with them should be weighed. And certainly for an earlier stage tech startup, the founders and even investors may have something to stay.

And of course you want to know what former colleagues think. Yves de Beauregard, sales director of France for SumUp, says you got to check your references — emphasizing not the ones on LinkedIn. Not a lot of our respondents talked about this but it’s too valid not to include.

“I usually recruit from my own network as this produces the best, proven candidates. But ultimately I am looking for someone who can wow and impress multiple stakeholders and show that they have vision, strategy, gravitas.” — Nick Adams, VP of sales, Globalization Partners

Speed to hire and onboard

This came up in a lot in the responses. It was clear you don’t want to waste too much time — and money — on any recruitment process, especially if it doesn't end with the right hire. As international business developer Willem Vermaat put it, you want to “find the right person within a limited period of time.” The consensus seems to be within a month.

Where survey response really ran the gambit was in terms of time to productivity. The time it takes to get up and running, to understand the particular technical product, and to get out in the field (or on virtual sales calls sometimes) and talking to clients, finding out their true needs. That may vary less due to personal preference or professional expectations, and more by vertical or newness of country or technology. For example, a true tech disruptor may be the first of its kind, so, even if you hire someone with local vertical experience, it may take longer to onboard.

For us at Sales Force Europe, we are looking for sales reps to be up to speed and on the ground talking to tech buyers in under a month. You don’t want to waste your time, both on finding the right candidate and on them acclimating to the new role.

Long-time customer and Algonomy’s (previously RichRelevance) senior VP of sales Robb Miller defined sales recruitment success as being “able to hire a candidate within 30 days… who then is productive within two quarters.”

Dario Di Cerbo, as senior business developer at telco Swisscom, marks it at a “huge pipeline after three months and thefirst successful sale after, at latest, six months.”

Of course, it will vary by organization. Ecomply’s managing director Hauke Holtkamp gages success as a simple measurement: revenue is at least double the salary and costs of the hire.

Your company is also up for consideration

For managing director Mohamed Alawiyat, sales success is not just about the salesperson's ability to sell. There’s also closing skills, prospecting skills, and product knowledge. But a recruitment process isn’t just about evaluating someone else — the candidates are evaluating your team too.

“Each person on your team brings a unique personality with them, so it's crucial to determine what these personalities are before you start working together as a group. The key to success is finding some consistency amidst this eclectic bunch. A leader who specifies clear goals for the project should have no problem assembling an A+ squad from this diverse pool of candidates,” Mohamed said.

For him. it’s not just about finding that right mix for you. Your business and your sales team have to be right for your candidates too.

“The most important metric I've found for evaluating sales recruiting process is conversions per opportunity. In other words, how often does a candidate end up accepting an offer from us?” Mohamed said.

So what makes your company stand out? He offered the following pre-reqs:

  1. You must have strong values such as integrity and honesty.
  2. Employees are respected and acknowledged.
  3. Treat employees well and offer fair compensation in exchange for their valuable talents.
  4. Encourage sharing among employees so that they can feel like they're part of a team. 
  5. Be able to share the passion you have for your company.

“With all these qualities combined, you'll create an environment where sales team recruitment will be successful. That's because employees will be engaged in what they do every day,” Mohamed said.

What about you: How do you measure the success of your sales rep recruitment process?

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