Known-Quantities Are GOLD in sales hires

Hiring salespeople and sales leaders is one of the toughest challenges for any start-up – actually – for ANY company.  It is very easy for a sales person to look good on paper – and especially for a salesperson to do a great job in an interview.  After all, we are people trained to manipulate conversations and to make things sound great!  Recently, I was working with a company who had the opportunity to hire an amazing sales leader that they knew could perform, and against my urging decided to roll the dice and find someone over the internet.

I’ve written before about what types of things you should look for in a candidate, such as expensive hobbies, but one thing that I’ve never written about is the value of hiring people you already know.  Interestingly, I’ve been known to continue to blast the idea of a large rolodex when it comes to prospects for customers, but I actually feel the exact opposite when it comes to prospects for potential hires.  The value of knowing your candidate is simply the single best barometer for success in a role in sales.

Given the choice between a sales candidate you know, and a sales candidate you source over the internet, you should, in most situations, select the candidate you know.  Unless of course, through knowing them, you know that they cannot do the job.  For example, if you sell enterprise items, and you know they can’t traverse an organization and are only good at transactional sales.  But, if you know that they are honest, hard-working, coachable, and have the ability to close, then you should not think twice about hiring them – and you should not second guess yourself over a candidate that has a pretty resume or a nice interview.

One of the best tests for a great VP of Sales is asking them who they would pull over into your organization.   If they do not have an answer, be leery of their leadership.   Most if not all of the best sales leaders know a few killer reps they will pull with them when they join a new place.  Why?  Because they know that their key to success is having people they know and trust on their team.  Granted, a VP may not be able to always pull their best people to your organization, but they should at least know a few they would WANT on their team. These VPs know that they can train a person of your product, sales methodology, pitch, pricing, etc way faster than they can teach another rep how to sell.

While first degree connections are ideal, second degree referrals matter as well, and you should value these introductions.   Many of my best candidates have come thru mentors, and other sales organizations to which I am connected.  You should be able to really probe to find out where the candidates will shine and where they wont.

This is NOT to say that you should not hire people you just meet.  By default, MOST of your hires will be people you have just met, but you should be very aware that sales people are masters of making you feel good about a conversation, but that does not mean that they are great closers.  (the classic good vs great argument that I speak about) .  I’ve hired enough people that look good on paper, and do great in the interview, but just can’t seem to get deals over the finish line, or do not follow the playbook, or are not good at time management, or challenge authority, etc.  There are SO many reasons why a sales person/sales manager can’t perform, and it takes a while to uncover these items.  That is why when you have the opportunity to hire someone you trust, you need to seize the opportunity.

When a sales hire is wrong, it is VERY costly.  Bad sales hires can burn through leads, existing customers, time, good will, in addition to lots of cash.  This is why hiring for sales people and leaders is so important.  If you have the chance to hire someone you have a built-in trust for and with and you believe they can sell your product, you should never hesitate to hire them.