Editor’s note: This post is adapted from a chapter from “How to Get to $10 Million in ARR and Beyond” by Winning by Design.
When you’re a founder, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that the sales team you have in place early on will be the same team you need when your company is a billion-dollar enterprise. That simply isn’t the case. And while you won’t need a completely different team at every stage of growth — your team members should be able to expand their skills as the business grows — your requirements will change as you scale up. That’s why you always need to be looking ahead to the next phase to meet the needs of your business.
When you’re in the start-up phase, for example, you need a sales team of self-starters who are reliable and who will help set the tone of the culture you want to establish. Meanwhile, in the grow-up phase, you’ll need people who like creating processes and documenting what they’re building, who can listen and learn, and who enjoy working in small teams. Finally, once you reach the scale-up phase, you’ll want performers who love executing processes, are dependable, and can go out and get on with ready-made processes straight off the bat.
Let’s take a look at some recruiting best practices that you can use to ensure you always have the right sales talent in place as your company scales.
How to recruit your sales team
During the start-up phase, it’s a good idea to personally recruit people within your own network and through word of mouth. When scaling up, it’s best to use a dedicated recruiting firm that knows your business and your culture. When you’re in the grow-up phase, you should consider hiring an in-house recruiter and possibly sourcing candidates via a recruiting firm.
Regardless of what stage you’re at, when you’re recruiting, you need your hiring team to all be on the same page. To ensure that happens, develop between four and seven essential criteria, such as sales skills, diligence, and empathy, that your team can use to evaluate prospective candidates. Not only that, you need to make sure that the entire hiring team understands exactly what each of those criteria mean.
Schedule a time for the team to meet after every interview to discuss candidates, making sure to only do so after everyone has individually submitted their feedback so that you can avoid groupthink. Even if your recruiting team is in agreement, that doesn’t mean your work is done. You need to get together and discuss why you want a particular candidate. Meetings like this can lead to interesting discoveries and could potentially lead you to adjust your selection criteria.
Recruiting sales teams for cultural fit
There are some skills you will always be looking for in a candidate, such as excellent verbal and written communication skills, the ability to overcome problems and motivate in difficult situations. Many skills can be learned, but one important thing cannot: cultural fit.
Don’t just listen to what your candidates say, observe how they behave. Do you find them to be honest and sincere? Gauge the person’s level of interest by considering whether they are truly curious and genuinely interested in your company and the role. Can you communicate on the same level? When you walk to get a cup of coffee with them, do they start the conversation or do you have to drive the communication? Do they clean up after themselves? This can often be a great indication of someone who’s a team player.
And remember, recruiting for cultural fit isn’t a one-person job. There are plenty of other people who might not seem like an obvious choice who you should consider involving in the hiring process. The front desk team, for example, can give you valuable feedback on how the candidate interacted with them, if they were friendly or dismissive, and what their first impressions were. You should never hire a candidate who is disrespectful or dismissive to anyone in your business, no matter their role or seniority. Doing so is a sure-fire way to introduce culture cancer into your business.
Should you use a recruiter?
In the beginning stages, you should only hire people you know. However, once you start scaling up, you’re going to need to adjust your strategy. When you reach 10 employees, you should be doing your own recruitment via a network of trusted people. At 11 to 25 employees, you can seek out people on LinkedIn and write personal notes inviting them to coffee. When you’ve hit 25 employees, you should develop a relationship with a trusted recruiter who is really familiar with your business and your culture. The recruiter should be able to help fill open positions, while also keeping an eye out for great candidates you might need further down the track.
When you’re ready to work with a recruiter, invite them over to your company and explain the organization’s culture and ethos so that they really understand what type of person you’re looking for. A good recruiter will be able to provide you with job descriptions, pay analysis, titles, and appropriate compensation levels. However, remember that they are primarily there for sourcing candidates. They’ll help find the right type of candidate for your business, but it’s up to you to hire them.
Strategic recruitment for successful growth
Recruiting new sales team members as your company is scaling up can be a tricky business, but the decisions you make around hiring are some of the most important ones you’ll make. Your people are crucial to your operation, so taking the time to hire candidates strategically and successfully will make all the difference as you grow.