Spotting Top BDR-Sales Talent

Alex Bolder
August 5, 2016

Today we welcome guest blogger, AJ Bolder. AJ is a tenacious builder by nature. He has spent the last 3 years at startups and early stage technology companies as both a top-performing individual contributor and as a member of senior leadership.

There’s a myth in sales that hiring top talent is an innate art, and you’ve either got it or you don’t. I’m here to dispel that.

Just like every other part of a well-oiled go-to-market machine, your hiring process should be a highly measurable, repeatable, and predictable process. How else do you plan on scaling effectively? In fact, the stakes have never been higher when considering a hire (bah dum bum...)  According to Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, bad hires have cost his company “well over $100 million.” So how do you turn what once was an art into a science and mitigate risk? Let’s take a look.

Identify the Qualities You're Looking For

If you already have successful reps in seats, begin by asking yourself what makes them so special. If you don’t, then start making some assumptions on what will lead to success, but don’t be married to these assumptions. A good experiment is non-biased, and you should be too, when tinkering with your machine. A mentor once taught me that leadership is about having the resolve to find and solve the hard problems even when it puts you against the room. Otherwise, you really aren’t that valuable as a yes-man. I take that stance in everything that I do, but especially when it comes to a hiring process – hiring should be fluid and ever-evolving, just like your business. It’s your job to find and fix problems, otherwise, you aren’t driving the business forward.

Once you’ve come to terms with the qualities and prerequisites which breed success in your specific organization, make sure to define them clearly so that all future and current stakeholders will be judging upon the same exact thing. You need to take out the gray space and define the qualities you wish to measure in stone.

Now that you have your definitions in place, it’s time to get granular and define the scale upon which you will be judging candidates.  What’s the exact measurable difference between someone who scores a 1 out of 10 and a 7 out of 10 for communication?  Your aim here is to remove subjectivity so that every candidate can be looked at retrospectively through the same lens, therefore removing bias. Once this has all been accomplished you need to weigh the qualities since not all of them are equal in importance when judging talent. Their weights will inevitably change as time goes on and as you collect data – always be honing.

Make the Interview Valuable

So we’ve talked about how to figure out what to look for and then how to quantify those qualities. Now let’s talk about how to actually interview effectively.

Traditionally, interviews are terribly boring and uncomfortable encounters in which both parties are trying to talk a big game and be what they think the other wants them to be. Herein lies the risk of only using behavioral questioning in interviews, people can lie.  People like to lie, they are good at it, especially when it means getting something that they want. Like a job.

Every sales manager worth their weight in leads has had that gut wrenching experience of a candidate who absolutely rockstar murdered the interview and then showed up on the first day of training and it was painfully obvious that they weren’t going to succeed.

So how do you actually figure out things like learning curve, intelligence, coachability, whether or not they can communicate a value prop for job’s sake (bah dum bum…?). Why not throw them into the job during the interview? How else better to see if they can actually do it?

I’m a huge proponent of making training and role play central pieces in the interview process. It’s hard to lie about your capabilities when I can actually see them first hand in the context of my specific sales team, and then measure you with granular detail, which by the way I have honed over hundreds of interviews.

So there you have it. The best way to spot talent is to treat hiring with numbers and respect. To never be afraid to change something just because that’s how it’s always been done or to work on building the right process for your specific environment.

A sales team is much like cooking a delicious meal.  The best meals start with the best ingredients, and the best sales teams start with the best reps.

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