B2B sales recruiting is critical if you want sales acceleration. The right team can result in millions of dollars in future business. Hiring a wrong team member – yes, even just one, can mean slower sales growth and, equally importantly, a tremendous amount of management bandwidth wasted. Hiring also has to be done within the time frame that makes sense for your business plans.
The question is how do you make sure that you are right and on time – every single time.
In our view, there are four crucial aspects that one should get right.
I am making the assumption that you have done your basic sales workforce planning and you know the roles for which you need to hire and the numbers you need.
1. Clear understanding of the profile to be hired
The first step before you start the hiring process is to figure out the profile of the person that will meet the requirements of your role.
Usually when people talk of identifying the profile of a person, they talk in terms of the number of years of experience, industry experience, domain experience, organizations they have worked for, behavioral skills etc.
These demographic parameters are, no doubt, very important but they are not sufficient if you are to get your hiring right. The key aspect that sales leaders and recruiters miss is the life stage at which the organization is and what will make a sales person successful in that role in the particular organization.
Let me explain this with an example. The company I lead, 19thMile, is an early stage startup. Our product is new-to-the-world. Selling our product requires a consultative approach, a lot of concept selling and evangelizing, and a solutioning mindset. We want our B2B sales person to be our eyes and ears in the market and be a source of constant feedback. We want this feedback to shape our product, so we want this sales person to be almost a quasi product manager. We also want him or her to be very comfortable with ambiguity.
Now let’s contrast this with hiring a B2B sales person in say, Zoho. Zoho is an established company with thousands of customers and employees. Its products and value proposition are well known in the market. Its sales benchmarks must be very well established i.e. Zoho would likely be clear of its conversion rates of its sales funnel by channel, customer segment, product etc. A B2B sales person at Zoho needs to be able to hit the activity, pipeline, and conversion metrics in every single time period. The demographics are important when hiring this person in Zoho, as with hiring the person in 19thMile.
But as you can see, the person in Zoho is a completely different profile, while he or she may have exactly the same demographics as the person in 19thMile. Needless to say, if a Zoho profile is hired in 19thMile at this stage, the person will find it hard to succeed.
Once you have identified the kind of profile, it is best to document it so that every person involved in hiring is on the same page.
2. The right employee value proposition
Just because you have a requirement for a B2B sales person, why should anyone join you? Good sales people are always in demand and as a company you need to provide a compelling reason to a potential hire for them to join you. This compelling reason is the employee value proposition (EVP).
A strong EVP for a B2B sales person should be articulated along the following dimensions:
- Company vision: What is the larger story of your company? What are you trying to do differently? What are you trying to change in this world? What kind of commitments do you have towards social responsibility?
- Growth opportunity: What kind of personal and professional growth opportunities are you offering? What kind of new learnings can the B2B sales person look forward to? Who will they be working with? How will working in the company enrich the experience of the individual?
- Organization position: What is the market position of the company? What kind of business growth are we looking at? What is the perception of product quality / service in the market? What have been the achievements?
- People & Culture: What is the culture of the organization? The camaraderie people have? What’s the way of working, way of life in the company? What’s the reputation of people working in the company? How is work-life balance viewed?
- Monetary rewards: What kind of monetary rewards can the sales person look forward to? How good is the incentive plan? Are there stock options and what value can they look forward to?
EVP is an aspect most companies, especially younger ones, overlook. Or if they do think about it, they rarely articulate or document it when hiring
A powerful and well-articulated employee value proposition could have a significant impact on your hiring efforts.
You will be able to attract good talent and hire faster. You may also be able to hire without paying a significant salary premium.
Creating an EVP is only a part of the job. Communicating it is equally important. You must do this through:
- Your hiring ads
- Your recruitment consultants
- Every company stakeholder involved in the interviewing and hiring, so that they communicate uniformly
- Your employees. Potential employees almost always reach out to current employees and if everyone from your team is singing from the same song sheet, you will have an easier time in B2B sales recruiting.
3. Shortening the B2B sales recruiting process without compromising on effectiveness
After you have identified your hiring requirements, and worked out your EVP, the next step is to start hiring. As it happens many times, when you get to the point of actually starting the hiring process, you are late and there is a mad scramble to fill the positions. There is a need to shorten the hiring process.
Research has shown that in the hiring process, the maximum time is spent in screening candidates. Screening is usually done by the recruitment consultant and then by HR, sometimes with multiple iterations. This represents the opportunity where the hiring process can be shortened using video and / or AI based chatbots.
There are solutions available today which allow candidates to upload a video resume. Such a resume is very valuable for a recruiter since it gives much more insight about a candidate’s fitment with the requirement and the company. This method drastically cuts down the screening time while increasing the effectiveness of the screening process. Vyre.co and sparkhire.com are good examples of video-based recruiting.
Another solution that a lot of companies are using in B2B sales recruiting is chatbots. AI based chatbots are set up to parse resumes, screen, and interview candidates. A chatbot can screen resumes almost instantaneously, engage with candidates and answer their questions and also interview candidates 24/7 without the need to schedule time with an interviewer, thereby exponentially increasing your hiring productivity. Impress.ai is a very good example of a recruiting chatbot.
4. Making management bandwidth available
One of the major derailers or ‘delayers’ of sales hiring is lack of management bandwidth.
The root cause of the lack of management is that hiring is not on the top of the list of priorities of sales managers and leaders.
Sales leaders will always prioritize a client meeting or working on a deal over a recruiting interview. I believe this is not correct. Interviewing a candidate may not be urgent but it is very important. A good hire can help crush the yearly quotas, get marquee clients, and achieve significant growth in the future.
To address this issue, I have seen two strategies that work:
- Recruiting as a KPI: Recruiting should be made a KPI for all relevant sales managers and leaders. This will ensure that managers make time for this activity when needed.
- Run recruiting campaigns: If you are hiring more than 2-3 people at a time, run it like a campaign for say 2 weeks. Prior to the 2 weeks, HR should do all the sourcing and screening activity. Communicate before hand about the campaign and get confirmation from all concerned people about their availability. Schedule all the calls and in-person interviews during this 2-week period and close all your positions.
I have run these types of campaigns over weekends. I have all the right stakeholders in one location. Call all the candidates and get multiple rounds of interviews done one after another on the same day. Even ask candidates to bring along all their prior employment documentation that is usually required and, at the end of the day, rollout offers.
B2B sales recruiting efforts in the right direction can mean the difference between sales acceleration and mediocre performance. It takes work to get it right but if this effort is put, it can deliver significantly superior results for the company in the short, medium and long terms.