Approach hiring just like you’d approach building pipeline

No matter what the urgency is, no matter what tricks you have up your sleeve, no matter how strong your network, the reality is that it takes time to build a sales force.

The process for hiring should therefore borrow from the principles of building a sales pipeline itself. For example, just as salespeople think they have more potential sales than they actually do, hiring managers think they have more candidates than they actually do. The only way to assess the actual pipeline of candidates is to go through and rank and grade each level of the sourcing pipeline and estimate probabilities of closing the deal — just as you would for assessing a pipeline of sales (e.g., “one has contracts, one hasn’t gone through IT review”, etc.). It took me a long time before I understood the value of “sourcers” in sales recruiting, but it’s not dissimilar from having a SDR (Sales Development Representative) team for a sales force.

Just as you can’t wake up one day and decide you’re going to sell $20-million of product, you can’t just decide, “Okay, I’m now ready to hire 10 salespeople.” Your best candidates will be working someplace else, and won’t be ready to leave right away. This is why I advise companies to start building their pipeline of candidates well before they are even ready to hire a sales force. It can be as simple as hosting networking cocktail parties (salespeople are social animals who don’t find such interactions as draining as others might) or as intimate as hosting special “customer pocket” meetings where promising sales rep candidates can speak to actual customers and prospects. It may seem weird to have so many people from different companies in the room together, but works magically when done well. Frankly, inviting sales candidates to the field is one of the best ways to convince them of real interest in the product. And study them in the wild!

Bottom line: You want reps that will stay for 10 years, not 2. If there’s one message I hope founders, CEOs, VPs, Directors, recruiters, job candidates, or anyone else reading this carries away from this piece, it’s that getting the best sales reps isn’t about getting through an interview. The power, lies, and bullshit dynamics of interviews lead people into making the wrong long-term choices, and unfortunately they are choices that don’t just affect those two people (interviewer and interviewee) — they are choices that can blow up all the constituents in a sales organization, let alone the company.

Data doesn’t just help you make better decisions in sales interviews — it cuts right through the bullshit. It helps both the interviewer and interviewee immediately get on the same page. And it moves people away from fronting with each other or playing the what-or-who-you-know game to having a real conversation instead.

One of the things I am most proud of is that a year into the sales of SuccessFactors — a company that had existed for over a decade by then — the cloud sales team we built was still mostly intact. Yet it was one of the highest-performing sales teams at the time, so they were constantly being hounded by recruiters. I believe it’s because we’d taken the time to include them in the company’s future and keep them motivated. But it really began with how we hired them: “The interview” was the first level-setting baseline, thanks to the type of guidelines shared here.

(content provided by Forbes)