How to Consistently Hire Top Performers
ASK CANDIDATES TO PROVIDE METRICS
Before inviting a candidate to interview, avoid squandering time on poor fits by pre-collecting key data. It’s important to understand the specific circumstances in which they achieved past success, because if these circumstances vary widely from those at your company, they may not enjoy the same success in this role.
For example, maybe they closed large deals in a previous role—but if your company relies on small, high-volume sales, they may struggle. And if a single massive sale made their year great, will their success be sufficiently consistent for your needs?
Consider factors beyond numbers, too. What did the candidate previously sell? Is it similar to what they’d be selling at your firm? Do they know your industry? What did their previous sales support system look like? Do they excel at generating leads as well as closing them? To maximize success, aim to hire salespeople who have a track record of thriving in environments much like your own.
One tactic you can use to ensure you’re comparing apples to apples is to ask the candidate for metrics from their previous sales role, including the average selling price (ASP) of their product and the length of the average sales cycle (ASC) they have experience with. By using metrics to drive your hiring decisions and relying less on factors like interview performance, charisma, and emotional intelligence (EQ), you’ll find reps with a proven track record of closing the kinds of deals you want.
Here is a sample set of data points you can ask candidates to fill out for each of their prior sales positions as a sales matrix tool:
Sample Set of Data Points to Ask Candidates
- USE A STRUCTURED INTERVIEW PROCESS
Sales candidates tend to be sociable, animated extroverts. But not all vibrant extroverts are right for the job.
To separate personality from potential, develop a structured interview process designed to probe past performance—and determine whether it translates to future success at your company.
Here’s an example of a structured hiring process from one of our portfolio companies:
- Complete and post the job description
- Hold preliminary interviews
- Complete email samples
- Hold secondary interviews (1 of 2 in-person interviews)
- Hold secondary interviews (2 of 2 in-person interviews)
- Complete mock customer presentation webinars to evaluate sales skills
- Complete referral calls
- Share findings and make final decision
- Inform candidate and close
Having consistent objectives, questions, and areas you and the hiring team are scoring on for each stage will help structure your candidate evaluations and create alignment.
Asking candidates to fill out a sales matrix from the questions above, can also help you gauge how forward-thinking and opportunity-driven they are, while giving you more data for a strong, objective, side-by-side comparison.
- SPOT CANDIDATES ON THE RISE
Is a candidate’s performance trending up—or starting to slip? It’s better to hire a B-player that’s becoming an A-player, rather than the other way around. Do they take ownership of their results? Can they be individual high performers while balancing team needs? Look for candidates who are motivated and coachable, with enough prior experience to allow you to assess their potential accurately.
- LOOK FOR THESE TELLING TRAITS
While there’s no single model for sales success, these traits are common among high performers:
Strong Sense of Urgency
- ACCOUNT FOR TURNOVER
No matter how strong your interview process is, not every hire will work out. To account for turnover rates typical of this role, assume a 50% fail rate of new hires—and a 30% attrition rate for your existing team. Build your recruiting pipeline accordingly. Having at least one position open at all times ensures you’ll never be surprised by turnover—and will always have a new candidate in your pipeline to advance.
You can also reduce the likelihood of failure by setting realistic expectations. Be transparent and outline key milestones that you expect new hires to hit in the first 3-12 months. There’s nothing better than giving candidates clear goals—and reaping the benefits as they thrive.Interested in learning more about hiring? Listen to The Get podcast where we discuss "What Private Equity Investors Look for in Marketing Leaders."
“There’s no denying that strategy and sales are inherently linked. Determining your strategy and crafting your “Go-To-Market on a Page” will enable you to know what we’re executing against.”
"While this framework can consistently be applied across industries and business models, it is important to note that this is not a cookie-cutter playbook."
Serent Capital invests in profitable, growing software and service companies. We typically invest in founder-led companies and often represent the first institutional capital in the company. We are highly selective, choosing to invest in only a handful of businesses each year. Our selectivity ensures all our companies receive the attention and expertise they need. Learn more about our portfolio companies.