A CRO, retained by high-profile VCs presented to us recently on the importance of hiring A players, what makes an A player and how to recruit them.
Under pressure, many execs end up compromising on the quality of a hire, but doing so can reduce your company’s growth (limiting capacity and revenue), alter the culture, and even change the way your brand is perceived.
But what makes an A-player?
Ultimately, an A-player was defined as someone who:
Has a strong focus and ability to Pipeline Generate.
Has successful processes for being customer-win-orientated, facilitating cross-functional collaboration, setting expectations, and building champions.
Can effortlessly demonstrate a track record of consistently overachieving against revenue targets.
Is eager to understand more – listens and asks the ‘why’ questions to learn from mistakes and build knowledge.
Has a high tolerance for ambiguity.
Has an entrepreneurial mindset and can effortlessly problem solve.
Is trained in a structured Sales Methodology (e.g., MEDDIC, Command of the Message).
Has strong EQ.
Using the increasingly popular ICCE hiring criteria
ICCE is a hiring framework that has really gained popularity in recent years, as a way of highlighting talent with the right transferrable skills/approach rather than a demonstrated track record.
I - Intelligence
Look at their educational background – if they graduated from a Russell Group/Ivy League university with a top grade, then you’re looking in the right areas. Looking at their EQ/IQ is important too, because it will establish whether or not they can build relationships or use logic/solve problems during the sales process. Consider their ability to qualify through questioning, process information quickly, and preparation skills. This will set your expectations for them as a sales rep.
C – Coachability
If they listen/ask the ‘why’ questions to learn from their mistakes, it means they want to improve their existing abilities and grow. Are they taking notes throughout the interview? Do they ask for feedback as part of their close/follow-up? Prepare to ask candidates about how they overcame a problem because it will establish if they have developed new skills and/or learnt from things that have gone wrong too.
C - Character
When it comes to character, a key indicator is if their values/work ethic is shared amongst the rest of the company. Grit is key for sales, so activities outside of work can be great indicators of this – have they ran a marathon? Founded a company? Travelled to a different country to volunteer for a year?
E – Experience
Experience is specifically about their previous track records and performance. Clear signs for this are if they have long streaks of smashing their sales targets, and if they have evidence of performing highly to deliver impact. Remember performance is relative. Someone achieving 100% could still be at the bottom of the pack, so asking where they ranked can be a useful insight too.
How to Hire an A-player
If hurdle 1 is finding what to look for, hurdle 2 is engaging with those individuals. A* talent is hidden. Top performers are rarely looking to move and when they are, they often have offers to interview from their network before they are truly “open”. To get on their radar, you need to:
1. Always Be Open to Hiring.
If you hire reactively (rather than proactively), your window of opportunity to hire the best people will shrink. Chances are, when you’re ready to hire, you’ve already lost out on that rep – probably to a competitor. Our blog covers more on why you should take this approach.
2. Develop Your Brand.
Candidates keep an ear to the ground when it comes to hot tech and do their due diligence before agreeing to meet with a new company. They will look for social proof that your culture and solution are market leading - G2 (e.g. Best Global Software Companies etc), Gartner, Forrester, and Glassdoor are names you are likely familiar with, but should also be present on more specialist platforms like Wellfound (AngelList Talent), RepVue, Bravado etc.
Workvivo were struggling with brand recognition. Following a Series A ($16m) funding round from Tiger Global and Zoom CEO Eric Yuan, they needed to scale fast with top talent. But despite their success, Workvivo weren't a widely recognised brand, and they couldn't attract the best candidates on reputation alone. With Teem as their brand ambassador raising awareness within their ideal talent pool, Workvivo made their first sales hire after just 5 weeks!
3. Run an Effective Hiring Process.
Once you have an A* sales rep in your interview process, you might need to change up your usual hiring approach in order to close them. Moving through the process quickly and efficiently is key. These candidates are incredibly sought after, and receiving multiple offers at once is the norm for them. The quicker you move, and the more engaged you keep them, the better.
Before you step into an interview, make sure you:
- Know your numbers – what are your targets, what percentage of revenue are fully ramped reps responsible for, comp plans, how long is your financial runway and when do you expect to raise capital again etc.
- Do your homework on their CV/resume.
- Have a clear explanation prepared of the role and value proposition.
- Set out a strict 2-week process with no more than 5 stages: Pre-screening with their CV/resume, a screening call with the hiring manager/recruiter, an interview with one or two senior stakeholders, a panel with four or five senior stakeholders, and lastly the final interview.
Don’t lead by opinions, lead by facts. Are there any reasons you shouldn’t hire this candidate?
To benefit from having A-players in the team, you need to be able to know what they are, how to identify them, and ultimately, how to hire them. This doesn't just require time to execute, but the specialist market knowledge, networks, and skillsets to have them on your radar and keep them onboard up until you've closed them.
Snowflake only hire the best – the A-players. When we were tasked with aggressively scaling their GtM teams across 7 countries, we could not compromise quality. By engaging with and nurturing the ideal talent pool and working closely with hiring managers to adapt to changes, Snowflake made over 50 A* Sales/Presales placements in just 12 months!
Need to scale your GtM teams quickly with the best commercial talent in the SaaS industry? We are specialists in helping SaaS start-ups achieve their hiring goals - and we've done it for the likes of Dataiku, Workato, and BRYTER!
Envisioned your hiring goals? Feel free to book a call or email us so we can discuss how we can help you achieve them!