Posted by: Andy Catterall
Many sales leaders across a broad range of industry verticals struggle with finding the most productive blend of inside and field sales resources and activities for their teams. A common misperception is that the inside sales function requires the same skills and approach as field sales, minus the face-to-face meetings inherent in the external role. In addition, sales leaders often fail to fully think through the tools, processes and activities related to the stage of the sales process they want to assign to the inside function. Are you looking to drive early-stage qualifying and appointment setting, or the full sales cycle including closing, add-on sales and renewals? These are different sub-roles, each with their own distinct skill set.
Let’s consider some of the key criteria for recruiting and hiring the right inside sales talent for growth-oriented B2B organizations:
Recruiting is to some extent a numbers game, so you must attract a high volume of candidates in order to increase the likelihood of finding the best fit. From our experience, 70-80% of inside sales applicants can be screened out based on their resume or LinkedIn profile alone. Many applicants have little to no sales experience, others have spent their career in field sales roles and may just be looking to “get off the road”. A well-crafted job description is essential in terms of allowing the ideal candidate(s) to envision themselves in the role, but an unclear posting will appeal to the wrong audience. Make it crystal clear that the role is primarily phone-based, include some of the your inside sales activity metrics and the field sales oriented candidates will move on to the next opportunity.
In today’s marketplace, would you even consider a sales candidate whose LinkedIn profile was poorly written, incomplete, riddled with typos or missing entirely? 500+ connections may not be absolutely necessary, but even if the candidate’s network is focused on a different vertical or geographic territory, the quantity and quality of their network speaks to their ability to build trust and rapport. A candidate’s profile tends to reflect their writing style and quality, which is an important indicator of their ability to craft appropriate follow-up emails. Has the candidate enhanced their profile with certifications, projects and other indicators of their proficiency? Have they been endorsed and recommended by their peers, managers and customers? Remember that if you hire this candidate, your customers will be looking at their LinkedIn profile as well.
Any inside sales candidate expects to be interviewed over the phone by their future manager and potentially other related roles within the hiring organization. You are looking to determine the candidate’s ability to listen as much as their presentation skills, if not more so – too much self-promotion can be a red flag. Are they well-prepared? What kind of questions are they asking? Have other team members interview them as well, to ensure they can work effectively with field sales, marketing and finance as well as their inside sales peers. After the phone screens have been completed, consider having the candidate complete a written assignment on a relevant topic to see how they articulate themselves “on paper”.
Many organizations leverage the science built into assessment tools such as those offered by Objective Management Group (www.objectivemanagement.com). If you choose to go this route, carefully explain that it is not a test (i.e. you can’t pass or fail it) but the results will highlight their likely behaviors – how they are “wired” as a sales professional. Most candidates will be intrigued by this process, and may even enjoy it. It also shows that you have thought through your recruiting model very carefully and take it seriously. Maintain the integrity of the process and trust the tool if you decide to use it – don’t deviate just because you like a candidate’s personality.
Does your compensation plan align with their salary history, and by definition, ongoing financial needs, motivations and expectations? If the OTE for your opening won’t be satisfying even if they overachieve, you owe it to yourself and the candidate to keep looking. Sales professionals of any variety will rarely be satisfied with much less than their recent average W-2, 1099 or P60.
A final face-to-face interview is always recommended to confirm cultural fit, and be sure to check their unpublished references as well as the official list. Remember, if you can’t find the right candidate initially – keep looking until you do. The only thing worse than leaving the headcount open when you desperately need to fill it is making a bad hire. The consequences of a rushed or inappropriate offer can be much more costly and time-consuming than leaving a few prospects untouched.
In future posts we’ll discuss the key metrics behind inside sales onboarding, retention and success. Until then – happy hunting!