Labcast: Recruiting Best Practices. Hiring Lead Qualification Teams

In this week’s Labcast, Kevin Gaither, Vice President of Inside Sales at uSamp, offers his advice on the best ways to find top talent for lead qualification teams.

He also gives his thoughts on what a top lead qual candidate looks like, and the best questions to ask during your interviews in order to ensure each addition you bring on adds to the overall high-performance effectiveness of your sales team.

Kevin Cain: Hello, and welcome to the podcast. I’m Kevin Cain, and today I’m going to be talking about recruiting for lead qualification teams with Kevin Gaither. For those of you who don’t know Kevin, he’s the Vice President of Inside Sales at uSamp, one of the fastest growing online panel and technology companies, as well as one of Open View’s portfolio companies. Kevin is also the President of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals.

The reason we’re having Kevin on this week, is actually because he was here in Boston last week to host a working group session on recruiting best practices at our quarterly lead qualification management workshop. Kevin, thanks so much for joining us today. How’s it going?

Kevin Gaither: It’s going great. Thanks for having me on, Kevin. I really appreciate it.

Kevin Cain: Yeah, absolutely. As I mentioned, this is really a follow-up to the workshop that we had last week, where we were talking a lot about lead qualification, and you led a session on recruiting. In following up on that, what I wanted to ask is, where do you find top talent when it comes to hiring lead qual teams?

Kevin Gaither: Sure. Let me back up a second. I think your audience should pay real close attention to what we talk about today, and go on a quest, much like I did, to solve these problems. And the way I always like to catch people’s attention, Kevin, is by simply saying this. You can have the greatest lead generation programs in the world, you can have the most fantastic software that enables your sales people, you can have a great company culture, but if you put the wrong butts in the seat, it’s all for naught. So this is really, really important stuff.

It’s finding great talent, knowing what to look for, and interviewing them properly. Most people in inside sales don’t do this right. Yet, they’re also very metrics oriented, as it relates to the calls their reps are making, and their conversion rates, and the amount of opportunities and how much revenue comes from those. But very few sales leaders and inside sales leaders take the opportunity to take a very analytical approach and a very structured approach to finding and hiring good talent. So as far as finding top talent, my opinion and my experience is that for lead qualification teams, you can find top talent just about anywhere. I was telling somebody the other day, Kevin, that one of my best hires, one of my few best hires that I’ve made, was somebody who was waiting a desk at a hotel. That was her experience. And another person was selling lingerie at Nordstrom’s.

Kevin Cain: Really?

Kevin Gaither: That’s right. So you can find these people anywhere if you’re always keeping your eyes open for the profiles, and looking for the right questions. Now, what you’re probably looking for is more of the traditional avenues to find great talent.

Kevin Cain: Yeah, I can imagine that everyone’s hanging out at Nordstrom looking.

Kevin Gaither: That’s right, that’s right. Maybe, that says something about my personal life. No. I think that your best bet is to be asking for referrals. It sounds obvious, but if you know what you’re looking for… So my recommendation is that you get very specific on what you’re looking for, and then start looking for that specific profile. If you are saying to a friend, “Hey, I’m looking for anybody who might be interested in a lead generation or a lead qualification role at my company”, you’re going to have a very low probability of success. So when you’re talking to your peers, and you’re talking to the sales people that are on your team, get specific. Hey, you know what? I’m looking for somebody who has, let’s say, one to three years of sales experience, and can work for a fast growing company here in Los Angeles, or something like that. Give somebody, when you’re networking, something very specific.

When I ran my own inside sales recruiting and consulting business, I also found varied success with some of the sites out there like indeed.com. Very low cost per applicant, and I love that you can do a cost per applicant there. And for those that are in Craigslist focused areas, like Northern California and Southern California, and even some areas on the East Coast, Craigslist is a wonderful place to find good talent.

Kevin Cain: Great. So, let’s say you’ve identified some leading candidates. What’s really the profile of a top candidate? You mentioned one to three years of experience, and things of that nature. But are there other characteristics or qualities that you’re looking for?

Kevin Gaither: In my research, and like I said, I went on a quest on my own and tried to get really clear on what those characteristics are. And what it came down to is that need for achievement, competitiveness, and optimism- collectively I call those drive- are the three most important characteristics that help me predict the success or future success of a sales rep or a lead gen/lead qualification rep.

Kevin Cain: Sure.

Kevin Gaither: Now, each of those broken down individually, Kevin, and when we talk about need for achievement, need for achievement is where you find people that set high goals for themselves, in business and in personal. And they work very, very hard, very tirelessly, in pursuit of those goals. And most often, they sacrifice, with no regrets. They sacrifice other things in their lives, their family, their friends. They move across country for an opportunity, leaving everybody behind. They don’t know anybody in wherever they’ve moved to. That’s typically indicative of somebody who has a high need for achievement.

Competitiveness. Make no mistake. Kevin, I did not say athletes. I said competitiveness. There’s a big difference between athletes and competitiveness. And not all athletes are competitive. Sounds strange, but I want to be clear with your audience here. Competitiveness? These people are wired to win. They’re nutso. They’re nutso when it comes down to wanting to win. They view almost every interaction as an opportunity to compete and an opportunity to win. You’ll find these people driving on the freeway, and they’ll be passing you on the freeway when you know that a mile up, it’s backed up. But they just need to get ahead of you. They pass you for no reason whatsoever.

This is the person that is on the treadmill at the gym with their headset on next to somebody else who has their headset on, they’re not paying attention to the other. But that competitive person looks over, sees that treadmill, and that that other person is going a little bit faster than them, the competitive person will turn their treadmill speed up. And again, who the heck are they competing with? They’re competing with themselves. They view every situation as a competition. They’re wired to win.

And then, optimism. In laymen’s terms, Kevin, most people would say, these are people that have thick skin. OK? They deal with rejection very well. They can recover from negative situations very, very quickly. On the down side, when I’m dealing with somebody that has low optimism, these are the kinds of people that, when they get hung up on on a call, they’ve got to go take a walk around the block. It’s hard for them to deal with. When they lose a deal, some of them will put their fists through walls. These are real stories that I’m telling you. Somebody gets blown off on a call, and they’ve quit smoking for six months, and that one call just triggers them, and they’ve got to go smoke a pack of cigarettes. These are people that typically have low optimism. They’re thin skinned, and they’re not going to do very well in sales.

If I was to prioritize those three characteristics, Kevin, I would say that need for achievement, followed very, very closely with optimism, and then followed by competitiveness. Those three characteristics–again, collectively, I call those drive–I think are the most important profiles and characteristics that a top candidate possesses.

Kevin Cain: That’s great, Kevin. Can you suggest any interviewing tips or best practices along those lines?

Kevin Gaither: Absolutely. One of the very first things that I highly recommend that you do is do not wing your interviews. Make sure it’s a structured process. You’re defining who’s going to go in there and what questions that they’re going to ask. Make sure you’ve developed some sort of a benchmark. What are those characteristics? I gave you three before. Most likely you’re going to have, maybe, ten characteristics. There’s coachability, there might be something like organizational skills. Whatever is important for you and your business, but again, don’t wing it. Make sure that you’re developing a structured interview process, there.

Make sure you dig for gold, Kevin. Don’t take that answer, this is just like in sales. Don’t take that first answer at face value. Dig for additional gold. Tell me more about that, tell me another time that happened. Ask for more details. Another tip that I would give you is what I call the threat of reference check. You want to make sure that somebody is telling the truth in that interview, Kevin. And one of the best ways to do that is to say, “OK, Kevin. That’s fantastic. By the way, what was the name of your boss? And how do you spell that person’s name? And where are they right now? Would you mind if I contacted them after we got off this call, and talked about your performance?” That person will sit up straight. And that person will take note, and you will have a higher probability of getting the truth out of that candidate who has an incentive to potentially not tell you the truth. The threat of reference check, or torque, as it’s called, is also a good one.

Kevin Cain: That’s really interesting. I guess my last question is, I’m
getting down to brass tacks, and that’s really along the lines of
compensation, which I think is the top of everyone’s mind. Can you comment
on, sort of, what the appropriate compensation structure is for outbound
prospectors?

Kevin Gaither: Sure thing. And, of course, your viewers are going to hate this. It depends. And I have a couple of recommendations for you. One, there’s some great compensation reports that you can find on the Bridge Group, which is a Boston inside sales consultancy. There’s some benchmarks there that you can find what some peers offer, as well you can go to the compensation studies with Phone Works, phoneworks.com. Great benchmarks for you to use. The appropriate compensation structure is one that is aligned to the goals of that prospecting team, and gives them a little bit of incentive for passing the lead, and also gives a little bit of an incentive for the leads that they pass that actually close.

The structures that I lean towards mostly, is a 60/30 approach; 60% of their total compensation is in base salary, 30% of their total compensation is in variable comp. And of that variable comp, 50% comes from the leads that are passed, and 50% of the compensation comes from the leads that are passed that are closed. So it looks something like this. A 50K base, let’s say total comp was $90,000, which would be high in my opinion. A 50K base, and $20,000 of the variable comp would come from the leads that they’re
passing, regardless of what happens to those. And an additional $20,000 comes from the leads that are passed that close.

Kevin Cain: Got it. Kevin, thanks so much for joining us today. Before I let you go, can you just let our listeners know how they can get in touch with you?

Kevin Gaither: Sure thing. Of course, you can find me on LinkedIn, and if you send me a customized LinkedIn request with how you think I might be able to help you out, I’d be more than happy to connect. You can also follow me on Twitter. My Twitter handle is Kevin, S as in Sam, Gaither. @kevinsgaither. Follow me, and I’d love to share some content with you.

Kevin Cain: Great. Thanks so much for joining us today, Kevin.

Kevin Gaither: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me, Kevin.

photo by: Phil Roeder

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