How the Fastest Growing Startups Build Their Sales Teams

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To achieve explosive growth, technology startups need to have world-class sales teams. From smart cities and driverless cars to artificial intelligence, big data and SaaS, 2018 is ripe for companies to achieve record revenue and profits.

That is, if they have the right sales team in place. A company’s success depends on the ability of its sales teams to deliver sustainable, predictable revenue at scale.

At Peak Sales Recruiting, we have seen seismic shifts in the industry in just the last year alone. The building blocks of developing a great sales team have not changed – recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training and development. However, the nuances within each discipline have modernized, requiring sales leadership playbooks to be updated.

Here are 3 ways fast-growing startups build sales teams differently

1. Recruit Customer Focused and Tech-Savvy Reps

While being a good salesperson requires innate characteristics – or what I like to call sales DNA – it is important to recruit customer focused and tech-savvy reps. In today’s rapidly changing world of SaaS, artificial intelligence, big data and CRM, a firm handshake and killer smile only go so far. Buyers are empowered by unprecedented information, and as the divide between sales and marketing erodes, startups must hire sales reps that know how to foster a seamless customer journey between marketing and customer success groups. In fact, McKinsey conducted six years of research and found that companies that optimize the consumer journey increase revenue by up to 10% annually. Now that’s a driver for scalability. Combining that cross-functional skill set with strong technical competences means that the best reps don’t rely on their sales engineers to explain how their solution integrates or complements their prospect’s technology stack. They understand their product inside and out. And it’s working for ReadySource CEO Michael Lazar who recently noted,

“Having a standardized sales recruiting process allows us to target tech-savvy reps rapidly and assemble a forward-thinking team that understands sales, CRM and marketing.”

2. Scientific Interviewing and Hiring

Interviewing salespeople is like peeling an onion. It involves peeling away a candidate’s superficial layers and getting past conditioned responses to learn about their capabilities, traits, cultural fit, and if they will yield quality results. And with close to 50% of reps missing target, conducting a successful sales interview is the difference between hiring a top performer who will consistently make their number, or bringing on a mediocre salesperson who annoys prospects and damages market reputation.

So how are the best growth companies interviewing reps? They follow a structured and rigorous process that mitigates subjectivity by creating a set of mandatory hiring criteria all candidates are required to meet to be considered for the position. They then select behavioral based interview questions that correlate with what success looks like in the role. Using their mandatory hiring criteria as the benchmark, candidates interview responses are scored by the same set of interviewers – every time. Combing this objective scoring system with the power of psychometric assessments that highlights a candidate’s behavioral style and underlying motivators, best-fit candidates quickly rise to the top, reducing time-to-hire and future turn-over rates, while  enhancing sales force morale.

3. Next Gen Training and Development

Max Meadow, Principal Advisory Analyst for Brandon Hall Group, said,

“That the 70/20/10 mix of training is the new standard for modern sales training.  It states that 70% of knowledge should come from actually doing an activity, 20% should come from other interactions, and 10% should come from formal learning events.”

At Peak, our experience aligns with this philosophy. Clients who have invested in onboarding programs that offer a hands-on approach experience the strongest return on investment. The Aberdeen Group surveyed more than 200 companies, and those with a comprehensive onboarding program scored significantly higher profits and employee retention, productivity, and satisfaction. Why? The first 90 days of a sales rep’s employment is a critical time. Each week should be mapped out to ensure that a new hire is trained on the product or service, the target market, ideal customer profile, and the selling approaches, systems, and tools to be leveraged. Territory and account plan development should also be used to gauge learning progress and knowledge retention. If your sales manager(s) don’t have the resources necessary to ensure that a comprehensive onboarding program is in place, be prepared for ramp-up times and turnover to increase. To immediately improve your onboarding process, follow this SlideShare.