Most entrepreneurs & founders will admit that hiring for startups tends to be among the top 3 most challenging tasks. The problem of hiring sales people is more acute in India given that “startup ready” and “risk ready” employees are far and few between. In the initial stages of most startups you tend to hire people with some experience or connections, because they need to get up and running quickly.
The most difficult part of the hiring process I have personally seen in India is the resume (CV) screening process.
Our process at Jivity is similar to most companies. We aggressively try to hire from our network, but that’s often insufficient. I personally believe that most (if not all) resumes are written by only one person in India. After that they are all “copy and paste” or “R&D” – rob and duplicate.
The most important part of the resume filtering process first is to understand the type of sales person you want to hire. Depending on the stage of your company, hire the right person for the role.
There are 3 types of sales people according to me: hustlers, relationship sellers, and process junkies.
– Hustlers will get you deals, but not necessarily ones that fit your product or service 100%.
– Relationship sales professionals have a good rolodex, but will need a “technical sales consultant” to explain the “details”.
– Process junkies are best when you have figured out your sales process, but not great at coming up with new types of customers or new uses of your solution for adjacent markets.
Most companies need to hire hustlers early, then hire relationship sellers and finally at a more mature level, hire process folks.
Here are some of my quick tips for filtering sales resumes if you are hiring for technology startups:
- I look for specific and measurable achievements, not a list of activities in a sales resume. That means I will put aside all resumes that say generic things like “generated leads”, “was responsible for many customers”, etc. Instead I look for 3-5 metrics – how much was their target, (you can ask them what was the average selling price of the products they sold during the phone interview if you want to get a sense of their productivity), how many customer (actual number) they sold to over what period of time, what was the level (title) of the person they sold to, in which industries, etc.
- Hustlers don’t write professional resumes that are easy to read. They are typically first to find you at events and are willing to introduce themselves. Typically hustlers will stay at a company for 1-2 years max. After that either the company gets too boring for them or they are looking for a more challenging sales position. If you find sentences that say – “was the only sales person at the company”, or “the first BD (business development) resource at the company” or “started a new office in the region” or “landed the first 5 customers” then you are most likely looking at a hustler resume.
- Relationship seller resumes will typically have a long tenure in one industry or a location, and (in my experience) will typically have worked at minimum of 2 direct competitors. If the resume includes names of specific accounts (customer names) and specific titles they sold to, then you are looking at a relationship sales person’s resume. Typically the tenure at the company along with the combination of the title of their customer will give you a sense of their breadth and depth of relationship. These people will typically have built a relationship for long enough to help them sell to multiple levels and functional organizations (IT, business, finance, procurement, etc.)
- A process-oriented sales person’s resume will typically have a couple of switches from selling to one function (selling to IT vs. business) or type of solution (product vs. services) or ticket size (few big vs. many small). If you find achievements such as “responsible for 3 existing customers and added 4 new customers” you are looking at a process person’s resume. Other things that you will find in a process person’s resume include a listing of many sales methodologies – Spin selling, Target account selling or Complex sale process and a list of courses on negotiation or other management programs they have attended.
- Here’s a trick that eliminates many bad sales people. Don’t go by resumes alone. Give them an assignment during the screening call. Ask them to come prepared to present their first 30 day activity plan and their first 15 target customers, customer’s title and make them go over the list of steps and throw a few objections that you believe you have heard from customers which they might have to respond to.
Most companies tend to hire from competitors directly first (if you are in a mature market) or from larger companies in the industry (if you are a disruptive company in an existing space). I personally look for neither. For good sales people in India, I have preferred to hire from smaller companies from other industries where there the value proposition of working for a technology startup is more appealing.
Also see: Practical Tips on Hiring Crazy Geeks For Your Startup