Tips for Hiring (and Firing) a Sales Person

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

I had the good fortune to attend the SVASE CXO Forum Dec-6-06 where Peter Bakonyvari, Vice President of Sales at JPMorgan SymPro, explored some of the practical realities in building a sales team. In particular what is involved in hiring and firing a sales person.

First 90 days Is Critical

Bakonyvari’s made the point that the first 90 days were critical for determining whether a new sales hire was successful. It is important to set realistic  expectations, put them in writing, and focus on shared success metrics that are easy to measure and agreed to by the salesperson. He offered the following timeline as a basis for getting up to speed on a complex product:

  • 30 days: learn product and be able to communicate value
  • 60 days: start calling and get in front of prospects, start pipeline
  • 90 days: should have prospects who are developing

He shared that he was able to hire successfully about 50% of the time and that is was important to cut losses (“take no prisoners”) and not accept excuses after 90 days.

Three Simple Tests Before You Hire

James Connor, who runs the SVASE CXO forum, offered three simple tests that any sales candidate should be able to pass before being hired.

  • Show me a spreadsheet that demonstrates the ROI for a product.
  • Write me a short article on something you know about.
  • Call me and speak on the telephone.

If the candidate doesn’t have some facility with Excel, writing ability, and good telephone skills, then you should think very hard about extending an offer.

Comments From The Audience

  • Be careful of a VP of sales from a large company as your first hire: if you want someone who will “get out there.” You’ve hired a general when you need a soldier.
  • Understand when you need a business development person instead a sales person. A sales person needs a stable product with a proven sales process and works with a quota. Business development creates new opportunities and is measured on the markets that are identified that can be exploited.
  • Some sales hires will just work for base as long as you let them.
  • The marketeer makes the phone ring then sales guy answers it
  • It can be useful on a larger team to have someone who can cold call and generate leads
  • Expect to spend more than $100K in base for an enterprise sales person, don’t expect to find anyone worth hiring who will work on 100% commission.

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