First Sales Hire – Finding Your “Diamond in the Rough”

Steve LudwigHiring ChallengesLeave a Comment

gemstones lying in the dust

In our last post we touched on the 3 most common mistakes bootstrapped founders make when trying to transition out of founder-led sales and make their first sales hire [when they’re not necessarily quite ready to do so].

As mitigation against those common mistakes, we put forward the concept of finding a “diamond in the rough” – someone not necessarily in front-line sales but who has the capabilities to be successful in sales and who has the right [Pathfinder] mindset to be successful as your first sales hire.

That brings up the question of how you find your diamond in the rough or, at a minimum, how do you not exclude potential diamonds from applying?

In this regard, here are the three most common mistakes to avoid. 

  1. Lack of clarity on what is needed at this stage of the business.
  2. The job listing is too narrow, discouraging potentially great candidates.  
  3. Not understanding how bias creeps into only using resumés for job screening. 

 Let’s break these down.

Lack of clarity on what is needed at this stage of the business.  

This results from being unclear on the startup to scaleup journey. We’ve gone into greater detail on that here. We have found that failure to understand this cycle has been the undoing of many excellent businesses.

image showing the stages of growth from startup, through developing the playbook, to scaleup

With regard to making that first sales hire, and without understanding the journey, some founders think that, having achieved founder-led sales, they need to hire a very senior salesperson to build out the Sales team – effectively jumping straight to scaleup and skipping the essential Pathfinder Sales stage.

So, the recruitment campaign gets off on the wrong foot, looking for the wrong profile and without recognizing the unique combination of technical skills and mindset required of a Pathfinder to be successful.

The job listing is too narrow, discouraging potentially great candidates.  

Many times we see founders list huge requirements in their job posting for their first sales hire. That list winds up discouraging great potential candidates from applying. And, odds are, you really don’t need a “rockstar” salesperson with 25 years of beating sales quotas.

So, how do you avoid excluding some of your best possible candidates? 

As we said above, we want people with the right skills and the right mindset. These are not always people with a long-time sales career. And, it is important to understand what is important to your candidates and highlight that in the job listing. Here are some tips to help you craft a better a better job posting. 

  • Take Gender Out: Research by Textio has shown that language in your job post will predict the gender of the person you hire. The way to avoid this is to use gender-neutral language in the job description, or gender balanced.
  • Let Your Values Shine: Research from the Gallup organization shows Gen Z and Millennials want to work for a company that reflects their values, has ethical and transparent leadership, and cares about their wellbeing. Highlight how you are building those factors into your corporate culture as your company grows. It is predicted that by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be Millennials, so getting this one right is critical.
  • Express Your Commitment to Equality and Diversity: This isn’t about being woke or politically correct, rather it is reflecting the world that most of your job candidates grew up in. This commitment is an expectation of today’s candidates, not a nice thing to have. For many to consider working with you, knowing that you support equity and diversity is critical.

Not understanding how bias creeps into only using resumes for job screening. 

Just asking people to submit their resumé is a barrier to a diamond in the rough applying. 

Research has shown that when people just look at resumés, each is scanned for less than 8 seconds 

When you are going so quickly through resumés, what kind of bias creeps into your scanning process? Are you looking for a big company, years of experience, number of sales closings, or something else? Whatever it is, it can’t help you find your Pathfinder salesperson.

It is far better to have an assessment that helps screen candidates that show the best potential.

When large city orchestras introduced “blind” auditions, where musicians being evaluated could only be heard, not seen, the likelihood of female musicians being hired increased by 30%. For example, in 1964, the St. Louis Symphony had 18 women out of 88 musicians. By 2016, it was more than half. 

By having an assessment as part of your candidate screen, anyone can be encouraged to apply and the results will highlight who can do the job—removing the bias from the process. 

The Right Five Has the Assessment You Need

We have developed The Right Five to help you find five Pathfinder salespeople to interview so you can pick the one that is the best fit for your startup.

The Right Five has developed a simple process that:

  • Removes bias from the hiring process. 
  • Automates the candidate assessment/scoring/communication leaving you simply with the selection of those Pathfinders you want to interview.
  • Enables fast on-ramping: Because your first Sales hire needs to be a Pathfinder (the clue is in the name) their need for on-ramping is minimal.
  • Reduced risk: The Right Five reduces the risk for you because our online assessment/rules engine identifies Pathfinders, i.e the candidates who will be successful as the first Sales hire.

Want to find out more? Watch this five-minute overview and demo of The Right Five or send us a note and we will set up a meeting.

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