The following post is by SimpleData Growth Team Member, Trevor Sookraj.
One night, I meticulously examined the postings on our university job board and grimaced at each one. “3-5 years experience is a must” said one, while others had GPA requirements that were far too high. I slumped back in my chair and sighed at the hopelessness of my situation. I couldn’t help but think how awful a hire strategy this was for the companies posting here. The smartest students think they are too good for sales, and everyone else isn’t qualified enough. From the perspective of a young aspiring sales professional, the industry has recruiting all backwards.
As someone looking for the top young talent, you need to start re-evaluating your approach and considering new avenues. This post will overview where to look and what to look for in the top young talent in sales.
Look for Over-Achievers in Non-Traditional Ways
The problems we have to solve in school are often the same: you memorize the method of approaching them and apply the appropriate solution. Naturally, I was bored with the work and became disengaged quite quickly. If I had to apply one more SWOT analysis, I would have probably dropped out.
While GPA has merit in some career paths, sales is not one of them. From my experience, how well you do on an exam shows how well you can cram and regurgitate information, not your ability to succeed. Last semester I took a course on philosophy where a week after the final exam, I struggled to tell my parents what I learned from the three books I read and countless lectures I went to, despite finishing with a good mark. In recruiting, your first instinct may be to launch a posting on a university job board. Job boards, however, are like fishing nets; you throw out a posting and hope quality applicants are caught in it. There are more efficient ways of recruiting talent.
Compare the examples of two successful salespeople; Daymond John and Ben Horowitz. Both managed to scale companies and sell products extremely well, but they are quite different academically. While Horowitz holds an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League school and a master’s in computer science, John only graduated high school. The relentless hustle and warm personalities that good salespeople have don’t come out of a textbook, demonstrating that academic success is not a be-all, end-all to finding good salespeople.
Last year I wandered through a career fair in search of a summer job. At every booth I found myself disappointed. Each one had a bin for resumes, a generic pamphlet on working at the company, and a lack-luster recruiter that had a mediocre grasp on the available positions. This is an ancient and ineffective method of recruiting.
Face-to-face interaction is key in recruiting, but it needs to represent your company. The booth that engaged me the most was one that I was not even interested in. One of the reps actually came out and stopped me in my path to see what I was interested in. When I said sales, one of their sales reps was right there, able to answer my questions and gauge my interest. Maybe it was chance, but there is a certain type of person that is a good fit for sales.
It probably isn’t the quiet millennial, clutching his resume like his life depended on it. It also probably isn’t the guy that’s grilling you with questions about the role and responsibilities. Rapport building is key in sales, and the graduate that is warm, relaxed, and genuinely just wants to talk to you could be the best fit.
Having a diverse and engaged team at your career fair booth isn’t just a better way to find top talent, it’s a better way to represent your company. You wouldn’t just send one employee with a handout to pitch a big lead, you would send your best players, dressed to the nines with a killer deck. Why do any different for a potential big hire? They deserve just as much attention and effort, and it will show if you don’t put it in.
A big part of sales is volume; the more leads you have in your pipeline, the more you are likely to convert - this applies to recruiting as well. The best salespeople are not afraid to show off their talents, and the top young professionals are no different. Being a natural Type 3, I’m personable and determined; value is the most important thing in my work. These traits show at competitions, but they don’t on my resume, or even in phone screen. Competitions represent a crunch for time and emphasize smooth presentations, mimicking the everyday lives of salespeople.
If you have the budget, look into sponsoring a business competition. Sponsoring a case competition at my school could run you around $1000, which is worth it considering you are getting direct exposure to 50+ highly engaged students. If you do not have the budget, considering coming on as a judge, or even attending the networking portion of the event. These competitions attract students who are driven beyond just GPA and resume-boosting extracurriculars. Competitions are environments that mimic the real world better than a classroom or conference room ever could.
Lack of Sales Experience
I was chatting with the VP of Sales of a SaaS company at a student networking event and he seemed pretty disappointed in the quality of applicants. “No one has any experience in enterprise sales,” he complained, “How are they supposed to know how to sell my software?” I couldn’t help but think he was looking at the situation the wrong way.
Only a portion of graduates have solid career experience, and very few will be in enterprise sales. Making this a requirement for your applicants won’t get you anywhere. There are, however, qualities to look for.
Sales is about learning quickly and having a strong personality, adapting quickly to the needs of prospects and solving their problems. These qualities don’t need to come from enterprise sales experience. In fact,there are plenty of ways to find this out. Look at their past experience: Have they shown instances that they can deliver when they’re up to bat? Are they skilled in communication and do they know how to flow with the conversation? These are backbone qualities of strong salespeople; if they have these, you can teach them the rest.
Using traditional channels for recruiting like job boards and typical metrics like GPA will get you ordinary candidates. If you want the top 1% of candidates you need to change your strategy and do unordinary things. Be as fierce and creative with your sales recruiting as you are with managing your salespeople.
About the Author: Trevor Sookraj works on the Growth Team at at SimpleData, a custom lead generation company used by industry-leading companies like Google, Envoy and Import.io.
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