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Podcast Pit Stop: Kevin Gaither on Recruiting & Retaining a Top-Performing Sales Team

Posted by Arielle Walsh on May 20, 2022
Arielle Walsh
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Hiring and retaining great talent is difficult, but not impossible. In Episode 43 of the B2B podcast, Pit Stops to Podium, Kevin Gaither walks us through the process of recruiting and retaining a top-performing sales team. Kevin is the former SVP of Sales at ZipRecruiter where he led over 550 Inside and Enterprise Salespeople. He is currently an advisor and consultant to a handful of early-stage tech companies and is the Co-host of the SaaSHoles Podcast. Don’t miss out on his knowledge and experience as he shares with us the tips and tricks that you’ll need to build a successful sales team. 

Take 45 minutes to listen and digest and then head back to the races! 🏁🏆

Pitstop Highlights

Recruiting Tips and Tricks

Tip #1: Don’t try to clone your top performer. 

When you start cloning your top performers, you’ll start to miss on real talent. Instead, ask yourself what the job needs to do and how candidates can fit the role.

Tip #2: Don’t be entirely black and white. 

Trust your instincts! Sometimes, candidates give good answers to questions, but something still doesn’t feel right. Objective analysis should always come first. 

Tip #3: Don’t force yourself to fall in love with a candidate.

Hiring is like falling in love. You’ll know a candidate is right for your company when you can feel it instinctively. 

Retaining Great Talent

So, you’ve hired an excellent candidate that fits well within your company. How do you make sure they’ll stay for the long term?

Have clear expectations. Implement a Performance Result Description and define what “good” looks like. Make sure you're communicating written policies. Don’t assume that something is well known, and update the policies as the business changes. 

Connect with Kevin: 

Full Transcript

Brendan: Hey, everybody, welcome to Pit Stops to Podium, the RevPartners podcast, where we talk to execs who competed and won in taking their companies from high growth to high scale. My name is Brendan Tolleson. I am the co-founder and CEO of RevPartners, and I'm delighted to have you with me today, Kevin Gaither for this episode of Pit Stops to Podium. Welcome, Kevin. 

Kevin: Thanks for having me. Really excited to participate in and help you operate. 

Brendan: Absolutely. This has been a fun relationship that's been developing over a period of time, and I think it's Jeff Ignacio that actually connect us originally. And we were starting to talk about RevOps and sales. And this is a fun one for us, for our audience who may not be familiar with who Kevin is. He’s got quite an impressive background. So I just want to share that with everybody to kind of level set as to who you are. So Kevin gaither is a former SVP of sales at Ziprecruiter, where he led a team of over 550 inside and enterprise sales folks. So he knows a thing or two about sales. So recognized inside sales expert hands on technology sales leader with over 25 years of experience, early stage the multimillion dollar businesses and in fact, you've taken three companies into 500 Deloitte fast 500 companies. So very impressive background. And currently, Kevin, you are now serving as an advisor and consultant to a handful of early stage tech companies and also serve as a co-host of sasol's podcast, which I'm a big fan of. So this is a treat for me to have you on, and thanks for coming onto the show.

Kevin: You got it. Thanks for thanks for having me. Let's get to it. 

Brendan: Yeah well, Kevin, we've talked a lot about what you've done from a work perspective, but I think it's always fun for our audience to understand who you are outside of work. So before we get to the meat of this conversation, which gets in your core comps on sales, let's get to know who you are. So we're three fun facts that our audience should know about you outside of work. 

Kevin: Yes, there's probably only a handful of people out there that know all three of these facts. Some, some know some, but not others. I entered UC Davis back in 1988 with a degree in aerospace engineering of all things and actually graduated with a degree in architecture. Reach out to me and I'll tell you the reason why. So that's fun fact number, number one, fun fact number two. Literally nobody ever told me that I should be in sales and in fact, my first sales manager that we affectionately called El diablo, by the way. Not a nice dude. He he told me that I should be an analyst instead of getting into sales. And by the way, the reason for that was because I was really metrics oriented even back in 1994 and 1995, like looking at my numbers. And he thought I was more of an art than a science. Yeah, that's exactly correct. And then and then fun fact number three, those that heard me before have heard me say this. I've actually always said that if I had all the money in the world, I'd actually be a math teacher. I love cranking on spreadsheets, hate doing decks. I hate doing decks, but I love love cranking on spreadsheets and working on math problems. Because, as you said, sales has become more of a science than than art these days, and somebody who is a, you know, aerospace engineering wannabe kind of systems thinking kind of fits in fits in play there. So my off script, but how did you go from that background into sales? Yes I'm also incredibly competitive. And my first job out of school. So you have to understand back in '93 we're a little mini recession, Brendan. And there are jobs for architects, by the way. We're not, not a plenty. And so I just took a job in customer service wearing a headset. One 800 dial Ben, how can I help you? And I was making $10 an hour, and that was all the money in the world to me. But I was sitting right next to another guy who was making $11 an hour. And you know, we talk, we eat how much you make. He's like, I make 11 bucks an hour. I'm like, how in the hell do you make a left hour? And I make $10 an hour and he's like, I've just been here longer. And that drove me crazy because he didn't score as well. On his test. They had me training new people that came on board, and it drove me crazy. And I thought, how in the world can I then do something to control my income? And I thought, one, I can start my own business or I can get into sales, and I didn't have the guts or the idea or the money to start my own business. So I forced myself into sales and my mom, I remember her saying, but what if you don't make your quota that month? You know, like, like, I'm not going to eat or something like that, but I just I burned the ships man and and just decided that I had to get into sales and literally my very first commission check in my entire life was $19000. Wow yeah. And that was through three months in and. We're talking 1995 dollars two, by the way, so it was it was a sizable check and I was very I was very hooked, but it was all about being competitive and I just had to had to get into sales because I wasn't going to sit there, Brendan and wait for a boss to give me a great review at the end of the year and give me like a six percent raise. I did. I wasn't going to be down for that. I wanted to give myself the raise. That's why I got into sales. 

Brendan: Well and it proved to be a great decision in light of the background we mentioned at the beginning of the call. So let's let's dive in a little bit because, you know, in light of your experience, you've learned how to build a sales organization, understand what it requires to be successful in sales. And so I think it's a really pertinent top, especially in this current climate. And so the big idea that we want to talk about today, especially with you and your background, is how to recruit and retain top performing sales talent. And so I think it'd be helpful for you, maybe just to level set before we get to kind of the meat of this. Like, why does that matter in this current climate today? Why should we be talking about sales talent both on the recruiting and entertainment side?

Kevin: Well, I mean, it's so hard to do. It's so it's so hard to to hire people these days, even even higher than than before. And you can have all the best product. You can best have all the best technology to support your sales people. But if you put the wrong butts in the seat and don't set proper expectations with those people that are that are the butts in the seat, it's all for naught. It's all for naught. And so recruit like focusing. And you know, everyone says you've got to focus on your employees and all kinds of, you know, but how to do that really strategically and tactically so that you can look for the right people, attract the right people, but then retain them over time. And that's where the real magic is. Like I said, I'm just going to repeat, you can have the great product and you can have awesome tech and awesome benefits and all that kind of good stuff snacks in the office, you know, if you ever get back in the office. But but if you don't attract and retain high quality talent, you're you're screwed. 

Brendan: Yeah, I like that. So let's park on the first side, we're going to about recruitment and we're going to retain them. And so how do you get people into the organization and we'll talk about how to keep them at the organization. So when we talk about recruiting, I like how you kind of frame it. You have this idea of define what great looks like and then you define what a great, efficient process looks like and a lot of your experience of building a 550 person organization, ziprecruiter. I think you have a pretty good understanding of what that looks like in terms of what to do and what not to do. And I think it would be helpful. Kevin, I may pull up a screen for those that are looking at this video so they can see your slides as you talk through both what great looks like and efficient process. I think there's some really good information on that slide as you start talking through that, so I'm going to share my screen now. And so if you're on audio, I would encourage you to come and listen to the video. So let's first talk about what great looks like Kevin on your side with recruitment. 

Kevin: Yeah so, you know, I learned this lesson long ago and made a lot of Mis hires, and I really hated having that conversation where, hey, it's not working out, so we have to go. And so I wanted to mitigate that as much as possible, because when you hire somebody, you kind of fall in love a little bit when you make a hire. And so, you know, I didn't want to have those breakup conversations. How can I improve my probabilities of success? You know, this is definitely not a binary type of thing. And one of the things I learned was to define what great looks like. What is that? That's quite simply a hiring benchmark. You know, if anybody knows Stephen covey out there, you know, one of the seven habits is beginning with the end in mind. And so and so you have to answer this question. This is, you know, very tactical for your listeners. If the job could speak to me, what would it tell me that it needs to be successful, ok? And what you'll go through is a very, very awesome brainstorming process where you just Greenfield whiteboard with seven people in a room. Those that do the job, support the job, manage the job, just get in the room and you start to writing out characteristics, need for achievement, coach ability, competitive, you know, good communication skills, highly organized, you know, whatever it might be, process driven and you just start writing the stuff down and then you start prioritizing and combining like, well, that's sort of sounds the same as this, whatever. And you narrow it down to like eight to 12 different characteristics of what good looks like in the job again, are great looks like again, if the job was to speak to me, what would it tell me that it needs to be successful once you've narrowed it down to those eight to 12 characteristics, Brent and then define what those things actually mean? Why is defining so very important? Because one person might think coach ability means one thing. An interviewer, a hiring manager, might think coach ability means one thing, whereas another hiring manager might think that coach ability means something else. So agreeing on what that definition of coach ability means is critically important. So we're going for the same thing. So we're gaining alignment on what great looks like in that particular characteristic. Then from there, you come up with your three or four behavioral interview questions that help you identify at what level does this candidate possess that particular skill? No candidate is perfect. You're not likely to find fives all down the line, but tell me about the last time your manager gave you feedback and then tell me what you did about that, ok? In the coach ability example here, OK, tell me about a time that you actively went out and sought an improvement for yourself without being prompted, you know, whatever. So all these behavioral based questions, and so most people don't do this, by the way, they just say, you know, hey, Brendan, I have this candidate coming in today. Can you sit with them for a second and tell me what you think? You don't know what you're going for, and usually what you end up doing is an incredibly biased exercise of do I like them or not? And that is that is one jacked up way to to interview candidates. So instead, I'd say, Brendan, I want you to go in there and evaluate this candidate based on coach ability and organizational skills. And here's the pieces of the benchmark that I want you to you to ask. And I'm giving you a mission. I'm giving you a mission to ask these questions and then tell me, does this candidate? At what level does this candidate possess coach ability you need for achievement, whatever those things might be? So let me stop right there. You good there on what great looks like? 

Brendan: Yeah. To me, it's it's being creating an intentional process behind it. We'll get into more of the process in a second, but it's it's putting the burden and the responsibility on the manager versus the candidate in my mind. It's like you need to be the ones driving this and knowing exactly what success looks like and eliminate the subjectivity that's so often happens to your point of do I like this person or not? And that's that's not that's not going to set you up well for success 

Kevin: If there's any listeners out there that are still asking the questions. Tell me about yourself, then you're doing it wrong. Yeah, you're doing it wrong. It means you have no intention. A great point. No, no intention. 

Brendan: Well, Kevin, this is likely informed by some of the lessons learned along the way. So so we talked about things to do. Yeah, we already kind of just tease out what not to do. But let's talk to that a little bit further, because I think there's some good practical insights, tips and tricks that you know, our audience, especially those are building out a sales team can can definitely benefit from. 

Kevin: Yeah, no doubt. So mistakes that I've made in the past is where I've looked at my top producer and said, Chad or Sharon, those are my top producers. Why don't we just what a Chad and Sharon do? This is equivalent to the Jacksonville jaguars, which is the worst team in the NFL for those that don't watch football. Worst team in the NFL looking at their top receiver and saying, OK, we want to, you know, clone our top wide receiver, that's what's going to get us to a super bowl. You're missing out on what it takes to be the best wide receiver in the NFL to help you get to the to help you get to the super bowl. So don't don't look at your top producers, especially if you're an early stage company. You may only have one or two salespeople. So now you look at those one or two salespeople are like, oh, let's this clone, Tom. Don't clone Tom. Ask yourself what the job needs to, and you'll make tons of mistakes because you're trying to find Tom, but you're missing out on the characteristics that you need for that job, for that salesperson to crush at number two. This is not it's not binary or binary. It's not a how do I put it, if not well, right there on the screen, it's not black and white, ok? And so you may find a scenario where you've got this benchmark, for example, when you go down the list and people are giving you good answers to the question, but there's something behind the scenes that's like, it's not clicking, you're not. There's there's pheromones going back and forth and something's weird, you know, but yet you're getting all the right answers, but something doesn't feel right. You have to trust that. And I've made mistakes there where I go, well, look, they answered all the questions the way to do. Then I hire this person. They're cuckoo for coconuts and like, so you got to got to make sure that you listen to that gut as well. But that gut doesn't come first. It's the objective analysis informed by the insights that are coming from your gut, where it's like something just doesn't fit here. Something doesn't make sense here. You know, maybe, maybe they can't manage their zoom. Every time I get on a call with them, it takes them 10 minutes to get their zoom up and running and their camera running. But then when I do get up and running, they answer all the questions properly. You've got to trust. Guts and then finally, don't force yourself to fall in love with a candidate, you can convince yourself and go god, well, you know, that was. Yeah, maybe I should hire, maybe. No, in the way that I've looked at this is hiring is like falling in love. You know it. You know it when you feel it, you're like, this feels right. If you find yourself going god, I, you know, I'm not sure if I should make this higher. Maybe I don't make the hire to make the hire because I have made the mistake where I just go. I'm not sure, but I made the hire anyway. And I'm telling you literally every time I've convinced myself to like a candidate, make the hire every time it's been wrong. And that's not hyperbole. Every time it's been wrong. So don't convince yourself to like a candidate. 

Brendan: I can sympathize with that last bullet. Trust your gut. So I really like that. So these are these are really good practical insights. That's why I like this podcast format, because it's giving based on your experience, giving our audience some insights on what they can take back to their organization. So we we talk a little bit about defining what great means. Now let's get into the process side, because one of the interesting findings we saw on a recent study was just the speed at which people want to go. And so one of things I love both from an interviewer and from the interviewee, that speed is really important, and I think the next section is really great because you create a framework of how to drive efficiency in the process. So let's talk a little bit about how you think about a process from a recruitment perspective. 

Kevin: Yeah, so well, first of all, there has to be one, ok? It can't just be haphazard in any way, shape or form. And you know, when prepping for this, I thought to myself and the today's labor market, a thorough process probably doesn't, probably doesn't work because the candidates won't tolerate it. And so I actually put a poll out on LinkedIn to find out like what do candidates want? Do they want a, you know, a lengthy, you know, very detailed process? Do they want to just to sort of be, you know, one or two calls make the offer and I'll choose or they still want it to be, you know, a couple of weeks and still be, you know, thorough. My gut told me that that the candidates these days just give me the offer. You know, I'm in demand a couple of calls, you make me the offer. And the truth is, and what I learned from the study is that 60 five, the poll that I put out there. 65 percent of my respondents, they still want a thorough process that's no more than two weeks. So they want time to be sorry. They want to be selective about the places that they're going. And it is a job seekers market, but they still they don't want. Just like, hey, you look great, let's hire you after one or two calls. You know, that's not good enough for candidates, especially because it's a tight labor market. And so I show you this. And remember one thing, Brendan, you can have a thorough process and still be quick. OK, yeah. You know, don't create a process that's intentional. I love the word that you've used before. That's that's intentional. You have goals for each step of your of your process, but you also do it quickly. So, for example, this is a process, and I'll read it out loud for those that are doing the audio piece here. You know, you would have an application that has, you know, screening questions right out of the gate. Here's your pro tip, by the way, you don't need to review a resume. Just look at the answers to the screening questions that candidates are giving you. And maybe there can be some open ended text questions in there as well, and that should take the candidate, you know, five minutes to fill that stuff out. Have a 15 minute phone screen. Have a 45 minute interview with the sales manager, then have a 45 minute behavioral interview where you're going deeper into some of those behavioral interview questions on the benchmark a sales assessment. Take it or leave it. By the way, some people like sales assessments like those personality assessments or sales assessments they take offline. I've liked them in the past. Then in face to face interviews, you know, 90 minutes of face to face interviews and then do your reference checks thereafter. This is a real process that we used that I used at previous companies to help me improve my probabilities of hiring good candidates. A lot of people have said that don't do a process like this have said that it's too much. Can you know, high quality candidates won't do that? It's not true. And here's why, because you're setting the tone with these candidates that not everybody makes it through this process. It's like the NFL combine. OK, not everybody can make it through the NFL combine to be in the NFL, and so is. And however your process looks, I'm suggesting you have a process that is that has multiple steps with it so that you have multiple data points with the candidate. And that and that the candidate also has multiple data points with with with you. 

Brendan: Yeah, I think the the impulse reaction when seeing this, I was just trying to count. I'm not great at math, you're more the math guy than I am, but I was counting up the minutes on the on the chart that it's in front of me and it's four plus hours of activity. And the knee jerk reaction is, man, that's who has the time to create that. And then I'm reminded of we had rob foreman on previously Rob's one of the co-founders of sales loft. And rob talked a lot about how, from a recruiting perspective, as a leader, I would argue that that is, if not your number one priority, it's in your top two or three. And so you need like there's nothing more important than creating this framework to ensure you get the right people in the right seat. So and I think a lot of people just default to lazy is too strong a word. But like it, just the default is I don't want to create this because that's just too much work for me to do. But like if you're a leader and you're building a sales organization, it creates leverage and allows you to scale your organization because you get the right people in. 

Kevin: Well, that's correct. Look, the old adage goes hire slow fire fast, ok? This is part of gathering as much data and insights through that interview interview process. And if you do it quickly and haphazardly, you're not getting standard sets of data against which you can improve your probabilities of hiring success. And that's what this is all about improving your probabilities of hiring. Brendan, I thought about this in terms of before our call today, you can literally ask anybody any hiring manager, do you think you're good at interviewing? And I guarantee you that like 80, 90% of them would say they're really good at interviewing, but none of them likely have actually measured their probabilities of success with their hires. And here's a simple, simple way to do this. Look back on on people that you've hired after six months and ask yourself knowing what I know now, would I do it again? Is that no better than a coin flip? Because most people have it as good, like coin flip or 30% hiring success rate? I was able to after screwing up for year after year after year and having those uncomfortable termination conversations, I was able to get business. I was able to increase my probability of success up to almost 80% In other words, 80% of the people that I hired, I looked back after six months and I said, knowing what I know now, I would hire that person again. And it started with a thorough, intentional process with a benchmark and step by step, you know, a real, codified process. Hey, kind of sounds like a sales process, by the way. It sure does. 

Brendan: Yeah well, let's I like this idea of you mentioned it's kind of a coin flip and improve the probability. What are ways that will decrease the probability or at least keep it very great from a coin flip perspective? 

Kevin: Yeah well, first of all, don't optimize your don't if you don't optimize your process, your hiring process. You know what I delineated before worked for me, and we changed it when I got to ziprecruiter and it was, you know, was different thereafter. As an example, the demo, there's a lot of candidates sorry candidates hiring processes out there where the last step is, OK, you're going to come in and you're going to do the presentation. OK, first of all, what does what is good look like in that presentation? Do you even have a scorecard for like what you're looking for in that in that? But number two, is there any sort of correlation between those that do well in that in that demo presentation and hitting minimum thresholds or achieving quota? And when I measured this, there was literally and I had it in my process, but then I measured and looked, guess what? I'm in l.a. actors did really, really well in that process, but there was literally no correlation between doing well in that demonstration or presentation and doing well on the job itself. And so I got rid of it. So make sure that you're flexible with your hiring process and, you know, expanding and contracting at one company that I was at. We actually got rid of reference checks entirely because we found that literally they'd come back great a player, fantastic all the time. Like, of course they weren't. But we. But the point was we never how we put it. The reference check was never a reason for us to get rid of a candidate in like '99 0.9 percent of the situation. Interesting so we got rid of it. We did background checks, obviously the legal stuff, but we got rid of reference checks in entirely at one of my my previous company overvaluing the bachelor's degree. This one I love to like snicker and I love to like talk people on this particular topic. At ziprecruiter, we hired thousands of salespeople over over the years, thousands and we had a very large data data science team and that the net net here is the end story was we found that having a bachelor's degree did not improve the probabilities of a sales person hitting hitting quote or not. End of story. And so it opened up the. Hiring spigot for us, because now we didn't require a bachelor's degree anymore, which, by the way, it's like great other companies, you're going to require it, you're the pool you're fishing in is smaller. Fine those that want a competitive advantage. Forget the bachelor's degree. And then I gave you this other one before, like reviewing resumes, for god's sakes. It's a marketing vehicle. OK, if you're any company of any size, you've got an applicant tracking system of some basic level, and that applicant tracking system likely has screening questions when they apply, and it's either upon the application or after the application they fill out. You have them fill out screening questions, some of them, most of which should be binary in nature. If you have a as an example, the compensation for this role is a base salary of 75,000 and variable of 75,000. Does that meet your expectations? Yes or no? Simple as that. That's binary. I want to kick those people out. I don't care what their resume says. If the Comp doesn't fit their expectations, why do I want to talk to them? And if you're in the office, if you require being in the office, this is a job that requires being the office. Is that acceptable to you? Yes or no. This is a job that is highly transactional. You'll be required to sell about 20 transactions a month. Does that do you have experience doing that or state in a different way? My previous sales have been highly transactional, you know, six to 10, six to 20 transactions per month. Very strategic and complex. Two transactions per quarter. What kind of salesperson are you? If you're highly transactional, why would you hire somebody? All they have is this enterprise level experience. You want to create these binary checks because in order to get through, you're going to you're going to literally go through 100 resumes to make three hires. How could you how do you shorten that out? Don't review resumes. That's that's your hack there. And the mistakes I made was like looking at resumes. And it's like, for god's sakes, just give me the binary data. 

Brendan: I like it. So these are great tips and tricks. Let's transition. So we talked a lot about the first part of this is talking about how to get the right, get people getting people in. So how to eat the right people in the right seat. But I think the next part is just as important as once you get them in. How do you keep them? And so let's talk through, you know, I really like you kind of have three core topics in this section, and we're talking about the onboarding experience, creating clear expectations and then them understanding what is their career path look like so that there's clarity for that. At this point, this is an employee. And so let's let's talk through some of these kind of practical tips that you've outlined to ensure that the onboarding experience goes well, that the expectations are clear and that they have a trajectory that they're excited about. So let's start on the onboarding side. 

Kevin: Yeah so I'm going to steal one from the great Trish Bertuzzi at the bridge group and in Massachusetts. You know, tTish, she's great. She's great. I look up to her, you know, some people call me an inside sales expert. She is the inside sales expert, in my opinion, and I'll steal this one from her. This is what she said in the past. You make this strategic decision to make a hire, but then you make the tactical mistake of poor onboarding and it couldn't be further. I mean, it couldn't be more true. You know, you, you, you hire somebody and maybe it's one off or there's three or four people and they go, sit with that person, what's next? OK, go sit with that person over over there. And there's no like real goal and there's no agenda and things like that. And and so what you want to do is and this could be very fast, you know, I believe in, you know, get the sales person onboarded as quickly as possible and on the phones as quickly as you possibly can. Three days, four days. Me, it depends on how complicated your, your product and your sale is there. But day one, they sit down. First thing you're doing is you're handing them their schedule. Now remember Brandon, they have bet their future on you. They have made a decision that they want to be with you. It's kind of like, you know, imagine going out to a, you know, on a date with somebody and you go to Chili's or applebee's or whatever you, wherever you like to go and you show up to meet this person, you're really excited to meet them. And then they're sort of like on their phone and distracted like the whole time. And you're like, oh my god, I'm like, I'm betting on you, but you don't seem to have your stuff. You're not really that intimate. You don't really seem to me. And that's how some people do this onboarding process. So instead, instead, you want to paint a picture. Here is your schedule for the next three days or three weeks, or whatever it is. And I would literally delineate it out. Eight AM to nine. You're meeting with Billy, you know, 9 to 10, you're meeting with Jane, and this is the topic that you're covering and, you know, 5 o'clock. OK, we're going to do around up with CG and a quiz the next morning and delineating all this so that Brendan, they have zero time to think about whether or not they made a bad decision or not. Because when you say, go sit with Jane. Go sit with Bob. Go to shadowing. Go shadow so-and-so. For God's sakes. We have gone. We have chorus. Why is shadowing even a thing anymore? But anyway, you know, have these candidates, these new hires that you've invested in paint a really clear picture of what we're going to, you know, going to accomplish. And as I've put on this slide in particular, you want to cover sales training, company training, product training, what's company training? You know what? It doesn't hurt to go through policies and procedures and expectations with the sale with your employees. You know what our culture is, is like product training. That's where most people tend to focus anyway. They're here. Click here, click here, click here. This is how our product works. That's not the kind of training that I'm talking about. I'm talking about. Like, yes, you need to do that, but then you need to, like a sales engineer could help translate what that feature, what pain that feature solves. That's a better conversation, as well as doing role plays and doing the presentation there and doing the openers and things like that. And then the sales training. Don't forget, just because they come to you with some sort of sales experience doesn't mean that you shouldn't give them sales training on how to handle objections or how to do discovery questions. 

Brendan: You know, in particular, that suits the sales leader and their methodology. You need to provide that kind of provide that kind of training. And so again, do you do you do you find do you find that those are equally weighted with training perspective or there are ones that you would say of these three sales company and product? You know, this is the one that I would spend a disproportionate amount of time on. Yeah, I would say the sale. I would focus on the sales training component. I think it would be more important, followed very closely by the product training and weaving it, weaving it together, you know, because I want to be able to, I'd want to be able to. As an example, stars can be trained. What needs can be trained like, what qualifying questions to be asking. But if they don't know why they're asking those questions and how that relates to some of the product features that solve the pains that they're uncovering in the discovery? So you kind of have to put it, you know, put it together. But I would definitely put the sales training sales training first. The company training just all relates to what it's like to work here, you know, and that's important. You know, you're in our house now. So you're, you know, clean up after yourself and put your dishes away and, you know, just setting expectations in that regard. And then the next after great onboarding is clear expectations. And I spoke a lot about that just, you know, just now on the company training. But I mean this to be something different. I learned this from Dale Carnegie along a long ago. There is. There's this thing that they created, at least I think they created, called the PRD the performance result description. What I like about this coming from the aerospace engineer, architect guy, it objectively defines what good looks like. It's not a job description. It's what good looks like in this particular job, so that it's really clear I have a client right now. As a matter of fact, that's saying, yeah, how do I get my skills to make phone calls? Like, what do you mean? How do you get them to make phone calls? Did you set the have you defined what good looks like? Can you define that? In order to do the job well, you need to be doing a combination of activities, you know, and so, you know, creating something that objectively defines what it looks like, you know, maybe in your world, Brendan, you hire an operations person and what good looks like means that, you know, 90% or 99% of the tickets that they receive is our, you know, opened in, you know, less than 12 hours scoped in 24 hours and resolve with, you know, 99% satisfaction or something like that. But you're objectively defining what good looks like in that job on the slide, the number one item here was what's it take to get fired around here? This is one of the things that I do when I come into sales organizations. I ask that brutal question to the salespeople directly. So do you know what it takes to get fired around here? You'd be shocked at how few salespeople actually know what it takes to be fired around here. Why is that important? I'm no psychologist Brendan, but somebody once told me that there's this thing called Maslow's hierarchy of needs and it's like a pyramid, and that the base of the pyramid is secure. And in order to get to your higher self, like, you know, high performance, you need to have a level of security. So knowing how you're going to get your ass fired or not knowing actually state that's the other way, not knowing how your butt's going to get fired creates that insecurity. It's an unstable run from which you're trying to do your job, but you don't know is 99% Do you goal three times in a row missing goal. Am I going to get fired for that? And Billy just got fired on February 1st. I don't know why. I don't know why Billy got fired. Am I next? Was it random? Is that layoffs? Or did Billy do something incorrectly in the job? So writing that down very clearly, what does it take to get fired? What does it take? Number one, you're going to mitigate risk. So when you want to actually terminate somebody, it's written down. It's very clear in that commission plan is signed. Yeah, that's incredibly important in my opinion and making sure that it's very transparent. You know what it takes to get fired. We'll talk about the opposite of that on the, you know, the next slide in the second there. And then, you know, this is hard. Look, I've done the job of leading sales, but then I'm also sort of an operations and I'm also a little bit of recruiting and I'm a little bit of HR like I've been at startups my entire career. And so I know that wearing multiple hats thing. And one of the things that's helped me tremendously is having a written policy document that's a living, breathing document and Google Docs or, you know, back in the day, Salesforce had the Solutions tab. They don't have that anymore. But this living, breathing document that delineates, you know, standard operating procedures and all these if then statements, you know who owns this lead when there's a conflict which happens all the time, you know, starting to write those things out, but make it really, really clear. I even have a document that says, if you're sick, stay home now again. This is when we were in the office. If you're sick, stay home. If you know, and this is when it was just start up, type of stuff, if you don't write it out. People don't know what to do and then you run yourself into a situation of like, well, they should just no better. No, no, no. Let's not assume. Let's not OK. And we talked about the PRD. What does it take to do the job well? But but the next piece, after setting those clear expectations, the next piece is like a really good career path. And you know, the visual here delineates what promotion means, what goal means and what demotion means or termination, of course. And what you want stated positively what you want. Brendan is a scenario that you can when you hire a high performing person out of the recruiting process, you're discussing a promotion path because guess what? Every candidate says, what's my career path? Every single one is going to say, what's my career path? And if you say, oh, well, we got, you know, one level and it's to senior 82 or c, you know, level two or senior 80 or something like that. And that's it. They're wondering, well, what else is there for me, ok? What's really critical in establishing a career path like this is you're establishing a promotion threshold that is above goal. Brendan, if you hit your goal, I'm saying to you, thank you for doing your job. I'm paying you your market compensation that is not promotion worthy. You just met my expectations. Thank you very much. Mm-hmm Promotions should be challenging. Promotions should be difficult. Promotions should be reserved for your top 20% Promotions shouldn't just be handed out because you just showed up and hit your goal. So you want to delineate if you envision the world of your salespeople as a bell curve. OK, your promotions occur at the far right hand side of your bell curve, where not everybody is going to get there. Everybody has the chance to get there, but not everybody is going to get there because you've set that at 120% to go 150% to go or whatever that might, might be. And you are also setting that with high specificity. You're saying, OK, your quote is $100,000 of R.N. per month. If you hit 120,000 at R.N. per month for four out of the last six months, then you will earn an automatic promotion period end of story. There's no presentation. There's no interview. You come to your manager and say, pay me sucker, because you've earned it, you've made it very, very clear. So you've delineated what promotion looks like and you devote to. Defines the consistent performance, you know, everybody is seeing the salesperson, Brendan, that, you know, close that one whale that was the one whale and then they get a promotion and then they don't do so good after they get promoted. OK, fine. So what we want to delineate is that high performance over a consistent amount of time. So if you're doing enterprise sales, you might delineate, you know, two quarters in the last three or 3/4 in the last five at 120% or greater. That way, you can mitigate the, you know, the whales getting people to promotion, you know, promotion thresholds and, like I said, have multiple levels to it, not just one level, because once your top producer gets to that next level, they're going to say, well, what's next? Well, that's it. We got senior congratulations. They're going to be looking for something else. You want to retain these people by putting into multiple levels. And to be clear, this is a bonus higher base, higher variable at each one of these levels and a higher quota. I've seen this mistake so many times where they increase the base and they increase the variable, but they don't increase the quota. No, the financially, it still has to make sense for the business. So increase that quota, they're going to make more money. Ideally, you're giving them higher quality leads, you're putting them into a better territory, too, if you can do that. But higher base, higher variable and higher quota goes along with that. 

Brendan: Yeah I love this framework. I mean, I think to me what it speaks to is it removes the ambiguity. Yes, it helps define the rules of the game. And if you have high performers, which inevitably you're going to with the whole probability or increasing the probability, but are also saying, hey, here's the path that we can lay out for you if you do perform. And so I like the point where you have a level 1 all the way to level 4. If you have high performers, they want to know not just what it looks like next step, but like, hey, I want to be a VP of sales, I want to be a CRO. I want to know what that looks like over a 5 to 10 year period. So giving them that or not, a foundation. But really, the framework, if you're a high achiever, you're going to do it because that's what you want. So you're making it very clear that there's an exchange here that if you do these things, we will reward you and this is what it looks like. 

Kevin: Yeah, that's right. Objectively, you know, some of these promotion processes, it's like you have to interview for it and all this kind of stuff. I'm like, no, don't mess around, you know, just make it very clear there's the target. Here's where you need to get to and and when you get there, we will give it to you a no questions, no questions asked. And that is if you do, if anybody is listening to this and could do those five things in the two areas recruiting and retaining and retaining and do the two things in the recruiting and the three things in the, you know, in the retaining is this easy stuff. No, but if you can Cordon off that time, slow down to speed up, and build those things into your company, you will be improving your probabilities of success in hiring and retaining high-performing salespeople. 

Brendan: Yeah, it's I love the, you know, improving the profitability. I mean, what? Sure, the cost more time on the front end. But the back end is where you reap the reward and it's like, so if you don't do it, then you have to deal with the churn that you talked about and trying to find more talent that's just cost prohibitive versus put the upfront work in. And then you start to see the leverage when you get these top performers are coming in with their probability increasing. So I love learning about how to recruit and retain top sales talent. This has been super informative for me and I'm sure it has been for our audience. If our audience wants to engage with you, what is a way like? What social media platforms are you active on that they can reach out to you? 

Kevin: Yeah, LinkedIn is probably the best way. Just find me on LinkedIn, you know, Kevin Gaither, I think, is what it reads. There shouldn't be hard to find me there and frankly, email me if you want Kevin Gaither at gmail.com. Not not difficult. From there, I just got my TikTok account set up about four months ago. So follow me there too. But but LinkedIn and email is probably best from there, and I'm happy to help. I love helping people out, so don't be bashful. Reach out to me. Love to help you. 

Brendan: Well, I can speak firsthand that is a genuine statement. Kevin has been a great resource for me and become a, you know, a great content as we've gotten to get to know each other. So Kevin, Thanks again for stopping by. Really appreciate your insights on this topic. I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Kevin: No problem. Thanks for having me. 

Brendan: Thank you. Cheers.  

 

Pit Stops to Podium: A RevPartners Podcast

On the RevPartners Podcast, we talk to executives who have competed and won, accelerating their companies from High Growth to High Scale. Hosted by RevPartners Co-founder and CEO, Brendan Tolleson. Take some quick notes from each week's "Crew Chief" and then head back to the races!

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