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Podcast Pit Stop with Rob Forman, SalesLoft Co-founder + President

Nothing is More Important to Scale a Business

Why are good hiring skills so important? Rob Forman, in this podcast episode, unpacks why getting the right people in the right seat is a skill in which business leaders must invest. Rob encourages listeners to put in the work to get GREAT at hiring GREAT people.

And Rob has done just that. He is currently the Co-founder, President, and Chief Strategy Officer of SalesLoft, a company valued at $1.1B that helps B2B sales teams close more deals.  His conversation with Brendan is full of wisdom on why investing in recruiting is transformative for businesses and practical advice on how to approach the hiring process from interview to close. 

Take 30 minutes to listen and then head back to the races! 🏁🏆

Connecting with Rob + SalesLoft

Follow on  Linkedin or engage with SalesLoft on their site or blog.

Referenced by Rob in this Episode 

  • Who: The A Method of Hiring  by Geoff Smart - Rob recommends learning the Top Grading Interview Style!
  • Quote: "Hiring good people is hard. Hiring great people is brutally hard. And yet, nothing matters more to winning than getting the right people on the field.” - Jack Welch, Former CEO of GE

Full Transcript

BT: Hey everybody! Welcome to Pit Stops to Podium, the RevPartners podcast, where we talked to execs who competed and won, taking their companies from high growth to high scale. I'm Brendan Tolleson. I am the co-founder and CEO of partners, and I'm delighted to have with me today Rob Forman. Rob, welcome to the podcast. 

RF: Good to be here, man. Thanks for having me. 

BT: Absolutely. Well, for those who don't know, Rob is the Co-founder, President and Chief Strategy Officer of SalesLoft. So we're very lucky to have him with us today. Rob, for those that don't know who SalesLoft is, how about you give the elevator pitch on what you do and who you serve?

RF: Yeah, so SalesLoft helps salespeople close more revenue. And, salespeople need to do two things in this modern age. They need to provide a good buying process for their buyers and they need to be helpful through it. But they need to do it in a scalable fashion. So that the company can scale and be efficient. And so sales through our sales engagement platform helps them do just that, where they have a list of actions that they’re knocking out. We have a product that helps manage opportunities and then a conversation product which records calls that they're on and helps them reflect and learn from them. 

BT: It's a great product. I've been a big fan and user in the past. sure most of our audience has as well. Well, rob, before we go to the big idea, one of things that's a tradition here at the podium is getting to know our guests outside of work. So what are three fun facts that our audience should know about you outside of SalesLoft 

RF: Yeah, yeah, this is great. So if you walked into my office back when I had an office before covid, I don't even remember sitting on my desk would be a picture of my family with this inscription under it that said, your first startup. And it was a gift from my wife, just as a fun kind of play off of the fact that I'm in startups and I don't have a picture of me and her in our five kids. And so that's one fun fact, is that we have a big family. We have five kids. My oldest is 14, my youngest is 8. Three joined us through adoption. And so it's just been so awesome to have to be a part of that. And it's certainly more than I ever imagined. And then it was really fruitful and fun. 

BT:I like how you set that up with the first startup in terms of having your priorities right. And I imagine a lot of free time for golf. 

RF: So that is my second fun fact was that was the hobby I gave up. It was probably two years into sales and a buddy of mine, he was looking for golf clubs. And I you can 100% I have mine. I sold it to him because I was like, yeah, that sport does not gel right now. And it was a shame because I loved it. My wife got me golf pro lessons before we had kids and all that stuff. But maybe maybe it'll come back later. I mean, it's actually not my. Go ahead. Yeah exactly. I actually that's not my point that we just threw that in second one is that I'm a country boy and and I love I have a 30 acre farm and I love being down here. We have beef cattle and I, I come from a big family. And so my parents. In order to sort of, I guess, keep their sanity, they would let a couple of us kids go down and spend the Summers like six to eight weeks in the Summers of my grandparents in Alabama, clay county, Alabama, which is about 40 miles from where my farm is now. And so I just I love being outside, being in the country. And and I put on the button up when I the button down shirt when I need it. But I love it. I don't have to. Hopefully that's been used pretty heavily during this COVID season where you can essentially work from anywhere. Yeah, crazy. It's been it's a huge blessing to us where we've been able to kind of give the kids some space to run. But yeah, be safe. We're isolated. 

BT: All right. So you have a big family there, country boy. And what's your third fact? 

RF: Yeah so the third fact is my favorite car ever is a 1995 metro, which has three cylinders. I didn't know they made cars with three cylinders and it's a 1 liter engine and, and it's just fun. It actually really is my favorite car. The reason is before that when I was I had gotten this job earlier my career at a startup. And I was making a lot of money and I was like, you know what I need? I need a sports car. And I bought this Corvette and I had a car payment of $850 when I was just spending way too much money. And the insurance was even crazier because I'm not only 21 years old at this time. And it actually over time really became just suffocating. I hated it and I eventually sold the car. I had a ton of debt coming out of it. I was upside down in it. And my, my brother-in-law sold me this metric for $400. And that was when I got on the kick of really financial health and I paid off all my debts. And I love driving that car because it represented freedom. And I was sad. I was sad the day I finally died. Do you still have it somewhere or is it just the only hole in my heart? The pictures too. And it's like the worst puke, like green color. It's terrible. But it was awesome because it was exactly what I could afford and it and it helped me achieve my other goals. 

BT: That's great. And so now you trade it in for the minivan with the five kids. 

RF: Yeah Yeah. So I've got a Ford Ranger and then my wife has the minivan. Because they got to fit somewhere. They don't fit in a major sports car. 

BT: Well that was great. Appreciate that. Let's transition to the big idea. You've obviously experienced a lot of growth in SalesLoft when you started to where you are now. And I think one of the big pieces or at least two fundamental pieces probably helped you get there is around people. And so getting the right people in the right seats, I think it's a great topic for our audience as they're experiencing that high growth to high scale, because that is so fundamental in order to help you accomplish the growth and the objectives that you have an organization. So let's park on that topic for our big idea today. And I kind of tease it out. But in your mind as we start out, why is hiring so important? 

RF: I guess it's so important because I can't think of anything more important than it. I remember hearing somebody say, you don't set your culture, you hire it, which I imagine there's a tension. Right? some of it is you do set the direction you advertise and all that. But really, what it reinforced with me is the importance of hiring people that are aligned to it, because values are not something that tend to change quickly. We pick them up as part of childhood and growing up and through life experience, and it makes us who we are. And so if I want people who have similar values, then I'm not going to train them until I'm likely going to need to hire. It reminds me of a quote from Jack Welch who said, “hiring good people is hard. Hiring great people is brutally hard, and yet nothing matters more to winning than getting the right people on the field.” And so when I think about people who have gone ahead of us and it's just every day I learn a little bit more. How much they were right. And I didn't fully take into account that hiring is hard, it takes time, it takes practice. And the reason I focus on. Back to why and really park on the why is because hiring and interviewing is a skill, which I think it is, and I think most people would agree. And it is really, really important, then the natural next question will be how much time and effort do we spend on getting better at it? How much time do I invest in it? Am I recruiting just on the edges of my time? And when I find somebody, I'm just so happy to have somebody in the seat, I just hire them or have I really put in the effort required to become great at it? I don't know anybody who created anything that didn't put in a lot of work. And so it really sets the stage for as a team and as a leader, we're going to need to put in the work to get great at hiring great people. And that is our job, not their job. Sometimes I've seen where we put it on the individuals to show us who you are. And one of the best people I ever hired, I almost didn't because they were a little bit quiet and I was not that experienced that I was interviewing. And I think about, man, what a mistake I would have made in the diamond, in the rough I would have missed if I hadn't gotten if I hadn't done that. And really, it pushed me to get better at it. It's my job to be good at interviewing, not theirs. 


BT: I like that it's a good way to position. And it's also a natural segue to our next point. When you talked about how you almost didn't hire the person because they didn't have what you like, a preconceived notion in your mind of what to write. So how have you built these frameworks, these techniques to make sure that you get the right people for the right seat? 


RF: Yeah, once I have alignment and kind of a base setting of. That this is important is going to take work, we're going to have to iterate at this, then I needed a framework of a framework guy and and so I got someone before I might make my co-founder, Kyle, to this book, Who by Geoffrey Smart. Geoff Smart. And it's like the A method or the method for hiring A players or something like that. The book is titled Who and and it lays out these four steps of hiring. And it's from building the scorecard, which is like what is a good job description to how do you do good sourcing and working with recruiters or getting your own or really it's about building out your own network and finding and maintaining relationships with great people. How do we select which is interviewing and then how do we sell? And so those are the four steps of it. And so that book I read through it, we aligned on it. We started building this doc with the link was hiring It was an internal doc that was like, hey, this is how we think about hiring. Here are the different interviews here, how you write a job description and we just set out to become better at it. And every day is a little bit better. And from what I think in the book, they call it the performance profile. And the performance profile is what describe the job they need to do, not the credentials they need to have, because people are more attracted to it. What is it that you want me to do? And even if I don't quite have the credentials, you thought I might have needed, if I can convince you that I can do that job or I've done something similar to that job, even if it's a little bit different, especially in the early stage, you want to see those, you'd find those people who are a bit different. But they believe they can do that job. And our job as interviewers is to find the best people who have the highest likelihood of doing a great job. And so it starts with really advertising it. Well, by writing about it well. And that takes you can't just copy and paste the job description from every other website. Second thing that comes to mind. Is it has multiple interviews. It has these four different interviews that the screening interview, the focus interview, the top grading interview and then the reference interview. And the top grade is my favorite. If I had to say, go learn about one thing to your listeners, it's going to learn about the Top Grading interview. It is a chronological walk through someone's work history, and it just makes a lot more sense. And the whole premise is that the best predictor of future performance is the past. Unlike the stock market, it's the opposite for human behavior. You could ask me what I think about health, right? I'm like, oh, man, I love health and fitness. I'm like, oh, man, I ran track in college. And we're now we're talking health and fitness. It's like, oh, man. So you think I'm a great candidate. If you ask me how many times I've been to the gym in the last 30 days, the answer is zero. So if your question is, what is the odds that Rob is going to go to the gym in the next 30 days? I would factor that in. And so it's this idea of using facts in Nuggets from the past versus opinions from the future. And the story that stands out to me is I was interviewing somebody and I really had to train others on it because it's so easy. In the book on packs, it's called the voodoo methods of interviewing, where we just go with our gut and we say, well, you know, that person just didn't seem. I came out of an interview and I talked to the team. They said they just didn't seem like they really had a bias to action, like really a hard worker, which is one of our values. And I said, oh, yeah, tell me about that. Like, what makes you think that? And I don't know. I just didn't hear anything about that. And it was sort of this opinion about their perspective on this person. Well, I had done the top grade. And in the top grade, a role that was not on their resume was when they worked at Foot Locker between college and like their first professional job, because I asked about every single role and we walked through the process for that. And I said, when they told me about this, I asked them what was the hardest or the biggest accomplishment they had at that role. And they said, you know, it might have been something that wasn't even really my job directly. I said, well, tell me about that. And they said, well, my manager was opening three new stores and they were kind of doing it on their own. And I didn't want to leave them kind of doing it on their own. So for several weekends over the next couple of months, I helped them open all these new stores. Now, when I bring that back, that fact, that tidbit of information back, that's a whole different conversation. I'm not saying whether the person is a hard worker or not, but now we have a little bit more insight into the fact that here is somebody who worked weekends when they didn't have to and they kind of sound like a hard worker to me versus just the opinions of what they said about their future or what we assessed about it. It's almost prioritizing fact, over feelings to your point about the assumptions, before we go to our last topic, I did want to round this with so many sales offices, not small organization. 


BT: So you kind of build on this whole concept of top grading, which I think is phenomenal. And to your point, you to the employer owns a building, not the employee, but how do you ultimately replicate that from a training perspective to get beyond just sales offices, not a small organization? 


RF: Yeah so we started with this doc that was basically like the SOP for how we're going to do it, how we did interviewing. And then ironically, people generally want to emulate the leader, partly because they want to learn from them, but partly because it means job security. Right if this is how my boss does it and I do it that way that I can't get fired for it. Right and so people started replicating the way we ran the process. And then the last piece is that I guess I brought in someone to run talent at some point. And I mean, well, we're still at an early stage, but we started doing classes on how I do top grading and this is how the high level product process works. And then after I did that a couple of times, we just recorded one of them. And then we shared that internally. So now in the dock that says, this is how we do the interview, there's a link to a video that you can watch. And so it was just a slow accumulation of artifacts around it. And so taking the time to write it down or record it is really high leverage. And I think about any business leader, what you're looking for is leverage. And I'll use the example. That's why I do one on one. I can spend one hour of my time. And I can unlock 80 hours of work and productivity and direction and excitement and one of my direct reports and so that's super high leverage one to 80 if I record this video once and then every employee going forward can listen to it. That's high leverage. So sometimes it's hard to slow down because we're in the like just get it done mode. But taking the time to look for this high leverage points and reinforcing that training, we created some spreadsheets around, you know, how to walk through a top grade and stuff like that. But it's just the idea of beginning to capture it and build on it. It all looks like crap at the beginning and then it gets shinier over time. 


BT: I love that concept of high leverage. That's a good Nugget outside of what we're talking about is a big idea. But we have to come back to that for another podcast. So we talked about why it's important. We talked about the framework in the technique. So let's say you have actually gotten through that four step process that you describe that SalesLoft wants to bring them on. This is kind of the biggest part of the biggest part. But how do you close? So how do you partner with that candidate to make sure that you can actually get them to sign with you guys? So walk us through your process for the. 


RF: Yeah, I think there's a fork in the road with anything and and you either are intentional about it or you're not. And so many times when I ask people, hey, what's your plan for closing? They don't really have a plan. And so one thing I would just encourage people is, hey, do you have a plan for closing night? And I'll tell you about mine and how I do it. But you don't have to do it this way. Just having a plan allows you to do the same thing in a consistent manner. And so then as you learn what is working and what's not working, you can iterate and get better at your own methodology and share that with others. So before you jump into closing, I'd say selling is a huge part of it that I totally missed at the beginning. I originally learned to interview when I worked at Verizon. And I was the technology interview. And so my job was really to knock people out of interviews who didn't know the technology. So I was more of like a screening interview. Well, when I go to start scaling sales loft, I'm using that same kind of mindset to knock people out. And I had this experience where I had interviewed five, six, seven, eight people and I'm evaluating them, evaluating them and evaluating and evaluating. And by the time we get to the end where I'm like, this person is the best. They don't want to work there because they feel so evaluated. And and so I didn't spend any time selling and I'm sure they thought I was a jerk. And what's wrong with this guy? Doesn't think I have options here. So what I learned is that and I reached out to a friend who is a recruiter who knew tons about the hiring process and really learned about selling. And so upfront, right upfront, I start to ask people about what are their goals and their hopes and dreams and what are they looking for or what they hope to achieve next in their career and in their life. And I really start to come alongside them as a career coach. And they didn't ask me to be their career coach, but I don't really need permission anyway. So but it's this idea that I want to know where, what, where they're going and what they want, because if I hire them, well, isn't that my core responsibility as their manager and leader is to help them get there? So why wouldn't I want to know it as early as possible? And so I'm evaluating them, but I'm also getting to know them and selling along the way about the huge opportunity they have to come in on the ground floor of something worth nothing to get all this experience. I mean, you've got to sell what you have and you got to find what that is and what resonates with them. And so then so now fast forward. We get to close. Since I haven't skipped that step in the beginning, now I know what they want. And so I can ask them, do you think sales loft is a good fit for you or do you think this job is a good fit for you? Is it is this your top kick? And if they say no, then we just stop right there. We say, OK, tell me more. Well, I'm wanting this and wanting this. And this other company is going to pay me more. And and I go, well, when I heard back when I go back to what you told me you wanted, you actually told me the pay was like the fourth thing. It's important. You need to be a competitive market rate. But you have you told me that you kind of felt trapped by your pay. Sometimes you wanted to work on a smaller team where you got more autonomy and you got to do more things with less red tape. And you have this other offers from who's it from? Oracle? Not hating on Oracle, but I mean, come on. So basically, I can bounce off of them. This is what you told me you were wanting. Is that still what you're wanting? And so we can align on that. So let's say they do say. Yep sales off topic. Right, then I say, why? And I shut my mouth because I want to hear them, in their own words, resell themselves on why it's a good fit, I might think I know, but they might have totally different reasons. They may say, you know you know, this is I've been really wanting to I remember I hired somebody who they said I'm a really good developer. And the reason I'm choosing sales is because it seems like you push people on their soft skills and on their values. And I want to get better at that. And I wouldn't have known that. And so now they're reselling themselves. I say, well, that's awesome, because you're not my top pick, too. And then I give them two or three reasons, very specific reasons to them why I think they're a great fit. And then we move into the closing process. The one thing, I can't go into the whole thing, but one thing I will say is that I also don't send them the offer letter immediately. And I tell them that I'm not going to send them the offer letter immediately. I say this is our opportunity to build trust with each other. 

BT: So walk me through what you mean by that. 

RF: It's our first opportunity for me to say what I'm going to do, and then do it, and then for a candidate to say what they're going to do, and then do it. And when people say what they're going to do and do it, that builds trust. That's the essence of a consistency based trust. And and so what I tell them is, you know, I just the idea of collecting all four letters, I think can be a little bit counterproductive. And it leads to just not being collaborative in the process. And so I'll be upfront about here's what we're talking about for Comp and equity. And if they say, oh, I want to in writing, like, oh, yes, send us an email. Here's a review of what we talked about from common equity and all that stuff. But what I want to get to the point is say, OK, so are you in there? Yes, I'm in. I'm in. Great So here's what's going to be the offer letter. And I go through their title there because imagine sometimes I miss that. Right and someone gets it and they're like, Oh man, it's not what I thought I was going to be. And now I'm a little turned off and I go back to them. Or do I just wait and what do I do? But so I talk to them. Do that. I ask them what their start date is going to be. And that tells me a lot about are they ready to really do this and have they thought it out? I want to take a week off on my honey do list. I want to know whatever. If they want to set a start date eight weeks in the future and we're a startup and we can't wait that long, then it's a conversation point that we can have about. And finally, I say, OK, I sound right in this area. And so when I sended, they now when they receive it and it has everything I says, I says, then they trust me a little bit more. And then I ask them, are you ready to sign it. And if they say yes, then go great, I'll send it to you. Now And now they sign it. And if they say no then that's a great time to say, well, why not? And let's be there. It's this kind of artificial constraint to just go collect all four letters. Let's be. And if you're not ready to sign, sometimes I need to talk to my wife. It's like, great. I mean, do you take the weekend to do that? And then we'll reconnect on Monday. And so the biggest part of closing is staying close to the candidate and from close all the way to the first day because and you should see an ever escalating level of interaction. If we were on email, it moves to text on text. We're having phone calls. And then when we're ready to do it, I send it, you sign it. We both feel good because we started off in the spirit of trust. And now as your manager going forward, then I'm kind of starting from a better place. And if something seems off, then you can tell me that I wouldn't have that conversation. Yeah, I think a few observations from what I just heard you say is similar to what you do in top greeting you do during the selling clothes. What I mean by that is it gets away from subjective to objective. And so what you're doing is you're really understanding what's important, what matters, and get those facts out so you can actually make those decisions that collectively make sense for both sides. And I think the other point is really what you were describing becomes more of a transition from transactional relational. And really you're walking alongside that Canada and you're really desiring what's best for them. And it's more of a partnership than it is that I signed the offer letter. What do I need to do? It's not going to be about money. It's more about, hey, what are your hopes, dreams, desires? And to make sure we understand what the priorities are. So we can make the best decision for you. If it's SalesLoft or if it's something else, which I admire. Imagine that now you have managers or other people who are hiring in your company and you to imagine you're trying to support them. And they say, oh, I lost that candidate because it's happened. I've lost it. They said, yes, they've even signed it, and then you lose them. And so having a kind of a methodology for how you do it and no one way is perfect. But having kind of a way that you do it internally, it gives you a way to support them, because then you can ask them like, hey, I mean, had they accepted it before you sent it to them? Like, because if you're seeing a high decline rate, then that means something is wrong in your process that they weren't ready to come work for you or they weren't sold and they just didn't tell you and they knew it. And you did. And which, again, that goes back to us getting better at this process of setting the table for our people to come work at a great environment. 


BT: Yeah It's kind of like assessing your sales funnel and see exactly what where is it broken. But this has been a great prescriptive process, very convicting for me. And I think the point that you made at the very beginning, which is so true, is that you own it as the employer, not the employee. And it's really up to you whether you can prioritize or not, because if you don't, then no one else is going to do it. So as a leader, we need to leverage that to make sure we get the right people in the right seat. So Thanks for walking through. Why it's important, the techniques, the framework. And ultimately, how do you close, rob, any final thoughts as it relates to this big topic around people? 


RF: Start where you're at and just get a little bit better every single day, and everyone can run the process a little different just because it's the way how I did it or we did it. Don't feel like that is sometimes people don't get started because they feel like the barrier. So high, like we need to do all these things differently. Just just pick one thing and it will be an investment that pays back because anything invested in hiring great people or leading people will pay dividends. I'm sure you never regret taking the time to get the right people, and it's usually the opposite. 

BT: So, in closing, what are ways in which our audience can engage both with you, but also with SalesLoft and some practical next steps they can take. 

RF: Yeah, so, you know, I'm on LinkedIn, engage there and then the SalesLoft website and blog and feel free to reach out directly to me if I can be of service.

BT:  All right, Rob. Well, thank you again for making the time. Walk us through your process. I know I've benefited from it, and I'm sure the audience did as well. So Thanks again. And we'll be in touch soon. 

RF: My pleasure.

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