Lessons learned from hiring 200 sales reps in a year with Samsara’s Nick Rathjen
Collin Stewart, CEO
10 October 2019
Last year, Samsara, a fast-growing San Francisco-based company with a portfolio of solutions serving numerous markets, had 20 Account Development reps. Today, they’re at 175 (including managers and directors). That’s right – 175.
There’s growth…and then there’s growth, am I right?
Beyond those impressive numbers, though, is a machine able to support such rapid expansion. And that machine requires innovative practices, a clear hiring process, and thorough onboarding. Don’t forget: once you bring on a new rep, you have to ensure their success.
“You need to make sure when you’re in hyper-growth you are able to deliver the pipeline necessary for your sales team to do what they do best,” says Nick Rathjen, Vice President of Account Development at Samsara, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.
“And the biggest piece is: don’t settle. Make sure that every single person you’re bringing in, whether you are at scale or 1 rep per quarter, you are nailing those hires. Don’t hire B players, C players. Take some more time, be clear on the kind of candidates you are going for, and stay true to that.”
Recruiting and sales…together at last
Let’s start with the innovative process: at Samsara, their sales recruiting team actually sits with the sales team, and report to the Head of Global Sales. They even have quotas and commissions, just like the sales reps.
Of course, Samsara, like other rapidly growing companies, use some outside agencies to bring them leads. But this alignment between recruiting and sales – a true merging of the two functions – is unique and has helped Samsara support the growth they need.
Another innovative process – again influenced by sales – is setting goals per Samsara office (the company currently has 4 offices), buoyed by a clear hiring process.
The Samsara hiring process, from beginning to end, is:
- Recruiter phone screen
- Manager phone screen
- Onsite interviews
- Reference check
- Offer made
To keep track of how their recruitment process is doing, sales leadership meets with the Head of Sales Recruiting for a weekly pipeline review in which they talk about the status of different candidates, any concerns they’re having, and to ensure they’re on the road to meeting their hiring targets.
And for each quarter, the sales recruiting team builds out a simple, but effective, spreadsheet that highlights how close they are to their goal. The spreadsheet includes all 13 weeks in each quarter, and is colour coded to represent how close they are to their established targets.
For example: Green means they are tracking 100% to their hiring goal, yellow if they’re 80% – 100% to their goal, and red if they are below 80%.
(Editor’s note: we had Robby Allen on the pod recently to discuss scaling sales teams, and what is required from sales leadership at new stage. You can read about our chat here, or listen to the whole in-depth interview here)
Once you’re new reps have signed on the dotted line and are ready to work, an effective onboarding program is critical both for their initial success at the company (you need them to hit their numbers, right?), and long-term career progression.
Samsara’s onboarding program is 3 weeks long, with the first week taking place at the company’s San Francisco headquarters for all reps. In that first week, general onboarding initiatives are covered such as a thorough discussion of the company, their markets, their customers, and the tools they use.
In the second and third weeks, onboarding becomes much more granular and role-specific (for Account Executives, Account Development Reps, etc). For ADRs, that means getting on the phone during that second week.
Might as well start talking to prospects straight away, right?
“We’re Look for tenacity – how strong is your hustle?” asks Rathjen.
“We serve industries like munis, transportation, food and beverage, and you have to get on the phone with them. You really have to go hunt for it.”
Finally, and this is important, Samsara guarantees a promotion for their reps at the 12-month mark. This is a very effective method of inspiring reps, and showing them that there is a career path at Samsara. It’s one thing to bring them on and train them thoroughly, but reps want to know that there is a future for them at the company beyond what they were hired to do.
Case in point: between 30% and 35% of the Account Development Reps at Samsara were SDRs at other companies where there weren’t as strong promotion paths. The rest of the ADR team at Samsara is comprised of:
- 30% were Account Executives at other companies (real estate, food and bev, logistics companies) looking for a way to get into tech
- 30% from recruiters, agencies, or came straight from university
The critical role of mentors
There’s one last fundamental piece to Samasara’s onboarding: mentors.
Samsara assigns a mentor from the same role and segment to each new rep for their first week – that mentor answers any questions the new hire may have, take them out to lunch, and, most importantly, meet the new reps outside the building on their first day.
“We connect our mentors with new hires even before the first day. We encourage them to even meet the new rep outside the office and go for coffee,” says Rathjen.
“So, the first day when you walk up you’re met with someone. That is huge – it really helps them get set up for success.”
The mentorship doesn’t stop once the first week is over, however. Once a new rep returns to their home office, they are partnered up with new mentor (either a manager or high performing sales rep).
That’s because mentorship really is team-wide effort. Everyone at Samsara, says Rathjen, is expected to be a leader and carry themselves professionally. With that almost omnipresent positive reinforcement, everyone in the company has the support to lead themselves.
And with all the growth expected at Samsara, they’ll need to be.
For more on Rathjen’s thoughts on hiring, scaling, and effective onboarding – including post onboarding structure, Samsara’s sales playbook, and the mistakes made along the way – check out the rest of his interview on The Predictable Revenue Podcast.