The ins and outs of sales recruiting with Jamie Scarborough of The Sales Talent Agency

Apr 30, 2020
Author: Collin Stewart

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – having success and growing a company, typically, means bringing on new salespeople.

It’s a story we all know well: founder-led sales transitions to a small team (maybe a sales leader and some prospectors), and that small team grows to a sales squad with territories and vertical-specific specialties, until, finally, you have sales reps in different time zones and different sales managers overseeing elements of the sales org.

Easier said than done, I know. But that’s the growth story we’ve been collectively telling for years.

But there’s other growth stories at play, of course. Namely, how recruiters – key pieces to building a sales team – source talent for their clients and themselves.

And, like a complicated sales cycle, it too can present a number of challenges.

“There are always star candidates – but lots of companies want them. And, outbidding the competition won’t always get the job done. Top candidates don’t always choose the biggest bid. You need a good sales team, and a good culture,” says Jamie Scarborough, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

And, finally, people want to evolve. They need to know there is growth, expansion, and change in their future. How do you equip them for success? A lot of times, employers don’t – it was the company that failed the hire. So, how do you make the top 10% successful? That is the question you should be asking yourself.

Filling the funnel

A well known sales concept, wouldn’t you say? Well, it applies to sales recruiters as well. 

Recruites, says Scarborough, must present quality candidates for their clients. At The Sales Talent Agency, that means leveraging an internal framework that asks a number of key questions. 

For example, Scarborough and his team start with these two simple, yet powerful questions:

  • How job ready is the candidate?
  • How much risk do they pose to the potential employer?

Risk is an interesting concept for companies. No one wants to take on excessive risk, but, particularly at small companies with a high-growth mindset, risk can be a particularly difficult challenge. That’s because, adds Scarborough, small companies don’t yet know exactly what they are looking for.

“Even if a sales leader has come with a great resume, small companies don’t know how to onboard and train, for instance. They aren’t yet specific about roles, they just need to grow a team,” says Scarborough.

“As a result, there is a lot of turnover in small, young companies.”

But that’s not all – there are even more nuanced questions a recruiter can ask. According to Scarborough, he and his team also look at these factors:

  • What are the company’s revenue targets?
  • How complicated is their sales cycle?
  • How many deals does a salesperson need to close in a year?
  • Do they have high-touch expectations (lots of daily activities)?
  • What’s the company’s market? What kind of person is needed to penetrate that?
  • What would a good return on investment be in 6 months? 2 years? 3 years? 4 years?
  • Is the candidate going to add to your culture?

“This type of investigation is important. For example, at young companies, they may not have a defined value prop. Some salespeople thrive in that. But, others may struggle when they have to find the value prop, and be a little more marketing focused,” says Scarborough.

“When you’re starting a company, you just think about what’s in front of you – you don’t necessarily think of defined territories, for example. But good leaders explain that to salespeople and know that territories will change over time, and processes will become more and more a reality. It’s not enough just to get good people. That is the start, but you must pay attention to the rest of these concepts.”

Sales Talent Agency’s internal hiring process

To help fill the roles its clients require, The Sales Talent Agency, naturally, needs to have a high-functioning team itself. And, like they do on behalf of their clients, they need to examine candidates for a host of different skills.

For example, the recruiter job is a gig that requires a resilient person because the sales landscape is changing all the time and the success rate is, at best, 50%.

“So, we have a bit of a benefit – we see 18,000 salespeople a year. And they see us. So, we can find people relatively easy. But, how do we attract? There is a lot of competition. We have to do well in choosing: this job shifts all the time,” says Scarborough.

“We charge only if we fill a role, and we only do that 50% of the time. So, we need problem solvers. You have to be able to outthink things – you just have to.”

To help gauge their internal candidates, The Sales Talent Agency gives each person (of those who progress past the initial interview stage) an assignment. The assignment is comprised of these parts:

  • Sales  (research 5 companies, with contacts, that you would call on your first day)
  • Marketing (how do we stack up against our competitors?)
  • Research  (have they found relevant examples?)

“Then, last thing, we do a role play. They need to be able to say our value prop. They have to, they will be on many calls per week,” says Scarborough.

“This is all done in person – in front of a small group of people.”

What Scarborough is looking for during that presentation is adaptability and out-of-the-box answers. You can  be wrong on a question…and be boring. But, you can also be wrong, and try to do something interesting.

In Scarborough’s eyes, being interesting is important.

“We’re looking for that moment that when they realize they could have done differently, it excites them. They aren’t angry, disappointed, they are energized. And they learn, and then never make that mistake again. It’s seen as a challenge, as inspiration. You can see they are internalizing. They believe they should have done it. They believe they should have known it. It’s energizing,” says Scarbourough.

This is a business when you need to be able to think on your feet, and teach yourself. We want people that are excited about that experience. You can feel it when they are in the process.

For more Scarborough’s thoughts on sales recruitment – including his take on the cost of making the wrong hire – check out the rest of his interview on The Predictable Revenue Podcast.