The Makegood is pleased to welcome Ellie Windle as a monthly contributor to The Makegood. Look for her column every fourth Wednesday on The Makegood. Ellie is Sales Director at MediaMath, the leading provider of digital media trading technology and services.
If you have ever hired a sales professional in the Ad Tech industry, you may have experienced the following: You interview a sales rep. Their background seems like a great fit, and they are name-dropping like Kim K at a Beyoncé concert. There are few red flags, but they seem to know all the right people and you need to fill this position ASAP, so you make an offer. They negotiate an insanely high base, which you pay, because by now you think you have to have them. They join your company…and do not sell ANYTHING.
Having been both an Executive Recruiter and a Sales Director in the industry, I have chatted with a lot of Ad Tech sales reps. Glancing at my Linked-In connections, I would estimate I have interviewed over 500 sales candidates and placed around 40. The good news: There are some fantastic sales professionals out there. The bad news: Most aren’t fantastic at all…but they can spin a good game in an interview.
Over the next few months I’ll be outlining the most common mistakes that are made when filling a sales position. I would argue most mis-hires are a result of the industry’s obsession with the Rolodex. You can avoid this by following three basic mantras:
The Rolodex is Extremely Overrated: You have a fancy new company, and you want to hire someone who already knows all the right people. You dream that everyone on that list is going to go bananas over your product. This person is going to make you a fortune! Right? Wrong. The truth is that it is impossible to build a “strong relationship” with everyone in your Rolodex. And more importantly, there will be a large portion that does not translate.
- If the sales rep worked at a larger company, there is a chance many of their contacts returned their call out of necessity. If they join a start-up that does not have an established product, many of these buyers will no longer take the meeting.
- A sales rep may in fact have a great contact on the Microsoft team, but that doesn’t mean they have the right contact for your product. They have a way to get in the door, but they are still going to need to build a new relationship, and that takes time.
- People move around- Having a best friend on the P&G team is amazing… but subject to change…probably within the next 6 months.
- Keep in mind that a Rolodex may mean a few quick meetings, but it is also full of landmines. (Missed deadlines, miscommunications, failed campaigns, disagreements and awkward drunk discussions) When you hire a sales rep with a list, you are also hiring their baggage.
The Game Plan Matters: More important than a sales rep who can name drop, is a sales rep with a clear plan. Here are the questions that DO matter when it comes to a Rolodex:
- Who would be the first 3 people you would call in this role and why? If they answer this in a vague way, or drop 15 names, that is not the right answer. The right answer should include three very specific names, where they work, their role, and most importantly why the sales person would call them. This gives you an opportunity too not only vet their relevant contacts but also helps you assess their knowledge of your value proposition and its position in the market.
- Who are the contacts on your list that you cold called (or even knew from a previous job), got a meeting, and closed a net new deal for your company? How much was the deal for? How did the campaign go?
These questions cut to the chase. Sales reps often hide behind deals and relationships that were already established. They can hide behind large quotas that were largely driven by renewals from their account team. It’s critical that you separate the wheat from the chaff.
“Je Ne Sais Quoi” Matters the Most: A fantastic seller, with “it” qualities, and a clean slate will beat a mediocre sales rep with a Rolodex full of landmines any day. The best sales people do not need to know buyers in advance. They will know how to find the correct contact, get a meeting, communicate the value, and ultimately close the sale. Meanwhile, the C players keep bouncing around the industry, wasting time and money, because Sales Managers keep thinking that a list matters.
It’s time to stop obsessing over the Rolodex. It’s the most common reason Sales Managers compromise. They let their desire for a silver bullet blind them from the truth: Hiring a top sales rep in this competitive market is really really hard. But more on that soon…
Ellie Windle is a contributor at The Makegood and Sales Director at MediaMath. MediaMath is the leading provider of digital media trading technology and services, and invented the demand side platform (DSP).