23 Apr SaaS Sales Leaders Across The Industry – How to Develop a Successful Sales Teams – SAASGROWTH2018
Thank you, so I was trying to figure out how I deliver ‘how to hire, onboard, and train’ in ten minutes and the reality is I couldn’t figure out how to squish all of that into ten minutes, so I’m going to actually probably be less than ten minutes and just focus on something really actionable in terms of hiring, so how many people here have hired somebody that you loved you had an awesome conversation and you were so excited, and they just didn’t work out and you knew it from day one? Okay almost everybody. How many people weren’t really sure about somebody that you hired and it turned out that they were okay they ended up doing okay? It’s not an exact science right, so one of the things that I would advise is have a framework of what you’re looking for because if you go in and I see this often a lot of times people will interview and they’ll have a gut feel build a gut feel about somebody but there’s no framework, and that’s often times when it doesn’t always work out. And sometimes the gut feel is is great but you you almost probably have in your mind and don’t realize a couple key things you’re looking for, and so what I always in inline with what Ren was talking about Michael what I always think about is what I want to do is bring in people and hire them and coach them to make them absolutely poachable. I want my guys, I want reps, I want recruiters calling them all the time, because that means they’re really good it means they’re doing really well. But it’s my job to create an environment where they don’t want to go, and it’s my job to make sure that they’re always learning, and they have no interest in leaving.
And so to do that there are four things what I’m going to talk about is, I have four kind of competencies I guess is the word you can use or four things that I look for, and then four fundamental non-negotiable qualities as a person and this is true as a rep or this is true it really in any role.
So I’m actually gonna go in the reverse order of what I was thinking I was going to talk about. The four things that are absolutely a hundred percent non-negotiable the first is they have to be coachable if I hire somebody even with a lot of experience and this is how they do it and it’s not gonna change, they’re not gonna fit in because there’s lots of ways of doing things and we and we doesn’t have our ways of doing things and you know what if you’re if you’re never gonna change that means you’re not gonna grow and you don’t have that fundamental curiosity to get better; so the first thing non-negotiable is they’re coachable.
The second is they’re hungry right I don’t want somebody who’s gonna leave at five o’clock and that’s when they’re done and I recognize that my team has a life, right like I have no interest in bugging them on a weekend I want them to have a life because that means when they’re in the office when they’re working they’re really working hard, but they’ve got to be hungry they’ve got to be willing to make that extra phone call, they’ve got to be willing to pick up the phone, they’ve got to be willing to send that extra email. I mean I’m so lucky I have the best team, and they’re so hungry and they’re great.
So coachable, hungry, intelligent it’s somebody who you know that they’re going to be able to synthesize a lot of information and be able to translate what might be a very technical discussion into a business value, because if all we’re doing is talking about features and technology, we’re not solving a problem for our customers, so they’ve got to be intelligent and intelligent means emotional intelligence they know how to push, they know when to back off they know how to grow they know where to learn they’re there they have that innate intelligence.
And the last one and this is absolutely fundamental is they’ve got to be ethical because they’re not only representing themselves the representing Onfido and it’s really not hard to sell anybody something once. And you know what it’s really really really hard to sell somebody something twice, if you screw them the first time, and it’s really really hard for their colleagues to sell something because word gets around. I mean everybody talks I know that our customers all talk to each other and they know, and the the best thing that I’ve ever done as when I was an individual contributor was I would tell prospects you’re not ready for me, like I’m too much for you in some cases; here are some flags to look at when you hit these thresholds when you start seeing this happening in your business, call me in the meantime here’s a couple competitors who I think are probably better for you to be honest right now. There was not one single time that when a customer hit that threshold they didn’t call me or when they went to a new company they called me, and so it’s just because it’s ethical right I want I genuinely wanted to solve their problems. So four things coachable hungry intelligent and ethical. If any one of those four aren’t there, I can’t see a reason to bring them on and that’s just to be fair to them and it’s to be fair to the company. I mean we’re bringing people on to be ambassadors of the company, and that’s really really critical.
So then what I do when I’m looking for reps is I kind of have four framework foundational qualities that are that are critical one, and this is specifically to sales is they have the ability to prospect and build a pipeline. Because if they’re gonna just sit back and wait for somebody else to tee everything up and to be honest we do have an awesome we have SDR’s who are doing that but if that’s all they’re gonna do they’re probably not hungry, and they’re probably not going to be able to then build that pipeline in the best way. So I have a list of core things and I’m happy to share my list with people if anyone generate pipeline focus on value versus features; just different things that I look for and I ask questions around this. What’s really important is when you’re asking questions in an interview is you don’t say things like do you share success what person is gonna say no! Right there only yeah so what I do instead is I’ll ask questions like tell me about a time tell me about a time, tell me about the best biggest deal that you’ve closed and I listen for do they talk about creating value do they talk about their colleagues because nobody ever wins a deal on their own, as much as sales reps like to think they do, the good sales reps know that it’s not them they just happen to be the one that’s that’s leading, but there’s a huge amount of people behind them that are putting in blood sweat and tears oftentimes and that are doing the really late nights with them or for them so do they show success. Also tell me about a time you lost a deal; that’s actually really interesting to find out do they take responsibility, do they blame others, do they learn from it it’s again testing the intelligence, the emotional intelligence their smarts, and just do they have that that ethics right if you blame everybody else every time you lose a deal we’ve all lost deals and it sucks but if you can’t learn from it and you don’t understand what happens you’re just gonna keep keep doing it and they’re gonna end up throwing somebody under the bus, and it’s not going to be fun. So ability to prospect evil pipeline is one, the ability to close deals, obviously we’re hiring sales reps we want to make sure that we can get people who can close by doing that. I always ask tell me about the last four quarters what was your number: a really good rep we’ll know to the sent pretty much what they did they will know to the percent what they did, I can’t I if it’ll hesitate here’s what I’ve done, they will know if it’s an annual quota tell me about the last two years what have you done where you know how long did it take you to hit your number because the really good sales reps, they know this because it feeds them right, so I ask that I ask things like how do you align with the customer pains tell me about how you solved a problem because if they can’t tell you how they’re solving a problem they’re not going to close deals they’re just going to be there talking about features and functionality for like ever, and you can you’re gonna get, I mean they’re gonna have lots of awesome conversations that get absolutely nowhere.
The third one I look is if they’re able to impact the business proactively and that’s really important because we’re a fast-growing company. We don’t have time for people to sit back and be told what to do and then go do it can they take some calculated risks you know I asked them about tell me about the biggest risk you took in your career, tell me about the big biggest risk you took in life, and it’s really interesting to see what people have to say because oftentimes you realize that somebody who might come off maybe a little bit tentative actually has a spine of steel. And you know that they’re gonna take calculated I mean you don’t want somebody going off and you know going going crazy but you know that somebody who is willing to be really proactive about things or recommend ways to change because, I learn from my team everyday I’m extraordinarily fortunate that I have a great team who quite frankly I learned from myself every day, and it’s because they’re not afraid to take risks, and they’re not afraid to try things, and they’re not afraid to be proactive so that’s the third.
And then the last is do they have these really good just foundations are they going to be a great addition to do they have a track record of success are they curious do they want to learn new things are they ambitious do they are they proactive are they resilient you know I always that asked about you know tell me how a customer tell me about a time a customer said no, how did you turn that around because it’s really interesting we’ve all been told no and usually those end up being the biggest best deals, because you were able to actually come and think of it and be able to reframe the problem and change the change the customers mind.
So I guess just to summarize again somebody who is coachable who’s hungry who’s intelligent and ethical and then I have four key things that I’m looking for in anybody in terms of as a sales rep and I’ve got questions asked and I use the tell me about a time when, because that way rather than asking something yes or no, if you ask a question out right don’t know exactly what you’re looking for; they’re sales reps right they’ll know exactly what you’re looking for and they’re gonna answer exactly how you want them to. But if you ask them to share a story, oftentimes they give away a lot more and it’s oftentimes a really delightful surprise when they share these stories and you realize that they actually found something in a really creative way and they’re really excited about working with our colleagues or quite frankly there’s some humongous red flags that they don’t even realize they’re giving away and if you know how to ask the questions in the right way oftentimes you’re able to weed out the people who aren’t gonna work in the first place so that’s what I look for in hiring.
Thank You Jennifer up. Next wait I’ve had a good pleasure of working with Pat at LinkedIn and he’s definitely a wise owl he’s the go-to man for everyone in the business whenever you need advice, and I highly recommend spending some time with him this evening so Pat come on up.
Thanks James, kind words. So I’m here to share with you my two top tips on the topic of coaching. As some of you may know coaching is a lot like teenage sex, everybody says that doing it loads and they’re great at it, but you may worry the person you’re coaching is not getting a great deal from the experience. Well there is another way so my name is Patrick Traynor I’m going to share with you two of my coaching tips on two specific situations: pipeline reviews and leadership development.
So pipeline reviews can be repetitive and frustrating, but the first tip will add new life to the experience. Leadership development can seem like a big task, the second tip will free up your time yeah that’s what I will do.
So I perfected these tips leading LinkedIn’s new possessed team and also with the start ups I consult for today. So if you’re a founder with limited sales experience, or a Sales Leader shortened time, or an individual contributor looking to move into leadership responsibilities then I’m hoping these are practical tips that you can implement immediately.
So tip number one pipeline reviews who hasn’t sat in the pipeline review and thought this is repetitive and boring. You want to impart some wisdom to your reps help them close their deals right but too often we fall into a common trap, which is we get the team together we race through every pipeline every week with a veneer of information and well you just figure it’ll be useful for everybody to listen to the discussion. It just doesn’t work first of all you probably need to separate forecasting from pipeline reviews, but that’s a whole separate subject. The big problem with pipeline reviews is you’re trying to give an insightful piece of advice to a rep who probably knows a lot more about the deal than you do, and he’s probably already tried half the ideas you’re going to come up with, so to avoid this battle I use something that I call the four sides question. It’s dead simple. The foresight question simply asks the rep to imagine that it’s three months in the future and the deal has died. So let’s give this a try: can you all think of a deal that you’re currently working on or your team’s working on right now. Everybody got one okay. Now imagine it’s three months in the future it’s September, you’ve tried everything to close the deal but it hasn’t worked, you’ve lost the deal the deal is dead. We meet in September and I ask you tell me what went wrong with a deal and what could you have done differently? The answers I’ve heard are incredibly revealing and equally empowering. Faced with this question reps seem to suddenly know immediately what it was that was going to mess up their deal, so the challenge here that despite actually knowing the information they’ve done nothing with it. They’ve ignored it they haven’t challenged the threat to their deal, they’ve basically just relied on hope and as we know hope is not a strategy. So now that you know the true threat to the deal you can do something about it, or rather you can coach your rep on what they can do about it. And so now that they’ve revealed the true threat, you can do something about it, and this technique also helps reps to put themselves in the shoes of the customer and what I’ve also found over time is that reps will start to think a lot more about how the customer buys from them, rather than how they sell to the customer. So that’s the fourth fight question it’s my top tip for creating coaching opportunities in pipeline reviews.
For leadership development this can seem like a big task and you may not have big resources. But if you don’t create opportunities for your reps to develop leadership skills, many of your best reps are going to leave so what I found was a simple solution I gave my team a taste of practical leadership that encouraged the best performers to stick around and inspire the whole team. My solution for creating coaching opportunities within leadership development was to create a rotating team leader program. What does that mean? well it simply meant that somebody from my team prepared and ran the sales meeting, so every week they gathered some sales metrics, created a presentation, invited somebody from another part of the business, and facilitated a discussion on a particular aspect of our sales proposition. So what this did was it created a platform for my team leader to be seen to be leading, it was a safe space for them to experiment and a place where I could support them closely. So for all of this extra all of this extra work which is really my job the team leader got no official recognition of their responsibilities, they got no pay rise, no reduction in their quota and after a few months well the role would end. So as you can imagine there was a bit of resistance to begin with. However the team recognized that this was an opportunity to demonstrate potential and at the very least it might help them decide whether their career path lay in leadership or as an individual contributor. So my role in this was to coach the team leader, but here’s a secret, I wasn’t coaching them on how to run a sales meeting, it was all the other leadership opportunities all the other practical leadership situations that developed around them. So I found myself coaching them on things such as how to handle different personality types through to what are our HR policies. From things like working with cross-functional teams, to how to run projects to a deadline, and then loads of practical stuff, like how do I create bespoke reports in our CRM, and how does our forecasting model actually work because they’ve never really paid attention, and down to other stuff really practical stuff that made them look good such as how do I get the video conference equipment to work, and it was through this program that I realized that some members of the team had leadership abilities that hadn’t previously been visible. And for other people of the team a career as an individual contributor was going to be the best path for them another thing I noted was that some not all, but some of the women in my team underestimated their leadership potential whereas most of the men overestimated theirs. Another truth is that if you’ve built a really strong successor to you it’s far easier for you to take on greater responsibilities yourself. Ultimately the program helped some of my team land leadership roles and it’s one of the initiatives I look back on most fondly.
So now that I’ve shared with you my two top tips for coaching the next time you find yourself in a pipeline review, I want you to try the foresight question so you too can identify the true threats to your deals, so you can take action on them now. And with leadership development I encourage you to find a platform to allow leadership to flourish and to free up the sales leaders time to focus on more impactful activities than just running sales meetings. And then when somebody asks you about coaching you’ll be able to tell them yeah you do it loads and you’re great at it. Thank you very much.
Okay cool Thank You Pat so we’re now going to hand over to Dimitar who’s had a very successful career as you heard earlier from Ben, was the first was high Stack Overflow and now CEO/founder of his own business over to you.
Thank you how you guys doing good, tired it’s been a long day I understand. So I’ll tried to keep it super super short before we start actually do you have a confession to make, I’m going to go totally off script. So I was planning to talk about coaching and sales development in particular and how to leverage the wisdom of crowds how to basically leverage the combined knowledge that exists any sales team in order to achieve the hockey mysterious hockey care, that everyone talks about I did a very similar talk however last week as SaaS that was one of the key nights there and I bumped into Greg right here who happened to be there he confronted me with it he said, are you gonna be giving the same speech, which I was about to do so what I’m going to do is keep it very short and sweet and actually talk about interviewing, which Jennifer touched upon so I’d like to tell you a little bit about how stackoverflow approached interviewing and hiring salespeople in particular. And the reason why I want to talk about this is because we had one of the lowest attrition rates in sales in the SaaS world that I’m aware of. I don’t know I actually have to admit a misspent presentation earlier so I don’t know if you touched upon it but just to kind of set the tone here the average for an inside sales team, outbound sales our sales team is around 34% attrition rate which a lot of our sales leaders here will just shrug your shoulders, and say well that’s that’s how it is you have to deal with it but stackoverflow we only had one percent here in Europe before the five years that I was managing the team it was only one percent and it was a fairly large sales organization as well, so I joined as James said as the first European hire, and by the time I left who had 80 people 45 give or take of them in sales.
A lot of that very low attrition rate I think was accomplished by design a lot of the things that I spoke about in Paris but a lot of it was basically a very very strict interviewing process that we followed and very quickly like to share that with you and just leave it with that it’s very simple. It’s something that the founders stackoverflow, Joel Spolsky actually introduced to the company his hiring approach is known as smart and get things done simple as that. So basically what Joel always said regardless of whether you hiring for salespeople engineers lay malleable functioning the organization he wants to basically make sure that the candidate can do two things: number one they’re smart, number two they get shit done. Simple as that. And the way the way StackOverflow approached it is basically they have a very binary sales process they had at least six interviews which sounds crazy, and you know if you’re a fast growing sales organization, you definitely don’t have necessarily time to be doing all these interviews especially with candidates who are really hot, and they have multiple offers on the table we did do it however you found out really well for us as I said attrition rate just 1%, so how did that look like first thing first, the first the very first interview that we did was actually with the hiring manager which is normally the very last interview and it’s kind of counterintuitive, but I really worked well so that would be basically the interview with me here in Europe for a very long time and then people like Ben and and so forth, but what we basically looked in that particular interview for worse can that person get the the job the are they getting things done and Jennifer gave you a lot of things that you can ask and I think every every business is different, the things that really mattered for us was basically if that particular person can fit within our deal size because in the early days I understand Ben talked about how we transition into enterprise; that was the early days what Stack Overflow did it was fairly transactional high-volume. So one of the things that we always wanted to make sure any candidate talking to us could do, is basically keep up the pace and the volume so you know there were a lot of questions around their size sales cycle duration could you actually adjust to the high velocity that we were sending out. So that was kind of my path and just making sure as I said that people can get shit done. From there on we would have what ended up being two separate interviews we call them guide A and guide B, and this was basically a result of all the executive team getting together and deciding what really mattered for us as an organization in terms of interpersonal skills and traits. We identified eight stackoverflow I’m not going to go through all of them in fact I’m not going to share any of them because I said what matters to us is probably very different to what matters to you as a business, but we created two separate interviews, four competencies in one of them four competencies in the other, they were conducted by different people and they also follow the same interview questions more or less. The point behind this was that we have a very structured interview process who we avoid this bias where our Garfield tells us this candidate is great and we always have the same conversation and we can compare likes for likes which kind of sounds very obvious, but I think very often we fall into the same trap, which is the and I think, Nazma mentioned that her CEO going through this right now where the CEO like someone that someone’s not sure will make a compromise. So the beauty of what we did a stack was the the fact that should any one throughout this process and I’m going to continue in a second with the rest of the journey said no, no hire, that candidate no matter how much I may have liked them during the first interview did not get to two need to get hired. So once you’ve done guide A and guide B will basically go into a team lunch, so we will serve hot food every single day so anyone who’s interviewing with us would come and have lunch with us, and that was basically an opportunity to assess company culture and company fit, but not so much from our standpoint more from the standpoint of the candidate just to kind of give them an opportunity to see what they’re really signing up for. You know because very often as a Sales Leader you can sell the job opportunity and then actually what what is signing up for is very different. So being able to talk to your peers invaluable so but at that point as well if any one out of the three people do you having lunch with said no, no luck, that candidate was not going to make it until the end of the hiring process. All throughout these interviews you’re basically making detailed notes which share which are not shared with anyone there they’re stored in our 80s but no one looks at them I put through the very last interview, which we’re coming onto now which is what we called as appropriate. And that would be most often than not the chief operating officer of the business who go through older notes reads through them, and try to identify there any red flags, and then they will have an open conversation with a candidate not a structured interview and try to poke around any of those critical areas that may or may not have been flagged up. And at that point if that’s a yes, we would actually make an offer but as I said hire no hire up until that point. So that’s it I’m just going to leave it here, and hopefully we can talk about other things during the panel. Thank you very much.
Right, so we’ve got two lovely ladies coming on up from DocuSign and then we’re going to the panel before the awards. Jackie actually spoke on level 39 event in January and we had exceptional feedback, so followed by a long again and as such she felt that it was a team effort, her success, and so she’s brought her colleague along some curious how this one plays out.
Okay hopefully it’ll play out very well. So yes thanks James, and as James said I spoke at an event back in January and I was talking about building and scaling sales teams. If anyone’s familiar with DocuSign we’ve experienced incredible growth I’ve been with the company for just over and three years, and during that time my team is increased fivefold, and just to give you another little bit of context and the the scale of growth that we’ve seen, in doubling when I joined there were three individuals there wasn’t even an office, the first hire that my VP made was actually Carlene’s boss our EMEA head of recruitment, so that shows you how much emphasis we place on recruitment and having great alignment with the sales leaders and the recruiters at DocuSign so three people three years ago. We’re now over 200 people in Dublin, and then we have other operations across EMEA so that gives you a sense of how much hiring has been done during that period.
So one of the key things that I talked about at the event at Canary Wharf was how Carlene and I have really really great alignment. In the very early days three years ago we sat down over drinks one evening, and developed a blueprint of the type of sales professionals that we were looking to hire, and obviously you know there were sales aptitudes that were really important but it was incredibly important to us that we were hiring the right people that were the best possible cultural fit for us as well. And I think one of the speaker’s earlier talked about the DNA of the early joiners to an organization or to an international operation, and that was something that we were really mindful of. So after the event I had lots of emails and lots of questions coming through and the consonant theme was that people had been really taken aback by how much alignment we have and how closely we were collaborating, and I was really really surprised by that. I certainly don’t take Carlene and the team for granted at all but I guess I just assumed that everybody else that enjoyed that level of collaboration with their recruiters, whether they were internal or external. And the questions showed me that actually that really wasn’t the case so when James asked me if I’d be interested in speaking today I thought what would be better than for everyone to have a chance to meet Carlene, and to hear in her words some of the initiatives that we’ve put in place that have helped us to streamline the recruitment process, make sure that we’re attracting, and then retaining the very both best possible candidates of over to you Carlene
So in terms are of DocuSign so as Jackie mentioned I’ve been in DocuSign up coming up to three years, and boy it has been a whirlwind of a growth journey, and when I first started as Jackie mentioned our our first hire was really Sol Whitney and he was the director of recruiting, so it was just me and him with the mammoth task of building our commercial sales so that was from sales development, Account Executive right up to customer success. And within that in terms of building a talent program the three areas that I want to talk to you about is really understanding what you’re hiring for, how are you going to build that candidate pipeline, and how are you going to test for those top performers. And if we look at the the start of any talent program it’s really about understanding, understand what it is that you are hiring for, what it is that they’re going to be doing in the role, what are the skills that you’re looking for, but what does success look like for you in that position. And that’s why meeting with Jackie, meeting with all the other leaders, and really with them with brainstorming on what are the core competencies that we want in these roles across commercial sales, so we redefined and we redefined again, and we agreed on 8 core competencies. And with those eight core competencies we then took them we put them into our ATS, we use green ice internally and with that really what that did for us was every hiring manager then scored against each of these competencies at every single interview stage, and with that it really give us standardization across all roles across all offices, it also give clarity to every single hiring manager, and for us it really reads the candidate bar as well.
So now that you understand what you’re looking for, the second part is how are you going to build candidate pipeline, and in terms of building that candidate pipeline or ATS will link into Glassdoor, it links into Indeed, and it also links into LinkedIn. Now if I want to share with you last quarter in terms of the source of hire for us and really where those candidates came from. So 38% of our hires came from employee referral so that’s people in the business referring anybody, 36% came from recruiter sourced which is me and the team actually going out onto LinkedIn recruiter and actively building that pipeline, 11% came from directing that they’ve come through the job boards that they’ve come through LinkedIn, 10% came from a sorcerer so we have a dedicated source on our team that will be actively driving pipeline, and less than 5% came from agency. So that can really show you that the 38% that was coming from the employee referral is definitely a key area for you to tap into, and for me it’s probably one of the most single that you need to have in your recruiter toolkits and without with the employer referral I feel that within DocuSign for us specifically it has given us a higher quality hire; we feel that they ramp up much more quickly that they perform better and they stay longer, and without their obviously have embedded relationship with the person that they have internally
And two other initiatives that I want to share with you that we rolled out last quarter to drive more candidate pipeline for us was one really simple idea, in actually getting your senior leaders to send out some sort of communication to their actual team, and that’s as simple as me actually going in writing a short blurb of this is the open role that we have, here is the link and actually sending it to leaders like Jackie, to really push out into their networks as well. So instead of me coming and actively banging the recruiting drum. it’s the credibility coming from the the leaders and that was really successful for us.
Another key initiative that we drove around six weeks ago that cost ten pizzas and gave us four hires was a Lunch and Learn session, and a lunch and learn is really inviting all of your staff to a canteen area with ten pizzas inviting them to bring their laptops along, and really with me going up there and educating them on here are open roles, and these this is what the rules are again they’re coming from different companies that have a different meaning for account manager or pre-sales or solutions consulting; so really giving them a sense of this is what our top roles are, and then from there sitting with them and looking through their networks as well. And that again was super successful and we got four conversions in terms of hires for that area
Ao now that you’ve got your pipeline how are you going to test if they are top performers. And for us in terms of testing for for top performers we have two initiatives that we have been using probably for the last year, and that really for us has really drove the candidate bar. The first area that we have is a predictive index test, so the predictive index test is an online behavioral test that we send candidates very early on in the interview process, and it’s an online behavioral tool that takes four minutes and really assesses what they are like in the workplace. So for us it’s not a yes or no in terms of feeling, there’s no pass or fail as such, and for us it really enables us to make better informed decisions, whether that be testing further in interviews in terms of competencies but also in terms of the onboarding of them as well for that.
The second area that we rolled out was a discovery or roleplay call. The discovery of roleplay call was something that we introduced, and that was really born out of me meeting with the hiring team, and saying how can we tighten the recruiting funnel even further and how can we really have a higher candidate bar in terms of what we have. And really asking the leaders and asking them okay what what is it what is the one trait that makes your top performers, top performers; and the common thread that came out of everything was they do a really deep, thorough discovery, and that for us was something that was an area that I said, well why aren’t we testing this in our interview stage. So we then introduced that into our on-site interview stage from sales development right up to a kind executive for a major level and with that ahead of their interview they’re given a brief that brief is this is a customer of Docusign’s, this is what you’ve been past when the sales developer here are the key areas that they’ve tested, this is what they’re looking for in terms of the competitor, and then in that on-site interview Jackie and another hiring manager will then act as the CEO or the CEO and really go further and deeper in terms of qualifying them. And for us the discovery what has really given us and enabled us to do is obviously make more informed decisions, but it’s definitely raised the candidate bar, but also allowed us to look outside of the norm of not just looking at SaaS individuals and really looking at people that come from different backgrounds. But we’ve also seen a higher conversion rate on once they’ve come on board, once they’ve been on boarded, once they go to do their sales certification, that we’ve seen a higher conversion in terms of people passing that test.
So in terms of building your talent program it’s really about understand doing, what it is that you’re looking for what are those core competencies, again it’s about building your candidate pipeline and looking at different initiatives internally with your Employee Referral, and again about how you’re going to test for our top performers.
Thanks Carlene, and I can’t stress how valuable the Discovery screening test has been. We’ve had candidates that we’ve you know literally fallen in love with we thought this is a fantastic selves professional they’ve come with you know really really good experience and credentials and references and so on, we’ve run the discovery call and you know they’ve just bombed, they just haven’t really done a good job of it. And I think to pick up on one of the points from the sessions this morning, for us it’s really important that our AE’s can have a conversation with the customer, and that they can really dig into the business not just the immediate use case, because that’s when DocuSign has the ability not just to land but to expand and what we found is that some AE’s of you know greater qualification, but they’re not capable of having that high-level business conversation which is going to build a long-term relationship with the customer, and enable us to really realize the full value of that customer.
So I was going to dig into a few other things but I just want to really reinforce that point. I’m just to leave you with some stats I guess you know we’ve really been able to streamline our recruitment process. I don’t do any telephone interviews if Carlene suggests that I should interview someone, I interview them, because I know based on everything that she’s just talked about that that candidate is going to be a really good fit. So we’ve immediately eliminated one step of the process there.
We’ve been able to hire over 30 candidates just for the UK sales teams in the last three years the vast majority have been personally handled by Carlene of those we’ve had two attrition, so very very low I should highlight that they were each with us for about 18 months and made a really valuable contribution in that time, so kind of no regrets there whatsoever, and then I guess more importantly and this is something that Carlene really focuses on and prides herself on and tracks, eight of those of those thirty have gone on to be promoted, maybe twice for a couple of those candidates actually, and that’s something we’re really proud of so very low attrition very high promotion rate. Okay thank you.
Thank you guys that was really insightful just I’m getting a sense that we’re getting it a little bit shaky and I want us to get into the final panel. Just put your hand up if you’d like 500 pounds?
Thanks for joining us for the last session of today I think so we’re just gonna have a panel session about how to hire onboard coach and develop sales teams, I’m head of talent at notion capital, so this is obviously an area that I am particularly interested in and particularly interested to hear from these guys. So the first question on my list I think is probably one that you’ve all come up against which is: when you’re in a rapidly scaling business there’s usually a pressure from investors like notion, or other investors, to build your teams quickly but how do you balance that between building teams quickly and building them really well with high quality candidates, how do you get to find the perfect balance between those two things?
I think this probably picks up on some of the points we were making just now I think just be really really efficient with your process firstly make sure that you have a very clear brief, own to the points that you were making just now and I think that’s something that Carlene and I really am focused on and we had an absolute kind of checklist of the muss and the kind of wishlist items that we were looking for, but we certainly didn’t have unnecessary steps in our recruitment process I mean you heard me just say I trust Carlene implicitly why would I therefore have a telephone screening event unnecessarily, I’d much rather just move straight to an onsite, so that’s really helped us to reduce that time. And then I think a previous speaker I’m touched on this, just recruiting with conviction if you have any doubts you know and my VP’s always been really really strong on this point with me any reservations and if I say well and he’s like move on, and and we we really do do that we just move on that quickly so those would be my kind of tips and I guess the final point just to make on that is don’t give in to any pressure you know don’t just hire somebody because you need that spot and filled because that is never gonna work out well, and it will slow you down a lot more, it’s a lot harder to sort out a bad hire than it is to you know hold out for the right hire.
And even just to touch on that in terms of kind of across the board within DocuSign we have that motto that we’re never going to compromise on talent, and even if we have to go back to the market again and start again it really for us is integral that we don’t compromise. But even to kind of touch on Jackie’s in terms of really driving efficiency obviously within the sales development department is a very large volume area of recruiting for us and that for us is the talent pool for the rest of the organization, and with that obviously we have a high turnover of promotions going into a kind executive but if we look at one initiative that we have that really for us has drove efficiency for a really hiring managers time is that we implemented a speed interview session, so not to be confused with speed dating but quite similar, and with that we invite four to five candidates on-site for one hour and they see four to five different people from the team or different hiring managers, and with that obviously we have four to five different opinions, and then at the end obviously we have a wash up session in terms of what we liked what we didn’t like who was moving forward but also what were the key things that they were looking from that person coming to the to the on-site interview.
Ok sure, and from the point of view of having pressure to hire from seniors or investors that how do you how do you push back on that to make sure you can achieve that quality?
So that was definitely something I felt during my time at LinkedIn the balance between hiring fast and hiring great is very transparent once you look at the numbers, so you know my my weakest hi-oh did 20% to target my best at 200% of target, so that speaks for itself. So why doesn’t everybody hold out just for the best, and I think particularly in new business the structure at LinkedIn at the time was that as a manager of a new business team you carried quota while the role was empty meanwhile on account management. not the case. Account managers well the accounts are still being looked after by other people so I think there were some structural problems of the way targets were set up which put additional layers of pressure on the especially on new business to hire and have somebody in the seat and that wasn’t just the Sales Leader their boss from their boss and so on, so I think there’s there’s possibly something that can be done there to make sure that the whole business is vested in holding out for the very best.
Sure Tim and Terry gave me a little cheeky smile there I think you guys have something to say on this…
This just to kind of try to put some context around this in terms of numbers, the way I see this is always be hiring with retention in mind and not just to fill in the vacancy, and what I mean by this is they’re getting it wrong and filling the vacancy right now, but having someone let go only a couple of months from then it’s costing you a lot of money so the average cost per hire for salesperson is over $4,000, so every single time you on board or someone that’s costing even more money, because a lot of resources are going into training and ramping that person up in the case you go back to what it was talking about earlier with Stack Overflow we will fly new hires over to the US office so they can get trained, so if you don’t get it right that’s actually costing you a lot of money and you leaving a lot of revenue on the table, and so if you want to push back to your investors, Tom made a great point earlier about unit economics and efficiency that’s how I’ll justify it they’re numbers people they would understand it.
Yeah that makes a lot of sense and a new Jennifer you’ve got VC backing as well so I’m not sure how you strike this balance…
We’ve been very lucky in our thee season our investors trust us and it’s it’s not fair to the company to bring in a bad hire it’s not fair to everybody who’s gonna be dedicating their time to help on board this person, and it’s also not fair to the new hire, because if you they’ve left a job they potentially turn down other roles that they’re more a better fit for, so I would rather wait and I am carrying an open quota right now, because I’m I’m looking for a rep right now and I’m not gonna just hire a body to fill it, because there’s just too much at stake.
Thanks for that, so I’ll move on. One of the things that’s been talked about a lot throughout the day is coaching and moving people up in the organization. How do you coach people to be leaders from being individual contributors whilst whilst carrying a number as well at the same time how do you how do you help them break away from from one position to the other?
It’s actually something that I want to address, and when I started at Onfido, everybody wanted to be a manager that was absolutely the next step and there wasn’t the realization that being an individual contributor is in and of itself an awesome career path and there are people who stay in that for their entire career because the financial incentives are great you have a lot of autonomy you have a lot of responsibilities, and quite frankly if you’re a great star individual individual contributor you have a whole lot more power than your manager, because you’re the one that’s talking to the clients and you’re the one that has the viewpoint of what’s going on and you’re the one that’s out on the front line every day, and so I’m really trying to make sure of course my reps you know the some of them will move up, but I don’t think it’s healthy for everybody to have management as their end goal or for that to be encouraged right away, because I actually have a lot of friends who are in their late 40s who have they were in management and they’re all going back to being an individual contributor, because it’s a lot less stress, it’s more money and a lot more freedom, and quite frankly that’s in and of itself and I just want to make sure that people understand that that in and of itself is a career path it’s, if everybody thinks that that’s not then it’s really short-sighted. It’s coaching them to be better than themselves and their will so there are some who absolutely have management potential and there are some who have management potential have no interest in managing, and it’s about understanding what’s right for that person and for the organization and it’s I think if you try to coach everybody to become a manager it’s a bit short-sighted and of course you know there are ones who are naturally going to rise and it’s recognizing that and giving them additional development or giving them additional opportunities, or different specialized training, or specialized coaching, but I just don’t want to coach to become a manager.
Sure and so how do you differentiate between those people who’ve got potential and want to do it, and those who either don’t want to do it or don’t necessarily have a natural fit for it?
It’s pretty easy to see I mean in our in our pipeline meetings I kind of oftentimes sit back and let them ask questions of each other, and it’s really easy to see who has that natural ability to ask the right questions and challenge and such, and so there are some who are brilliant in it and there are some who quite frankly are brilliant at it who have absolutely no interest in going into management because they really like their job. And it’s about giving them more and more responsibility and they’re the ones that stand up in front of the company to give presentations and they’re the ones that get all the glory, and it’s they’re the ones that are highlighted very much so in a deal close.
Okay thanks, Patrick, going over to you so know you’ve managed big teams of people with individual contributors only do so yeah absolutely so for me there was a prevalence at LinkedIn for people taking on side projects, which I see a lot of benefits to allows people who get engaged with other teams other than just purely the sales function which they might typically deal with, but what I didn’t see happening with the kind of side projects which everybody was doing was I didn’t see anything that was truly leadership, or giving people a chance to get a taste of what it’s like to sit at the head of the table and try run something as simple as a sales meeting. And so I proposed to LinkedIn to do some kind of team lead structure, they didn’t like it, I did it anyway and, off the back of that it gave people a chance to actually have a platform now we did been negotiating with the team as to how much of their time some people wanted to do more they were happy with doing 15-20 percent of their time in a leadership role, others were worried about their target so any wanted to do kind of 10% of their time, so there’s a definitely a bit of negotiation with the team to agree what was appropriate for them. But one of the key things that I came away from that experience with was there used to be this phrase that is you know you’re promoted by your peers, and what I twist on that for me is some of the people who have leadership potential, don’t necessarily see it in themselves, and they may not be coming from the top of the sales stack they may be mid-level performers but have got leadership qualities and so at the end of the year we did a vote from the team as to who had, who was the award for leads and inspires and it was a member of the team who picked that up who I don’t think ever imagined that she would be the one who would get that vote from her team. But getting the vote from her team gave her the confidence to then go on and pursue leadership as a as a career path, rather than constantly just trying to become a better and better individual contributor, so that was that was my journey.
Sure, thanks. You guys with massive growers you must have seen lots of that kind of movement from individual leaders?
Yeah absolutely and it’s worked out really well for us, we’ve had you know a few people just in my team that have been promoted to become managers I do however 100% agree with everything that you were just saying there and I’ve certainly got some rock star AE’s that are great individual contributors, but would not necessarily make you know the best managers and they’re very dedicated to their sales career which is great. But yeah a few things that we’ve done, every new joiner at DocuSign has a mingle aligned with them and that’s been you know fantastic for kind of onboarding and enablement, but it’s also allowed us to really identify the ones that have really embraced that mentoring role and enjoy it and it’s become very much a two-way thing so there’s some AE’s that spring immediately to mind where I know that they’re using that mentoring program to develop and refine their coaching skills without having any direct reports at the moment, so that’s worked out really well and we also have strategic projects, so you know there’s a few projects that I’ve identified in the past where I’ve given them to an individual, and it’s been an opportunity for them to work with stakeholders in other departments and to come to sounds leadership QBR’s and present on that project. I certainly take time with some of the more senior members of my team to expose them to aspects of the business that they wouldn’t necessarily always see; and again you can see the ones that have got a bright leadership future ahead of them because they’re really curious and they really make them most of those opportunities and then we’ve got more formal programs that we’ve done where we’ve run courses for top performers with business schools as well and that’s working really well.
Thanks for that.
Just to wrap up I think going back to your question you follow up to Jennifer by the way absolutely second everything she said, I really don’t think management is the career pathway everyone, and to your point earlier about how how would you try to recognize a management potential the way we did it back at Stack Overflow would be to look for people who have consciously competent; and knowing not just being very good at your craft, but actually understanding why why are you good and and having that a skill set allows you to then surface those attributes in other people instead of just saying I don’t know I’ll just do the work and that’s very very important couldn’t emphasize more on that.
Ok thanks and I’m gonna actually ping this next question straight back to you so know it’s something that you’re interested in particularly which is I think there can be an accidental culture in sales of people being lone wolves and having their own number and not necessarily being team players. I know one of the things that you look at a lot is how do you shift that culture from a culture of individual contributors who have their own number into a team situation in the way that it’s done in development with like agile and Kanban and that kind of stuff really everyone owning the target what’s your take on on how to make that shift?
I mean do we have like an hour it’s a long it’s a long topic. I’ll try to give you just some of the other things that we we did a stack overflow which is how we scale from 10 to 220 people globally in sales some of the things that we’re trying to introduce in sales organization with heresy. The idea is very simple we take a very theoretical approach which is why the company that I run now is called heresy to the sales management which is to structure and run your sales organization as an engineering team which sounds crazy at first, but it totally works and you do build a very cohesive team we’ve shared goals, and in the long term at least a stack overflow we completely redesigned the DNA of the sales organization. Some practical tips to accomplish this instead of having a very large example in here in Europe we ended up with about 45, 48 salespeople and instead of having a single sales organization here 45,48 I’m sure DocuSign, you guys probably have more than that now right, instead of having an overblown sales organization like this we did what programmers do which is to create teams of teams. So it would basically spit those 45 individuals since in our case it was six teams of roughly 42 to six people, each team owns their individual goal which is tracked in a burned-out child which is how programmers do it which kind of gives you an ideal understanding like a Nissen understanding of how to track in a case goals. Other things that we did we were basically introduced prints instead of thinking of monthly forecasts, we would basically split the month see how twenty old sales days in a given month instead of thinking of I need to do let’s say 200k in revenue in those 20 days will basically say let’s split that 20 days into four sprints of five days each, and have many targets of 50k, and at the beginning of each sprint the team those smaller themes to five to six individuals who run completely autonomously from sales management, will get together and assess their performance in the previous prints looking at the burndown chart and try to extrapolate where they’re going to be in the future and most important of all talking about what caused the shape of the bear there and what deals close and more important of all why, why did they scale it feels close how can we basically leverage the collective wisdom of crowds that exist in the team and get to share knowledge within the team it’s a long topic and I can talk ears off about it. So I want to give everyone a chance to have their say, so if that’s something of interest just grab me later and we’ll chat about it.
That’s just James give me just a brief warning to wrap up so yeah if we could just like have a final comment from each of you that would be great…
Final comment is sales is tough right, I mean you’re basically paid to be told no you’re paid to have a really thick skin. But it’s personally I love it because it’s really important to realize that were the people that are really driving the revenue it’s important to recognize that there’s a lot of people helping, but we’re driving the revenue and getting the right people on board and coaching them and helping them become better is it’s an awesome responsibility, and I use the word awesome in all sense of the word it’s amazing and I’m American so I can say awesome without sounding sarcastic, it’s but it’s also a
huge responsibility and it’s something that that’s that works best when you have a great team and hiring the right people is is critical.
I think it’s just I’m underlining at a point that we’ve already made I think figuring out what makes a successful sales individual or sales manager within your organization because there will be some nuances in every business, so I think figuring that out and then being immovable in your mission to hire somebody that takes all of those boxes, that will enable you to grow quicker, it will enable you to promote from within, it will save a lot of kind of mistakes along the way and I think to the point earlier it will allow you to grow the right kind of culture those early hires will become you know the DNA of the organization, in DocuSign in the US we have a number of VP’s, RVP’s, SVP’s as well that came in to the organization in the very very early days, all came in as a AE’s at the same time and they’ve just been hugely successful and hugely instrumental, and you know they always talked about it as that kind of DNA point.
So mine will be short and sweet which is don’t compromise, never compromise on talent. Don’t hire for the job description hire for the future in terms of where they can go in the business.
I think my final thought is that I I feel like culture is one of those phrases that can end up creating a whole bunch of unintended consequences, and so I’m a fan of diversity of personality and diversity of backgrounds and things like that, so what I mean by that is my two top performers had exactly opposite personalities and didn’t really get along, but they were both incredibly successful. And I also find that people who sometimes have had incredibly successful early careers don’t necessarily carry the fire in the belly that’s required for a lifetime in sales. And so I was a big fan of hiring people who work for companies and been to rubbish schools, and didn’t really have the opportunities, but yet had fought their way through so always a fan of the underdog to be honest, so go underdogs.