Making sales talent management a priority and taking the emotion out of talent management will help your company succeed

One of the greatest advantages start-ups have is their agility. They’re quick to the market, they respond to challenges with the kind of dexterity that larger companies have lost, and they aren’t afraid to move decisively. But when hiring sales people and teams, start-ups often over-think talent acquisition. When that happens, time to hire increases and, worse, companies can find themselves burdened by hires that just aren’t working out.

Hire fast and decisively

When it comes to the saying ‘Time is Money’, this has never been more applicable to hiring salespeople in early-stage startups and fast-growing companies. Having an unfilled position always costs companies money, but when it’s an unfilled sales position, the damage is particularly acute. According to this SAP case study, the cost of an unfilled sales position can easily amount to thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue for every day that position is open depending on your product or service. When you add the cost of advertising, screening and interviewing, as well as the fact that often takes as long as 68 days to fill an open position, it’s easy to see why the cost of unfilled positions is so high.

The earlier stage the business, the more acute the financial pain. If you are recruiting your first sales person you are effectively leaving 100% of your sales roles open. When your team is 3, the fourth person represents 25% of your sales bandwidth and so on. The earlier the stage, the more essential it is to hire fast, and possibly fire fast.

Leaving a position unfilled costs money, both immediately and in the long term. Given all this, hiring quickly just makes sense. But how do you do that?`

Make Time to Hire

There’s no secret to hiring quickly, you simply have to make it a priority. When you have an open position, nothing should slow down the process of selecting candidates, interviewing and making a hiring decision.

It’s too easy to put off interviews for ‘more important’ tasks. Don’t fall into this trap! From the time someone is identified as a potential candidate to interview to rejection or acceptance should be no more than four weeks.

Minimize decision-makers

When you’re ready to hire, remember that not every manager and team member needs to be involved in every hiring decision – for example, your head of operations probably doesn’t need to interview a potential outside sales representative. Minimizing the people involved in hiring decisions will also help you streamline your interview process, as there are fewer schedules to coordinate.

Use professional help

This can accelerate the process, accessing talents pools faster and providing a network far beyond that currently available to you.

Common wisdom says that it’s easy to find and hire someone, but common wisdom is wrong. Talent acquisition is hard work. Doing it efficiently takes a lot of energy and experience, to say nothing of time, time that you likely already have committed to building other parts of your business.

Using a professional to help with talent acquisition will make it possible to hire quicker and more efficiently than you can on your own. Working with an outside recruiting firm also allows you to concentrate on your core competencies and objectives.

An interesting statistic from our work at Sales Hunters is that less than 14% of the people we place respond to job advertisements, invariably our placements come from outreach and networking.

Don’t second guess yourself

Hiring can be intimidating, especially if you’re wrapped up in worrying about making the right hiring decision. Using a talent acquisition professional can help you find candidates for your job, but you should remember that even hiring the wrong person can be fixed if you act quickly.

Making decisions quickly with the right tools and processes and not second-guessing yourself will pay dividends over time, even if you occasionally make the wrong decision. And put in perspective, a protracted recruitment process provides no guarantee you hire the right person.

Why you should fire fast

Sometimes, you’ll hire the wrong person. It might be that they’re a bad cultural fit for your company, they may not be as focused on your product or they may not be suited for a start-up environment. You can train somebody on how to work with your company and even how to sell, but no amount of training will fix a hire that is toxic for your team. And a bad hire can have lasting negative impacts on your company, possibly costing as much as 215% of a sales persons annual salary depending on how long you allow them to sit in the role. The sooner you cut the person, the less the impact and loss.

The same costs associated with leaving a sales role open are the same for leaving the wrong person in the role, and again the earlier the stage the more acute the financial pain.

Because the cost of a bad hire can be substantial and have a lasting negative impact on your company, it’s important to act quickly and remove anyone who is disruptive to your team or who is a poor performer. Firing fast doesn’t mean that your new employees are expected to “sink or swim”, but you need to keep the lines of communication open with your team. Be aware of what’s going on and having an open-door attitude will help you learn about problems as early as possible, and to respond to them quickly.

Sentiment doesn’t work for talent management

Your employees are your business partners. You can be friendly to them, even consider them to be family. But at the end of the day, we don’t pay our friends and we don’t hire our family. It’s wise to remember this because the professional distance you have with your employees will help you work with them more effectively, even if that means making the decision not to work with some of them.

Don’t lose the agility

It is inevitable as a company grows that some of the agility and ability to act quickly will be lost, don’t be in a hurry to lose that edge. Be decisive in your hiring decisions, make time for the recruitment process, limit the number of decision-makers, use professional help and once the decision has been made, don’t be afraid to undo it. Hire and fire like a startup!