Guest post by Daniel Callaghan of Adecco Group X: 8 Lessons You Must Know On Growing Sales Team
What’s top of mind for many of Singapore’s leading HR tech start-ups? Much like all start-ups.. the answer is; How to scale their businesses. Sales plays a pivotal role in that process, so I recently gathered a group of fast-growing HR Tech companies for a roundtable discussion on “What’s the best way to grow your sales team?”.
The key takeaways that emerged from the discussion are not only of value to the HR space, but to all startups looking to successfully scale their business and therefore thought best to share with the wider community:
1. Align the sales role with the profiles you need today
When it comes to sales professionals, the team members you need today as a growing company will likely be different from the ones you will need at scale. The most repeated high value trait was agility. The need for incoming sales team members to almost unlearn what they have learnt previously and adapt to the new evolving product, proposition and sales cycle is paramount.
2. Be sure to have a process
A structured recruitment and approval process – and the discipline to stick to it – is a must-have. It’s easy to make the mistake of hiring in your own image or because the candidate looks great on paper.
That’s why it’s critical to ensure you have a clear set of criteria to consistently interview against and to evaluate candidates across multiple interviews with different stakeholders.
Likewise, a clear path to hire and a solid reference checking process will ensure that you do not find yourself looking back on underperformers 6 months down the line and asking what happened. A few participants recommended the book Top Grader by Brad Smart for insights on how to consistently interview and hire top performers.
3. Understand the importance of cultural fit
When you are looking to reach that hyper-growth stage, it’s important to keep an eye on company culture and facilitate a quick and seamless integration of new team members. The commonality gained at the early stages of a team who thinks, acts and delivers on the same understandings can often help you to blitz the market faster. Finding people who share your core values, work ethics and work preferences at the beginning will help you work together and grow together rather than losing time deciphering each other’s intricacies. For more on how to scale your company culture, research Reid Hoffman’s notion of blitzscaling.
4. Structure the commission for growth
When your business grows quickly, your accounts will grow quickly. Inbound leads will become more frequent, reducing the burden of that 360 degree sales person who was previously responsible for everything from lead gen to account management.
They will soon find themselves on a quick route to easy street exceeding their commission targets yet still leaving money on the table. Be sure to structure your commission plan with the flexibility to change it on fair terms whenever needed based on what they are doing and where their true contribution is made. Ratchet structures with accelerator plans are also a favourable way of doing this.
5. Work together first before committing long term
A scale-up becomes a close-knit community that needs to work together over a long journey. An increasing number of businesses are now introducing a half-day or full-day “trial” to the process to see whether prospective employees have the right attitude and aptitude, and likewise give prospects the opportunity to see whether they like and fit with the company.
Some businesses do this on a Saturday if needed due to existing work schedules and covered the costs of it as well. All agreed that this not only helps both the prospective hire and the team truly get a feel for each other, but it also tests their commitment levels to making it work.
If you go down this route though be sure to bake it into your hiring process from the start and communicate it so there are no surprises for the candidate.
6. Farm whenever possible
The cost of new client acquisition is (typically) high. Ultimately, the success of your existing clients, their testimonials, their referrals and the growth of their own usage can bring this figure down or make the unit economics work.
Ensuring that everyone of your sales people has an “account growth mindset”, first and foremost, will help to make sure those initial clients are looked after and your Net Promoter Score goes through the roof.
7. Explore the international markets
Technology platforms should be inherently scalable and capable of going global. If a platform is available in English, it can largely be deployed or used by Western markets which often have higher price points.
Begin early in your experimentation to reach these markets, develop a tiered pricing strategy and run a campaign to test demand.
As you deal with your first international clients, start to think about how you can operationalize what you did into an expansion playbook for the next market.
8. Don’t be afraid to say goodbye
If you find that an underperforming sales team member made it through the interview process, be quick to realise and act upon this. Set clear KPIs not only on output but also how they get things done.
Culture is a precious thing and if someone who hits their targets yet makes everyone else’s life a misery with little signs of improvement after receiving feedback, then action needs to be taken. Act quickly and decisively and in the end your team will respect you for it even more.
As a lasting thought, I encourage all startups with their eyes set on scale to think about the broader ecosystem you are playing in.
Think about who you can partner with to access new or bigger pools of clients or talent, and who has domain expertise in your area.
Large corporates for example can offer tremendous resources and opportunities for you to test your product.
As the leading global provider of workforce solutions, the Adecco Group is actively engaged in the HR Tech community all over the world. We see the opportunity to bring digital and non-digital businesses together to shape the future of work and lead the digital transformation of the HR industry.
In the end, sales is all about relationships – with your people, your partners, and your clients. This is the foundation upon which you will scale your business, so take care to build the right relationships and keep at it to grow your business.
About the author: Daniel Callaghan is the Head of Adecco Group X (AGX) in APAC. AGX is the Adecco Group’s digital innovation unit. If you would like to find out more about AGX or submit your HR Tech related business as a potential pilot partner, then please contact Daniel at www.agx.ai.
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