Hiring Great Salespeople - Five Questions with Oppty CEO Paul Murskov

By Grant Deken

Sales channels
This is the first post in our new Five Questions series. In this series we will interview experts from various fields and roles to gain insights and best practices in a range of business disciplines. In this episode I spoke to Paul Murskov, the CEO of HireKeep.com and Oppty.ai. Paul has helped many of the leading tech companies recruit top tier sales and marketing talent, including Hubspot, Mulesoft, RedisLabs, NextDoor, and more. Read below for tips on what separates great sales people from average ones, the top tools people are using to recruit, and whether or not outbound sales is dead in 2019...

GD: I've hired a number of sales people throughout my career. Some have worked out and others haven't. Sometimes I feel like it's hit or miss. What is your advice to entrepreneurs to be better at hiring sales people? What are your tips for identifying great sales talent from average or not so great?

PM: You want to look for candidates who describe their metrics up front on their LinkedIn or resume. This shows confidence in their work and it will be much easier to determine if they are a match for your company sales models. Another thing you want to look for is candidates who are currently in a job. While that sounds trivial, it is key, since they will then be able to discuss their current day-to-day. You can then assess if their current process matches up with how you envision your sales process flowing internally. This helps the sales rep ramp up more quickly and start contributing revenue. During the interview process, double down on consistency and get real numbers specific to metrics that matter to you and your business. If you are hiring more junior level sales (SDR/BDR), you want to nail down how many outreaches per day, how many calls vs emails, how many demos set, held, etc. For more senior folks, you are focusing on close rates, quota attainment and deal/sales cycle metrics. Make sure to ask about the consistency of hitting quota and goals over time and compare it to what you have internally. If you have visible consistent success, you know you have a good candidate in front of you.

GD: Does the profile of a great salesperson change much based on company size? For example, should a 5-10 person startup be looking at different candidates than larger companies like a Hubspot?

PM: The profile doesn't necessarily change, but the expectations of a salesperson do change based on the company that they are coming from and are ultimately getting hired at. This is a very important point that a lot of people miss, because sales reps that come from large companies expect a lot more systems to be in place including managers to assist them, software systems, sales process, work-life balance, lead generation, etc. Ultimately, they are used to a very plug-and-play style atmosphere where they come in, get what they need to get done using the available resources and then go home. A startup is completely different because there is a lot of change and many times these systems, tools and processes are not in place. Because of this, you want to make sure you look for sales people that work within a similar size company so that they don't get burnt out due to a misalignment of expectations.

"Outbound is still a great way to capture attention and stand out but you have to really focus on providing value to a prospect and engaging in conversations."

GD: There's so much noise in the market today. I get probably 5-10 cold email pitches a day. How do sales people stand out in 2019? Is outbound dead?

PM: The noise will keep getting noisier, but outbound is not at all dead. Outbound is transforming though from a very salesy, quick pitch to close to a much more subtle, value, and trust driven conversational sales processes. These days, marketing is very crowded and grabbing attention is key. Outbound is a great way to do this, but you have to really focus on providing value to a prospect and engaging in conversations. Doing your research on a prospect, their company/team and their product is imperative prior to any outbound outreach. The prospect needs to see you understand who they are, why their business exists and how they can truly benefit from what you are offering. It seems easy on the surface, but building these types of outbound campaigns has proven to be more difficult.

The best advice to start an outbound strategy is to lay out a minimum of five cadences for a prospect but only asking for a meeting on the fifth outreach. This forces your sales reps to create conversations and deliver value first prior to asking for time. It takes longer, but the conversion is higher, which is ultimately what we are looking for. Another important requirement is pick up the phone and call. That really really helps. If you cannot do phone, video outreach or voice outreach is helpful since its still relatively new and people hearing your voice are more likely to engage with you and your material.

GD: With so much new technology out there is the standard toolkit for sales changing? Are things like conversational marketing actually having an impact on how deals get closed? What are your thoughts here? Any insights from your clients on this?

PM: Yes, the standard toolkit for sales is becoming more marketing driven. Conversational marketing is nothing more than using a sales person to engage a prospect via chat or tapping a person during times when they would typically abandon a website or a form with a bot. It's not necessarily a conversation, more of an interjection.

Now, that being said, it is a good way to wake someone up and get them engaging but I still believe that the SDR function along with the right sales cadence and dialing tools is imperative to qualify and follow on those leads. The idea behind marketing driven sales is that you have a whole lot of tools supporting the people who qualify and engage leads and pass them to someone that can close them. Some tools include a CRM to rank leads, a dialer, automated cadence (email) tools (salesloft, outreach, mixmax), LinkedIn sales navigator for prospecting and bots on your site to capture leads. This is a good start to a sales toolkit which can help accelerate sales rep performance.

GD: I've done a lot of direct recruiting and have worked with firms and there are pros and cons to both. In your opinion, what's the right way to work with recruiters? How do you see the space and what are some of the various models you see working well in a tight talent market?

PM: The recruiting space is evolving and a lot of new tools are being introduced. If you are thinking about hiring, you can use a job board and pay for click to your job posting or a flat fee to run the ad. You can hire an internal recruiter and pay them a salary. You can find a platform where you can find your own candidates to engage for a subscription fee. Finally, you can also hire an agency recruiter and pay quite a large success fee for them to do the work for you, many times running you 15%-20% of the employees base salary.

Here is the secret: No matter which avenue you choose, it always comes down to whether or not you want to spend any time finding the right candidate on your own and what you are ultimately paying per interview for that candidate. So with agencies, be as picky as you can and interview a lot of people because you are paying handsomely per interview. With a job ad, try your best to use filters and pre-qualification systems in order to save time on vetting them out so that you can keep your cost per interview as low as possible from those leads. You will either pay with time or with money, the balance is a choice you need to make up front.

If you're looking for help with your sales and marketing recruiting efforts you can connect with Paul and his team by visiting www.oppty.ai.