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  • Mike Poledna

6 Steps To Selecting SDR And Account Executive Candidates

Updated: Jan 10


Interviewing a sales candidate

Thanks to the Great Resignation, the opportunity for SaaS companies to recruit and hire top SDR and account executives is better than ever before. As the rate of account executive turnover has increased, so too have SaaS companies' job postings for account executives. The companies poised to make the best of the situation have a repeatable process designed to efficiently and effectively hire reps. Companies who lack such a process are likely to lose out on top candidates or, worse, make a bad hire.


I have had the opportunity to evaluate the recruiting and hiring processes of many SaaS start-up and early-stage SaaS companies over the past seven years, working as a sales strategy consultant. I can tell you that there is no such thing as a perfect hiring process. However, I have seen multiple processes that were well-executed and successful.


So what does a successful hiring process look like? Here are six steps to follow:


Step 1. Recruit Candidates Using a Variety of Sources

Just like your marketing efforts, your recruiting efforts need to be omnichannel. You can't rely on a single strategy to attract the right account executives and sales development reps. You can tap multiple resources, from social media to job boards and virtual hiring events. Let's take a look at a few.


Social Media Platforms: Social media is a great way to connect with potential candidates. LinkedIn is a great place to start because it’s a professional networking site and a job board of its own. You can also use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites to find candidates. Be sure to highlight your open positions and discuss why candidates want to work for your company.


Alumni Engagement: Alumni can be a great source of recruiting candidates. Many universities have a good Alumni base, and people who are part of the alumni network may make excellent recruits for your organization. This is why it is important to build relationships with your university’s alumni community.


Universities: Universities provide an invaluable resource for organizations looking for new talent. They offer access to large pools of graduates every year, making it easier for recruiters to find just about any candidate they need within their geographical region or field of expertise. Employers should try to get in touch with local colleges and universities that offer business and marketing courses. It also helps if the employer participates actively in extra-curricular activities and other educational programs offered by the university. This will help achieve a closer relationship with students looking for work experience during their degree course.


Networking: Networking is one of the best ways account executive recruiting managers can find top talent. It is not uncommon for account executives working with large organizations, such as corporations or consulting firms, to move into account executive roles at high-growth companies through their professional network. If account executives plan on making a shift soon, they will likely give their colleagues a head’s up when opportunity knocks at their door.


Job Boards: Job boards are another great way to find potential candidates. There are many different job boards out there, so you should find one that fits your needs. Job boards are also a great place to find account executives because account executives usually post their resumes and profiles on job boards, which means account executive recruiting managers can search for candidates without paying any fees or speaking with hundreds of people.


Virtual Job Fair: If you want to make the account executive recruiting process more efficient, you might want to think about holding a virtual job fair. A virtual job fair offers account execs an opportunity to network with other professionals in their field and gives account executive recruiting managers the opportunity to talk with many candidates at once. This is definitely a way account executive recruiting managers will save time while increasing the number of qualified candidates they have coming through their doors.


Social Media Content: Social media content is a great way to build your account executive recruiting brand. Try creating account executive recruiting-related blog posts, videos, infographics, and presentations that account executives can share on their social profiles. This will help you develop a positive account executive recruiting image in the eyes of potential candidates, and it will also help you stand out from your competition.


Current Employees: Current employees are a great resource for finding new candidates. They often have a good idea of the best AE candidates, so they may know people you should consider adding to your candidate pool. Do not forget to ask if they would be willing to help out with recruiting in the future by serving as references.


Step 2. Review Resumes to Find Candidates Who Best Match Your Hiring Profile

This involves scanning resumes of interested SDR and account executive candidates to find ones that seem to fit with your open sales positions and your company's culture. Things to consider include the candidate's background, experience level, salary requirements, and work history. Don't get too caught up in whether or not a candidate has experience selling into your same industry or ideal customer profiles. Focus more on whether or not the candidate has experience in similar sales situations. These could be deal size, sales cycle length, number of buyers, number of influencers, whether they had to identify their own leads or were leads created for them, etc.


Step 3. Screen Candidates by Telephone for High-Level Fit

It's vital not to waste too much time here. Telephone screening should last no more than 25 to 30 minutes. This section aims to verify the qualifications for the job being applied for and assess a candidate's capacity to quickly establish rapport in a stressful scenario where they have little power. Because you will dominate the conversation and follow a planned agenda, I say little control because you will have it. During this time, you'll also want to evaluate their ability to communicate over the phone and whether they are eloquent (at least enough for the persona to which you sell).


Step 4. In-depth Candidate Interview to Determine Role and Culture Fit

During your in-depth candidate interview, you'll want to dig deeper to assess the candidate's fit for the role. Discuss the candidate's background relevant to the role. Assess the candidate's understanding of the role they are applying for. Drill down into their experience. Ask about their selling style (if applying for an AE position). Have them walk you through their processes (SDR or AE). Ask them how they develop strategies to succeed at their objective (set meetings or close deals). It's vital to find out if the candidate has the right level of experience for your open position.


Be sure to understand how well the candidate fits within your startup culture and team's dynamic. Look for cultural fit during this section, which you can assess by looking at their current situation and realistic career goals: Ask why you like working with start-up and early-stage SaaS companies. Ask what they are looking for in their next position, why they are interested in working with you, and how this opportunity fits their long-term career goals. Find out what they hope to accomplish in your career? Have candidates meet with other team members to get their feedback on their potential fit for the role and company.


5. Select the Best Candidate Based on Their Qualifications, Skills, and Fit for the Role.

The recruiting and hiring process is time-consuming. Human bias is natural when it comes to hiring. Do not give in by selecting candidates based on your impression during the interviews or simply choosing someone because you used to work with them. The key is to remain objective when screening candidates, evaluating their experience and making the final hiring decision. This is easier to do if you create and maintain a scorecard for evaluating each candidate. If you have multiple people involved internally in the process, make sure they use the scorecard as well.


If you end up with two qualified account executives or SDRs in close contention for a position in your startup or early-stage SaaS company, consider bringing one in for another round of interviews before making a final hiring decision. You can also try role-playing exercises or ask them to prepare a short presentation on how they would spend their first 90 days in the role.


6. Test Candidates Before Making a Final Decision

Finally, the testing step screens the chosen sales candidates for personality, soft skills, job fit, compatibility, and competence. This step rounds out the interview because much more information is obtained that can't be received from a time-limited interview.


Talexes happens to be the company we work with. They offer a tool known as the TalassureMX, which utilizes unique Success Patterns to identify the qualities required to perform well in account executive and SDR roles. These Success Patterns are included in a complete evaluation that allows you to interview and select prospects who have the greatest chance of succeeding.


You may use insights from TalassureMX to get a fuller picture of a candidate beyond just a resume or interview. The Success Patterns feature shows how well a candidate matches with the top performers in a role, indicating whether the candidate will be successful at your company. You'll be able to make more informed hiring choices.


Hiring account executives and SDRs can be difficult and time-consuming for start-up and early-stage SaaS CEOs and their companies, but it's important to get it right. The six steps we've outlined should help you find the best candidates for your SDR and account executive roles. Remember that these are general tips, and you'll need to tailor them to fit your specific business needs. If you need help developing an efficient and effective recruiting, selection, and hiring process for your company, let us know. We're happy to offer our expertise and guidance.


To learn more about structuring a productive sales interview, get a copy of our ebook, 3 Essential Resources for Interviewing Sales Candidates. You’ll get an outline for the perfect interview, a list of questions to ask (and ones to avoid), and a candidate evaluation form to ensure you and your team have a unified scoring method for candidates.


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