The Kryptonite of High-Growth Sales Teams

On more than one occasion in the last few months, I’ve had a conversation with a client that goes something like this:

“These candidates are GREAT, but we need to see more… who else is in the hopper?”

When I dig in further as to “why” the qualified people in front of them aren’t enough, it is always a result of the same thing: they’re afraid they might find someone better.

And unfortunately, on more than one occasion, I’ve seen this FOMO cause them to lose remarkable salespeople and sales leaders that were previously beyond excited to work with them.

The truth is, A+ candidates will always have options… they are investments that make startups money and they know it.

But because unemployment is at unprecedented lows (3.6%), they have more options today than they have ever had.

So in today’s competitive landscape, there isn’t any time to waste – if you have a person in front of you who can do the job and checks off your ‘boxes.’ hire them immediately.

One client of ours who hires like this has grown 5x in 2 years!

Here are three reasons FOMO is the kryptonite of high-growth sales organizations… and how to conquer it.

FOMO is an anchor… but decisiveness cuts the rope.

There is a reason you need to hire, right? Whatever that reason is (whether it be bandwidth, market opportunity, growth goals, etc.) it means every day you go without hiring is a day that you’re not achieving your goals or solving your problems.

Great example – a client we stepped away from got their Series B in Q4 last year and came to us with the goal of 4x’ing their team. But they’ve only made 1 hire since then as a result of FOMO (in fact, they are the example I quoted above).

All the while, their runway is shrinking and they still aren’t any closer to their goal! Whereas if they had been more decisive, they’d have already been well on their way to 2x’ing their team!

(I know this can sound like sour grapes from a recruiter. Just FYI, this is a problem within the organization that multiple people backchanneled me about after the fact … including their VC). 

FOMO turns the right people off… decisiveness gets them excited.

This is especially true the more senior of a hire you’re trying to make!

Take a client of ours who was searching for their first VP of Sales as an example. We presented them 3 candidates.

After interviews with the 2nd candidate, we delivered the feedback to him that the client and the board thought he was perfect and checked every single box. But they had a 3rd candidate in the process and wanted to see them through.

The 2nd candidate’s response was, “If I’m their guy, what are they waiting for???”

We delivered that feedback quickly to the client and they wasted no time extending an offer. When the candidate received it, he was so impressed that they ‘got it’ he wanted to work even for them even more.

The truth is, if you can’t be decisive, candidates will start building a case against you. But when you are, it shows them you know what you’re doing and are serious.

It’s like dating… if someone can’t make up their mind whether they want to be with you or not, it means they don’t really like you that much, no matter what they say. But someone who is decisive sends the signals that they are ready to commit.

The same applies in recruiting (and let’s be honest, sales too)!

FOMO makes it harder to hire in the future… decisiveness makes it easier.

Think about the last time you went to buy something and had an awful experience with a sales rep (in any capacity – the mall, a store, online, or at work).

How did you feel? Were you eager to buy from them? How about telling your friends about how great the product/company is?

FOMO is a big deal for the same reason – it creates a bad experience for the people you’re trying to hire. The most talented sales candidates care about candidate experience immensely for the same reasons your customers care about the purchase experience with you.

And that will impact your efforts to hire in the future!

According to a CareerArc study, 72% of candidates who have a negative candidate experience tell other people about it.

However, when you’re decisive, it signals to the right people that you’re a place where they will thrive. And that comes back in so many ways.

When people are thriving, they’ll tell their network. Just imagine how a post like this helps you hire others in the future!

Bottom line – decisiveness improves candidate experience. And candidate experience is essential if you want to scale quickly.

How to conquer recruiting FOMO

The common theme with every single one of our clients above is that they weren’t 100% sure who they needed to hire… so they hesitated.

The best way to fix that is simple: know exactly who you need to hire, so when you see it, you can act.

Unfortunately, I know this is not so easy because not all salespeople are created equal! So here are 6 questions to ask yourself that will help you define the exact profile of the person you need to hire.

1. What is your mission?

There’s a debate about whether this really matters or not with some. But I can tell you from personal experience as a top-performer and as a recruiter – this is essential.

Top salespeople want to believe in what they are building. So make sure you can speak to that in a compelling way. It will help you be magnetic to the right hire!

2. Which market are you targeting with this role?

There is a big difference between the Enterprise market and the SMB market. And many startups forget that the skills associated with each (as well as the prerequisites to get into each) are very different.

Make sure you’ve defined each market appropriately before you hire!

3. What stage/size is your business?

Different stages of growth come with different goals and needs. So you need to evaluate where you are and what your goals are from this lens as well.

Jason Lemkin illustrates the point well for VPs of Sales:

Which type of VP of Sales to hire and when, via SaaStr.

4. How much selling has been done so far?

Have you sold as a founder? Or are you just getting started? What did you learn? You need to know where you are currently and where you want to go to make sure that the person you hire will be able to connect the dots appropriately.

5. What specific activities will your new hire need to do?

Part of defining where you are is knowing what tasks your hire will need to complete in order to be successful with you.

Do you have a solid lead-gen pipeline established? Or will they need to generate these themselves? Have you mapped out your total addressable market yet or will the said hire be doing this heavy lifting for you?

The specifics are critical to being able to identify a good hire for your business!

6. What kind of sales culture do you have?

Culture is the number one thing candidates we talk to care about, from CRO all the way down to AE. So finding a match here is crucial!

This isn’t about “finding someone you’d like to grab a beer with.” Real culture fit is about an alignment of fundamental beliefs (as they tie to your mission), your leadership, and whether you’re aligned on how to approach the task at hand.

Final thoughts

It’s important to be conscious of making a mishire. Many startups are still struggling to get this right! However, balance is everything and you CAN take it too far.

Find a person who can do the job and is excited about your mission (look for that ‘connective tissue’ – that what’s important to them is also important to you)… and hire them. As long as you’ve been transparent with them throughout the process, there is no reason they won’t be ecstatic to accept your offer and do great work for you!

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