The Secret to the Fastest Growing Sales Teams? It’s About Growth, Not Speed.

April 24, 2019

As a recruiter, I hear from many founders and sales leaders regularly about how many salespeople they need and how quickly they need them. I know the pressure is on – many are handed very aggressive targets (I would actually say some are unrealistic).

But they often miss a critical component in the middle of their urgency. Growth is so much more than just getting more bodies in the door as fast as you can.

And I’ve seen many startups who fail to make this distinction create a cycle of diminishing returns that impacts the trajectory of their growth for the long haul… especially in enterprise sales.

I want to help you avoid this cycle. Because it’s very painful and a more intentional approach to sales recruiting will help you grow faster (and bigger).

Here is why.

How a speed-centric recruiting mindset slows you down

Just in case you’re wondering if I’m implying that you should hire slowly simply to move slower, I’m not. I get that you need to move quickly and support that.

However, I am saying if you move fast at the expense of intentionality, you won’t realize the growth that could be.

Here are two reasons why.

1. It kills your momentum

The problem with hiring quickly and constantly iterating throughout the process is that it’s two steps forward, one step back. Over time, this hamstrings your ability to scale and hurts your bottom line simultaneously.

The video below from Jake Reni and Scott Barker explains this really well:


As Jake says in the video:

“Sometimes we try to solve problems by throwing more bodies at it thinking if we just get more reps in the market and create more pipeline, we’re going to solve our problem. But in fact, our customer acquisition cost goes up. Then we run out of runway and before you know it, we have to lay off 40%-80% of our sales force.”

And given that Deloitte estimated that turnover alone costs you as much as 150%-200% of a person’s salary, losing that much of your sales force is an expensive proposition.

It gets worse…

Not only does turnover cost a lot and slow you down with your revenue goals, but it hampers your efforts to hire the cream of the crop in the future to boot.

Winning salespeople want to play on winning teams – if few people on your team are winning, it’s going to signal to them that something isn’t right.

When you’re constantly churning salespeople, it’s like a painful boomerang that creates a bad reputation in the marketplace.

Take this example:

And this:

What do you think an exceptionally talented salesperson who is already employed is going to think when they see reviews like this?

So it may feel like you don’t have time to wait, but if moving too quickly is going to make it harder, what do you have time for?

2. It limits your talent pool.

The best salespeople are almost always employed and not actively looking for a new role. They’re good at what they do and have a great job because of it!

But when you work with a recruiting firm (or multiple) who deliver resumes in the first few weeks, they aren’t typically sending you these candidates.

That’s because passive candidates take more time to “get on the hook.” Time they don’t have because:

      • They’re getting pitted against other recruiters so they have to move quickly to get your resumes
      • They know if you don’t see someone you like in the first couple weeks, their chances of getting paid all but evaporate

So most aren’t doing much more than taking a pass at the active candidates (only 30% of the market) and sending them to you, hoping something sticks. Let’s be honest, chances are they haven’t spent much time vetting them either!

That’s why even though it may feel good to have people to interview right now, finding the right person for the job isn’t going to be as easy as if they took the time to understand your business, the role and hand-picked the right person for the job.

What about quality candidates who ARE looking?

Sure, you may find a gem who happens to be ready to make a move. But you’ll still spend much more energy to find that person because:

      • You’ll have to filter through lots of mediocre resumes (time)
      • You’ll risk interviewing people who aren’t quite the right fit ($$)
      • You’ll be switching recruiters all the time and starting over (time and $$)

Perfect example from a startup I’ve been keeping in touch with:

As a founder, that’s an awful lot of work for 1 hire, especially when you need to hire more!

Why not slow down a bit and invest all that time, money, and energy into a more intentional approach?

What happens to your business when you take a more intentional approach

The reason prioritizing quality recruiting over speed helps you grow faster and bigger is that it creates a self-perpetuating cycle that makes things easier over time.

Think about it like this.

Focusing on the right candidates in the right places doing the work that translates well for your business reduces your selection to a smaller group of key people, which makes it easier for you to review the profiles you receive (better fit, fewer to review). This reduces the risk that you’ll fly someone out to interview that will be a total dud, saving you time, money and an icky candidate experience that will haunt you later.

And because you specifically targeted them for their expertise, track record and culture fit (not just because they were the best out of those interested and available), when you do hire them, they’re likely to be more productive and stick around for the long haul. Which piques the interest of other talented salespeople who see the good work you’re doing and the cycle repeats!

2 real-life examples of what intentional recruiting can do for your business

I see so many founders take the approach that they do because they’re feeling pressure from their board and end up applying templated advice that doesn’t work for their business. However, the clients we’ve worked with who’ve embraced this mindset have realized incredible growth.

Here are two real-life examples.

Example #1 – SaaS healthcare company in NYC

When the current sales leader first joined the company, he (in his own words) “didn’t inherit a team that would allow us to scale at the rate I knew we were capable of.”

Unfortunately, hiring people who could wasn’t that simple because his team had him handcuffed working with a recruiter who didn’t “get it.”

Again, in his own words:

“They didn’t take the time to understand us, our product, and most importantly, our process. I spent 3-4 months just teaching one of the people they brought us how to sell before they churned out and cost me $300k – not including the placement fees I paid.”

So he fought the fight to take a different approach and started building a new team one quality hire at a time with us. In less than 2 years, they 5x’d their ARR with an average team quota attainment of 120% and 65% win rate!

Example #2 – Fintech SaaS company in Silicon Valley

Does this work for short-term growth? Absolutely.

A Fintech company we’ve worked with twice (who was previously struggling to find the right person) 3x’d their pipeline and 2x’d their customer acquisition rate in just 6 months with a single high-quality hire. In the enterprise market. In fact, the growth happened so fast they had to hire an Account Manager within 5 months to keep up with the new $1MM+ dollar upsell opportunities that suddenly materialized.

Final thoughts

I’m not saying you can’t hire quickly. You absolutely can and should where it makes sense! However, I am saying that speed without intentionality slows you down… and can have serious consequences for your business.

Would it be worth the extra time to hire the right people if you knew it would result in hitting your target for the year? Or maybe tripling it? Quality always wins in recruiting, just like it does in sales. Getting each hire right the first time will steer you in the right direction to scale.

Founder and CEO of Avenue Talent Partners

With more than $100MM in revenue sold, a LinkedIn Insider and Top Sales Voice, Founder, Strategic Advisor, and LP at Stage 2 Capital, Amy Volas is a sales fanatic turned entrepreneur. She was bitten by the startup bug many moons ago and couldn't imagine spending her time anywhere else. She created Avenue Talent Partners to help grow early-stage startups through some of their most valuable assets - executive revenue leaders.