Is your hiring process making your startup unattractive to top sales talent?

I was called in recently to help a startup in the sales tech space that was suffering from a revolving door of leadership, market strategy, and sales turnover.


We were helping them bring in new talent for a key market. But when we had it narrowed down to our top 2 candidates (both of which they wanted to hire), one of them suddenly exited stage left. Yikes!


The reason? They wanted to be part of something bigger and another company had created a better candidate experience for their prospects with a much larger land-grab opportunity.


It’s not uncommon for top sales talent to slip through the fingers of companies like this (I see it happen often). It’s actually a rampant problem in the industry.


For example, 83% of talent say a negative candidate experience can flip their perspective on a company they were interested in, but 87% say a positive experience can have the opposite effect on one they weren’t too excited about at first.


Which means you can make your company magnetic rather than off-putting for top talent if you double down on making your hiring process exciting for candidates (and the fact that so few are doing it will likely magnify the effect).


So if you’re looking to get your hands on the cream of the sales crop to help you scale your company, here are 3 things to think about to make sure your hiring process is helping you (and not hurting you).


1) It’s all about your mindset.

I know that your product or service is going to change the world. But the reality is, products and services don’t sell themselves no matter how good they are.


Your revenue stream depends on your sales team, and without emotionally intelligent and highly motivated people on board that care about your task at hand, it’s nearly impossible to scale your company.


That’s because strong sales people know customers buy when you connect what they believe to what you believe to solve their business problems. And they use that knowledge to bring in way more revenue for your company than you spend on them.


If you haven’t seen this TED Talk from Simon Sinek, it’s one of the best explanations I’ve ever seen of what really persuades people to buy anything. He lays out the biologically-hardwired ways we me make purchasing decisions at 1:18:



The data almost unanimously reflects this. According to Propeller, 95% of customers purchase from solution providers that offer the most relevant and helpful content throughout each phase of the buying process.


There are two conclusions to draw from this:


  1. If this is how they sell, it’s how you need to sell to them.
  2. A sales team is an investment, not a necessary evil.


So if there is anything you should take from this post, it’s this: make it your priority throughout the hiring process to show your sales candidates you genuinely value what they can do for you, that you’ll have their back to help them thrive, and why you’re worth evangelizing in the marketplace.


The more you cater to them in this way (the “why”) in addition to delivering a great comp plan (the “what”), the more your company will become magnetic to high-value sales talent that’s going to help you scale the mess out of your business.


Here’s how you do that.


2) Put yourself in their shoes.

A few years back, I was flown out for a final interview with an impressive company. But when I arrived, I was left in the lobby for a half hour upon my arrival with zero greeting or acknowledgement of my existence (not even “Do you need to use the restroom?” or “Can I get you a glass of water?”).


From there, 2 out of 5 executives I was supposed to meet with blew me off and the 3rd complained about how much of a pain in the neck it was to take me to lunch due to his workload.


Needless to say, I didn’t take the job and ran for the hills after professionally and nicely saying HECK NO. I mean, how could I feel good about representing a group of people that had zero regard for how I could help them?


This is great example of a terrible candidate experience and what NOT to do in the hiring process. But yet experiences like this run rampant across all industries, not just startups.


The good news is, if you can create even a slightly more engaging and rewarding experience for candidates, you’ll have their attention…and maybe even their devotion. Because you’ll be one of the few people offering it.


Here are 4 simple, but powerful ways you can do that while you’re trying to grow your sales team:


  • Show them why you’re worth promoting in the marketplace. Referring back to Simon Sinek above, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. Top sales candidates want to know that their experience and talents are being put towards something they can believe in (so they can flip that around on your customers). One of the best ways you can do that is to connect them with why you do what you do.


  • Keep in touch with them about their candidacy throughout the entire process. One of the best ways to show a sales candidate that you value them is to keep them in the loop about what’s going on with their application. 60% of job candidates say that hiring processes would often be improved by better communication alone.


  • Peel back the layers and let them vet you. This will reveal the things that they care about most, and will give you both a better feel for whether you’re a good fit for each other. It’s important that whoever you hire believes in what you’re doing if you want them to be able to persuade your customers to buy. So make sure they understand what they are getting into…so neither of you will have to live with the consequences of a bad hire.


  • Shorten the process. Not only do many candidates turn down job offers because they have to wait too long to hear back from you, they often have multiple offers on the table if they’re a top performer. Making them wait is a surefire way to build a case against work for you and will show them that your company doesn’t respect them or their time (in addition to making other options more attractive).


3) Keep the feedback flowing.

If you’re not entirely sure what your candidates want from you (and more importantly why), the best way to learn is to ask (and even if you are, doing this regularly with help you stay in touch with the talent pool).


You do that in your sales process, why should this be any different?


You’d be surprised–candidates are often more than willing to offer their feedback if you just ask nicely. Plus, candidates are 4 times more likely to consider your company again in the future when you offer them constructive feedback!


Since this feedback is invaluable to ensuring you get it right for the people you’re taking through the process, it also helps you understand how to design a more attractive hiring process for sales gems in the future.


So let’s make it practical. Here’s an exact word-for-word template you can use to get feedback from your top candidates that also positions you and your company such that they will remember you favorably (even if you won’t be working together):


Hi [[firstname]],


Thanks so much for your time today, it was great to meet you and learn more about your philosophy and approach to success.


I’m disappointed we aren’t going to get to work with you, but I’d love to learn more about why you decided to go a different direction. 


Not trying to change your mind — I’m always looking to improve, and want to know what we can do to make the hiring process and our company more engaging and rewarding for top performers like yourself!


Would you be open to sharing what made the difference for you? Even a quick sentence or two would mean a lot. Please be as honest as you can, we’re not afraid of a little criticism!


Best of luck with your new position and please keep in touch. Thanks again!


[Name of sender]


Tying it all together….

Showing your sales candidates that they have a voice and how much you value them and their experience through your hiring process makes your company magnetic to A+ sales performers. It gets them excited to work with you, because few companies are doing this well.


And when you finish it off with a system for continuous improvement, you’ll consistently improve your hiring process so it attracts the right people to your sales team (or any team) to grow your company.


Now it’s your turn: what things have you found that get sales candidates excited about working with you during the interview process? Leave a comment below!


Know someone who is in the process of hiring for their sales team? Share this article with them.


-Amy V.