Hiring by the Data: How to Build a Winning Revenue Org for 2021

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On this week’s Weekly Briefing, Jim and his guest Patrick McCue - the Managing Director of Global Talent Sales at Stack OverFlow - were feeling festive.

Before diving into the data around hiring for your best revenue org yet, they started their conversation by discussing holiday plans.

“We’re in New England,” said Patrick, “the birthplace of Thanksgiving. We usually like to give space to Thanksgiving. But not this year. I think this is going to be a Christmas-Thanksgiving this year. It’s going to be a little different.”

As COVID cases rise across the country and the world, it’s important to celebrate with care.

We’re seeing staff get back to pre-COVID levels

Hiring Top Talent is Key for 2021

The challenges that we saw this year are reflected in the data. In Q2, companies in nearly every industry saw a significant increase in reduction in force (RIF) and not hiring mentions in sales calls.

But as we head into 2021, there’s been a steep decrease, leading us to believe that companies are investing in resources and are looking to staff back up.

“It’s cliche, but this was unprecedented,” said Patrick. “Our clients didn’t know what to do. You hear a lot about digital transformation - where companies had to allow for the way that people do work now. It caused some panic. Companies had to make sure they had employees that were going to be effective. And, let’s be honest, most companies also saw revenue reduction.

But as the year went on, we started to see an increase [in hiring]. We’re seeing staff get back to pre-COVID levels.”

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Q4 feels like the end of a marathon every year, but this year, it’s like we’re running a marathon in 120-degree heat.

Each Rep is Holding More Meetings, Leads to Burnout

We can see why companies are anxious to restaff.

According to Chorus data, of the companies that did experience a reduction in force, meetings per rep went way up. In the companies who asked their reps to do more with less, each rep had 43% more meetings than they did before the RIF.

That’s a huge increase in meeting volume per person.

And, unsurprisingly, burnout was mentioned more as well. Burnout was mentioned 32% more often in sales calls.

“We have to give teams more resources,” said Jim.

“I laughed when you pulled this data up,” said Patrick in response to the burnout mentions data. “These two data points are so compelling. Reps are in a different world right now because of RIF. MQLs were in a dip in Q2, but that’s gone way up as leads start to come in again. So they’re holding more and more meetings. But they’re not used to this volume for a single rep.”

Patrick shared that his own team has experienced this. “We had an individual contributor that tripled their quarterly number because they were the only one available. But they had to take a week off of the next quarter just to decompress because they took so much on.”

“There’s real fatigue going into the end of the year,” said Jim. “Are there any programs you’re putting in place to combat that?”

Patrick said that Stack Overflow is taking a systemic approach from the top down to combat burnout.

“You can only encourage people to take time off so much,” said Patrick. “So we’ve done a really good job of encouraging people to put everything else first from the top down. We’ve adjusted how they can carry over PTO into Q1.”

The thing is, he explained, that salespeople are incredibly motivated and it can be hard to ask them to step away and take care of themselves.

“Q4 feels like the end of a marathon every year,” he said. “But this year, it’s like we’re running a marathon in 120-degree heat.”

Salespeople by nature are working harder at the end of Q4. “As a sales leader,” said Patrick, “it’s your responsibility to step in and let them know that you’re there to take the burden off of them if they need it. It’s a different way for sales leaders to think.”

Are Companies Ready to Staff Back Up?

Hire Sales Reps Who Collaborate

As companies invest in restaffing their team and recruiting top talent, there are traits that are more in focus now because of the learnings of 2020.

For example, the data tells us that each deal is requiring more sellers. This means that a sales leader is less interested in a “lone wolf” sales rep. They’re interested in your soft skills. Can you collaborate? Can you ask for help or provide help?

“I’ve had the unique luxury of leading remote workforces for over 6 years,” said Patrick. “This has helped me get set up for this environment. I know what to look for. There’s something about looking for accountability and compatibility. When your employees are distributed throughout the globe, you have to be able to rely on them being accountable and compatible.”

And when it comes to culture fit, Patrick says that it’s not about the flashy perks.

“Foosball and happy hours is not your culture. Your culture is your people.”

Jim joined Chorus in March, just after the Chorus office was sent home to shelter in place. So while he’s leading Chorus through this, he has not yet seen the office or met most of the staff in person. Patrick can relate.

“I made a job change in late February and March,” said Patrick. “I went through the entire process over video. I never met a single person in my org, and still to this day I haven’t. How you get sellers to be motivated and buy into what you’ve got to share with them if they haven’t met you is something I’ve been really dialed into. You’ve got to be able to adapt - this is part of that culture shift.”

Jim agreed. “You’re still making connections and getting to know your colleagues, but it’s just different now.”

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We’re not looking for lone wolves, we’re looking for people who can collaborate and contribute together.

Reps Are More Vocal and Ask for More Coaching

Not only are reps holding more meetings and working more closely together, but they’re also raising their hand for feedback more.

“The reps that you’ve hired are going to raise their hands for more coaching because in the office, that’s second nature,” said Patrick. “That’s why you’re seeing more of this proactive ask for more coaching. I think as you’re going through the process of expanding your sales team and talking to new people, you’re going to have to be in calls with them. And if you don’t have a virtual coaching software that’s going to be tough.”

Jim shared a story from one of Chorus’s newest hires who is now a top performer.

“One of our new hires didn’t nail the exercise in the interview process. She asked for feedback and asked to do it again, and she just crushed it. She’s now one of our top performers. And this is the point. We’re not looking for lone wolves, we’re looking for people who can collaborate and contribute together,” said Jim.

How Are Leaders Combating Burnout?

People love to hear about other people’s companies, and their struggles because they can relate.

Hiring for Empathy

One of the key indicators of a top performer is that they tell 20% more stories than others.

“Telling stories is the way I was brought up,” said Patrick, “and I’ve taken this into the interview process. Make them feel comfortable. Allow them to tell stories about themselves and see what they come with. You almost have to check your ego when you’re a storyteller, you may just start letting people into your life. But it’s being empathetic.”

There are small ways of showing that you care about them and their life outside of the sales meeting. “Just by ending the meeting a bit early, so they can handle other things,” said Patrick.

Social Proof is an essential part of winning as well. The reps that use social proof see more successful closed-won deals than those that don’t.

“People love to hear about other people’s companies, and their struggles because they can relate,” said Patrick. “It helps when you can put tangible numbers into your stories, logos, company names, and people into your deals.”

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