Episode 41 – Amy Volas – insights on effectively hiring the right sales people for your organization and why sales roles are so challenging to fill correctly

We are in for a treat on Episode 41! Our host Bryan Whittington is joined by Amy Volas, Founder & CEO at Avenue Talent Partners, Co-Founder of Thursday Night Sales and founding member of Sales Hacker. Amy brings her vast experience to the conversation to cover everything we need to know about hiring the right sales people for your growing business.

Connect with Amy on LinkedIn:

Avenue Talent Partners’ Website:

Thursday Night Sales’ Website:

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Bryan: Hey, everyone. Bryan Whittington with this episode of The Talent, Sales and Scale Show. We have a real treat. We have Amy Volas on with us.
Now she is the Who’s Who here. Let me lay this out. Not only is she the host of “Thursday Night Sales,” the 2020 LinkedIn Top Voice, the founder and CEO of Avenue Talent Partners, but also—and I didn’t realize this—you’re a founding member of Sales Hackers. That’s a pretty impressive bio. So all of that to say, welcome, Amy.

Amy: Thank you. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to talk shop. So I appreciate the lovely invite here, Bryan.

Bryan: Yeah. I appreciate you putting some time aside. So, you know, with that much going on Amy is a little bit busy. So we’re going to jump right into this. And we’ll kick off with the first question that we always ask, Amy. Other than that impressive bio, the topic for today is getting some insights on how to effectively hire sales people. And why are sales people arguably the most difficult positions to hire for? So that’s going to be the topic/ So Amy, why in the world should we listen to you in and around this topic?

Amy: So I’ve been in the game for going on 25 years, so I’m a practitioner first. So sales is my first and best love. I sold over $100 million in revenues sold incoming. And I’ve been around the block a really long time. And I think that for me I can compare and contrast that to spending a big chunk of my time in the HR track, in recruiting and selling acquisition space selling products and services. And so through the years I’ve always listened. And so I’m a big believer that ultimately people want to be seen and heard. And people take action when you can fundamentally help them. And that’s by solving problems, helping people reach their goals, helping them get better. Those are like the three pillars. And so when I think about that, I’ve been fascinated by people since I think I came out of the womb. And the big takeaway is that people are really hard to find from a sales perspective for many companies because they approach it like a one size fits all. And so from my vantage point I’ve studied this, and I’ve been part of it. And I’ve made mistakes. And I’ve done things really, really well. And in my infinite number of conversations I’ve lost track a long, long time ago about sales and hiring and getting that right and not getting that right; there were common themes. And so when I started my company over five years ago I took those common themes. And I really put a lot of thought around for these broken bits and pieces. These are the things that I can really help with, and help to mention that. And so the reason why I’m equipped to do this is that I’ve done the job myself. I speak that language fluently. I’m not just trying to talk about some that either I haven’t done or that I don’t understand. And I care an awful lot about the ecosystem. And I’ve spent an awful lot of time listening and taking account of what the problems are, and there’s nothing new. They’re all just the same. And so I think that’s probably why you wanted me to come talk today. And hopefully that’s why people haven’t hung up yet. (Laughter) So there’s that. So it’s a wealth of experience and knowledge that comes from a body of work and a career that spans decades.

Bryan: Got it. So there is a lot there, and I appreciate that. Now whenever you were in sales you were selling mostly Sass technology type of products. Is that correct? Or have you always been in the people’s base?

Amy: So always the people’s, based both on softer products and then services.

Bryan: Right.

Amy: So those are very different things; I have experience in both. And they’re not the same.

Bryan: No, they’re not at all. So let’s talk about it. You’ve said that there are a couple of common themes; I think you said five common themes. Let’s touch on that real quick. What would you say the five common themes are that we should be looking for?

Amy: So one is preaching. Preaching! (Laughter) I haven’t had caffeine yet. Approaching it like it’s one size that fits all, thinking that sales people are all the same. It’s not like hiring an engineer. That’s sort of a very linear thought process approach. There’s lots of gray area here. And what makes this sales person over here great and good is not going to necessarily be the same thing as the sales person over here. So that’s step #1.
Step #2 is that people shoot from the hip. They have an event that happens. Maybe it’s funding. Maybe it’s a new year, a new budget. What do we do now? We need to hire. And it’s this whole thing of well, I just need to go and hire a sales person without any thought or understanding around that. So that’s the second one.
The third one is that sales people are a necessary evil. And the process and the approach, and then what happens after the hire, is very much around that sort of mentality. And your mindset absolutely correlates to the action that you take that absolutely correlates to the outcome. And people are thought of as less than; there’s that.
And the other is that people don’t have a good hiring process. And I think I’m at #4. Off the top of my head I don’t have the stats. And I don’t know if I said “item bound.” If I did, sorry.

Bryan: I probably made that up in my head.

Amy: That’s okay; those are the top four.

Bryan: All right.

Amy: It’s really those things.

Bryan: I like the top four. So I was shooting from the hip; I thought I heard five. So clearly I was wrong on that one.
So I know one of the posts that you have. So by the way, if you’re not following Amy on LinkedIn, you definitely want to do that because you post about a time or two a day, if not more, correct?

Amy: Well I usually just post once a day.

Bryan: Okay.

Amy: (Unclear) And the posts that I usually do, I try to make them meaty. Here’s something that’s going on, good or bad. And here’s a way or ways to deal with that. So I usually do that once.
I know that for me, if I see somebody posting all day long, I get fatigued. And I don’t want to be that way for everybody else. So you’ll see from me one time a day.
Bryan: Yes. And when she does put it out she puts out the pulse. It’s definitely meaty. So I remember a couple of weeks back that you posted a topic on VPS Sales, and how there are so many different variables that go into hiring that VPS sale.

So let’s touch on that first of the four, that it’s not just a one size fits all. So let’s cover that. We’ll start with the negative first. What do you see? Why do you believe that people just try to quote that sales is sales is sales? Is it a lack of understanding? Talk to me a little bit more about that.

Amy: I say this with love, but I think that people don’t know how to hire a VPS sales, and I agree. Jason Lunkin wrote about this. There are forty different kinds of VPs of sales.
Bryan: Wow!

Amy: That’s not a CRO; that’s not a sales director; that’s not a sales manager. That’s the VP. And inside of that you’ve got hiring for the different work that’s required for the companies. That could be staged. That could be what’s going on. So a VP of sales at an A-Round start-up is going to look and feel and act very, very differently than a VP of sales for a Fortune 500 multi-billion-dollar company.
Bryan: Right.

Amy: Those things are not mutually exclusive. And so I think that where the crack in the foundation for many people is that they just look at it by title. And oh, it’s a VP of sales. And wait; I’m looking at their LinkedIn profile. And they have taken a Change of Presidents Club. And they have grown the business by that for over a year for the last four years, and they have all these accolades. And oh, they are speaking about these topics that we care about. This has to be our A. player that we have been drooling to hire.
Well, I’ve come to find out that person stepped in. And all of the play books and all of the things were already set, and they’re managing that. It doesn’t mean that they’re bad, or that the work that they’re doing is wrong, or that it’s bad. It means that at that level and that what’s required is very, very different than the A-Round company that needs to build it from scratch.
And most likely the person at that bigger company, they probably don’t want to go down that level and do that work. And so in my mind it’s all about the work that’s required at the stage and the marketplace which you occupy. And we get it wrong.

Bryan: Yes; we found that. If somebody is a VP or even a sales person who is a director at a larger company that steps up into a start-up, they don’t know how to get around the fact that they don’t have marketing, unlimited marketing dollars. They are the team.
And then they don’t likely know how to hire at that lower level because they can’t say, “Hey, I work with XYZ.” And that’s why people are coming to them. Out of whole cloth they have to create the process, create the systems, create the marketing, create the environment to want people to hire or join their team whenever they’re a nobody. Is that kind of a good summation of where the difference lies between that series A. and that Fortune 500?

Amy: One of the many, yes. So I’m a rare breed of being ambidextrous. So I went from a big company like Yahoo where I was incredibly successful. I had a very finite number of accounts in my book that were a blend of new, existing and (club acts), right? But that was no more than fifty accounts. So from very, very specific, to then going and being the very first enterprise sales person to build up an enterprise sales function at a little company at the time called “Indeed,” and nobody knew who they were, totally didn’t rinse.
And so, you know, I got a seat at the table at Yahoo because it was Yahoo. It was fun; I had to yodel. You opened up that collateral and you yodeled that. That was cool.
So with Indeed, being like well wait. Not only do I not know what it is. But if I’m looking at it and I’m getting it for free, why would I pay you? And there was no marketing. And there was a refusal to invest in marketing because the money that was being invested was all to invest in marketing because the money that was being invested was all on STO and STMs, and not any other brand.

Bryan: Yes.

Amy: And so there was brute force there that really required me to click in at a different level. I level build. And that stage that we’re talking about is a build. It’s not a maintain. And it may not even be a growth yet. It might just be the brass tacks of laying a foundation to make it repeatable, to make it scalable, to measure what matters and what works. And oftentimes, when you take somebody that hasn’t seen that before, if you took me from Yahoo, the reason why that worked so well for me is that before Yahoo I had worked at smaller companies and I liked the build. tan hat was the reason I wanted to leave Yahoo.
Not everybody is like that. So if all you’ve ever done is to grow up with the Yahoos of the world, I would take a very discerning approach to that. Let’s get real and right with the work that’s required, and not get caught up on the numbers that person brings to the table.
And that’s where I find that so many people get it wrong from a leadership perspective. They get caught up in the numbers only. And those are the shiny objects. Whereas, if I am a highly technical founder and I’ve never done sales before, I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s like if you were to tell me right now that I need to hire in engineering, I’d have no idea. And I’d absolutely muss things up. And the chances of me directly correlating to a mishire because I didn’t know what I was doing exponentially increase. And that same rule applies for sales, whether it’s leadership or an individual contributor.

Bryan: Yes. So it seems like a couple of different ways off of those forty different types of VP sales. One of them is going to be what is the life cycle of the company? Are they a start-up or are they pretty mature? I would think that some of the other ones—and correct me here if I’m wrong,--but it’s going to be are we channel? Are we direct? How would we structure from an inside? Are we outbound lead generation or inbound lead conversion, or a combination thereof? What may be some other variables that we want to keep in mind before we start to identify those VPS sales?

Amy: You’ve got enterprise; you’ve got mid-market. And to your point you’ve got inbounds and outbounds. Even inside the channel you’ve got OEM. You’ve got a lot of different things to consider here. You’ve got field sales potentially. You have all sorts of different things that can be viewed.
And it doesn’t mean that one is better or one is worse. It means what is your business need? And so especially when it comes to enterprise this is the big misstep that people take. If you don’t understand the nuances and the complexities and the strategic nature of enterprise sales, and you think that you’re just going to spin up a team, and that inside of six months it’s going to be this repeatable, measurable, predictable model, it takes well over a year to set that foundation.
And so when you’re hiring you have to ask yourself. Do I have enough money to support an enterprise function, to get with people who know what they’re doing and that have the desire and the ability to do the work that’s required to build this out, because that first year is a grind. You’re talking about building—building, building, building—brand awareness, especially for a start-up. If you have zero brand awareness and you’re trying to hire a heavy-hitting enterprise seller, and you go from a big company and they talk about their Rolodex, and they’re like yup! I’ve got all these relationships that are going to translate, what happens when the Rolodex dries up? I’ve never seen a Rolodex translate as promised, right? The delivery falls short. Are they willing to do the work from there? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
So these are the things that people don’t realize, especially enterprises like Microsoft, since that’s where I come from. When you try to take an enterprise seller and make them an inside seller, with the Hybel/Loxie transactional model, or you do the reverse of that, nine times out of ten that does not translate. And so this is what I need people to think about. What is required to be successful? What is your temperature,. Especially in the enterprise, for going through that journey of creating something that’s sustainable in terms of the success that you want to realize, because you can’t hack your way to success. You just can’t.

Bryan: Right. And so you talk about don’t just look at the numbers, because people might exaggerate numbers a little bit. But the other thing is that whenever you talk about numbers, how much of that number were they responsible for versus just being on the part of the team? I think a lot of people lose that.
Now how much do you look at the individual behaviors or the individual activities that they’re going to have to do on a day-in-and-day-out basis, to tie the talent with the skill set they’ll need to the job? Is that a required step in helping to identify which of these forty different VPs of sales? And we’ll just touch on normal sales rather than that director and VP level. How important is that to really identify? Here are your daily activities, so these are the skills that you’re going to need. Do we need to do that at all?

Amy: This is a catch-all statement here. Whether it’s an individual contributor or a sales leader, it’s all about the work. Right before we started this conversation I just had a conversation with a founder. And he’s coming off of his (court) and his hire.

Bryan: Right.
Amy: From a sales perspective. And I said, “What did we learn here?” And you cannot blame every single candidate, because you’re the common denominator.

Bryan: Yes.

Amy: And I’m not saying that every candidate didn’t have a part in the story, or responsibility or accountability to what went down. But you do too. And so let’s talk about that.
And a lot of the time, and especially in this particular case of the conversation I just had, it’s about the disconnect between the expectation of the work and the delivery. And so to answer your question, I could say tomato, you could say tomotto. Ultimately it’s the work, what is required. And you could tie it to activity. You could tie it to milestones.
You can even tie it to outcomes. I want to double our revenue. And I want the VP of sales to be directly correlated. That’s great! Let’s take that big statement and backtrack it into all the things that need to happen to get there.
And then that’s the backdrop for thinking about the roles and responsibilities as you’re creating a job description. And Bryan, do you know how many people take a job description from a competitor? (Laughter) Or they go online; they can Google. That looks cool; that has some fun language. I’m just going to swipe it off from there. And I’ll put our logo and some of our stuff on it that’s good. And they don’t think about the stuff in between, and that’s the stuff. And so if you’re taking that approach to description, what else are you doing through the rest of the process?

Bryan: And that seems to raise a couple of other challenges then, because if I’m ripping—what do they call it?—re-purpose; I’ve got to re-purpose somebody else’s job description. (Laughter)

Amy: Right.

Bryan: So I have to re-purpose that thing. And then if I don’t know how to reverse engineer, hey, I’m going to double revenue.
“How are you going to do that?”
“Well Amy, you should see my Rolodex,” right? And if we believe that’s going to be the case because that’s how sales used to work in the old days, (and I don’t know if the old days was a decade ago or pre-March 2020), that isn’t the way anymore.

Amy: Yes.

Bryan: So it seems like if those are the answers, and that VP of sales or that sales person doesn’t know how to reverse engineer from what you’re saying—here are the results that I need,--how are you going to get me there? At least at a high level some red flags should be going up. Is that a fair understanding there?

Amy: Yeah. And the best way that I hold myself and my clients accountable to those flags, and making sure that they’re recognizing them. And just because one flag comes up doesn’t mean that the person is bad, right? So nobody’s perfect. There is no perfect person to hire. And there is no perfect company to work for. But I think we can all agree that if 80% of it is good and meets me where I want to be, great! There’s going to be 20% that’s left over that isn’t. That’s okay. It’s understanding the 20%, and can I live with that?
And so for me I’m a huge, huge advocate of using a score card, including all the things that we’ve talked about, where it’s like okay, what is the work? And why is this important to us? And what will this person be doing?
And when I think about the other things that go into a good hire, how do we define cultural fit? How do we feel about that? All of the things that sort of make sense and matter to the task at hand, all that is criteria. And it all carries weight.
And so when you use that as a backdrop of anybody that’s involved in the hiring process, and it’s a decision maker, they use this. And so when you’re debating behind the scenes and somebody says “I love them!”, and somebody else says “I hate them!”, you’re like “Why?”
And it’s like “I don’t know.” They’re a great culture fit, or they’re not a good culture fit. But you can’t quantify or qualify how or what. You might be missing out on the best person you could ever hire. Or you might be bringing somebody in that’s going to create a disaster for you. How do you know?
And the best way that I’ve created through my entire career—and no, I haven’t created the concept of a score card; I’m not that smart—(Laughter) But I got it wrong for my own self. And when I did I vowed to myself, because it felt icky; it was horrible! It was one of the worst things.
And as I was trying to make heads or tails out of that I challenged myself into thinking about how do I not do this again, because I don’t want to be here again. And I was researching, researching, researching. And I came across an article from HBR—Harvard Business Review, talking about the power of a score card. And I was like “Oh!”

Bryan: Tuh-duh!

Amy: And so through the years I’ve made it my own. And I have my own methodology around it. But quite frankly with all of these little bits and pieces, cultural fits and bits and pieces when it comes to culture fit, into just these skills. If we’re talking about a sales leader it’s not just your skill. It’s your will to want to be a good people leader. It’s not just the technical side of things; it’s the people side of things.
You know, these are all things that matter. Let’s break it down and define it. Let’s get it on paper. Let’s all agree that this is going to be the score card that we use. And then we hold ourselves to that.

Bryan: Yeah, 100%. And I know that Carol Weck wrote Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. I think she talks about an idea to take what Amy is talking about here. You really put what is a bad answer and what’s a good answer. And put some scores in between. So I think that what you’re really trying to do here, Amy, is what you’re saying in the score card. Try to drive out as much subjectivity as possible, because we tend to hire people who are like us, as opposed to the person that we really need, which goes on to a good point here.
I wasn’t expecting you to say this. Whenever you’re talking, it’s that mindset of what that founder or what that leader or what that culture believes around sales people. Are they icky? So talk to me a little bit about that, because I hadn’t contemplated that or heard of that before.
So sales are a necessary evil. Talk to me a little bit more about that. Where have you run into that?

Amy: Well, I’ve run into it firsthand in my own career.

Bryan: Okay.

Amy: Where literally the founder would roll his eyes and be like oh, salespeople are such a pain in my ass! Or he would be like, you know, the product is so good. I’m not even sure if we need sales people, or those kinds of things.
The words “I hate sales people” very, very seldom come out. It’s the subtlety of the action that’s taken, and the vernacular or the tonality that’s being used to describe it.
There’s that old State Farm commercial. If you remember it, it’s that they go through these different scenarios of saying the exact same thing. But the tonality in which you say it can mean something different, like when you get a new car versus when you crash the car.
And you’re like “What happened?” It’s a very different thing. That’s what I mean by this. You have to pay attention.
So many people get caught up here in the surface. And they just think about the big statements that are being said. They don’t go way below here. And way below here, the next step beyond the statement is that I want to pay attention here by the language. I want to pay attention to the way in which you’re saying things. I want to pay attention to your tonality and the inflection in your voice up or down. That tells me a lot.
And if it’s always like this—and I don’t know if you’re going to use this as a visual, but I’m rolling my eyes,--if it’s an eye roll and a sigh, “It’s that time again and we have to hire sales people,” versus “We have to hire sales people; this is going to be such a great thing.” See how different, right?

Bryan: Right.

Amy: So those are the things that I look for quite honestly in my own business, because I work with varying stages of start-ups. And many of the start-ups that I work with come from technical founders that are brilliant. Sales doesn’t come naturally. They don’t understand it.
And so the ones that I work with, they understand that and they lean into that. And they’re humble about it. And they raise their hands for help, the ones that I don’t help.
So I say no more than I say yes. It’s when that happens, where it’s like I just need a button to see. And you know what? These sales people I’ve turned through three sales leaders, and they all ----.
Do you see how it’s a different thing versus the founder that says, “I got it wrong. And I’m not quite sure how I got it wrong. But I did and it hurts. And I don’t want to do that again.
“And sales is tough. I don’t get it; I don’t speak that language. And that scares me because that’s why I’m getting it wrong.”
That’s a totally different ball of wax. I will help that person all day long. But the person who says that sales is a necessary evil, giving the descriptors that I’ve shared with you and those signs, I can’t really help there. If you’re the smartest person in the room and you know all and you’ve never done the job, that’s like me saying, “Give me some codes to write and I’ll be the next Steve Jobs.” No; the answer to that would be no.

Bryan: And it seems like good advice too if you’re looking for a sales position, a customer service position or a leadership position in sales, is to really vet that out. What’s your belief on sales and to watch for this stuff, because you will be the next statistic whenever they go, because they don’t tend to understand sales cycle. They don’t understand the work to get that fly wheel rolling. And just whenever you’re starting to make headway they chop you, looking for the next person. And it seems like the life cycles from that early stage seem to be that the founder does it, gets overly busy or realizes “I don’t really like this,” and so they’re getting grief from the board.
So then they hire a sales person. And that sales person is notoriously an intern or somebody at the college that will work just about for free. That doesn’t work, so then they go and hire the wrong PPS sales from some yukkity-yuk company because they had all the right criteria.
But back to the earlier conversation, they don’t know how to build this thing out of whole cloth. So then they go and burn through two or three or four of those. And then they finally realize, “This is a lot more difficult than I thought. I need some help. Amy, can you help me?” Is that the life cycle that typically comes around?

Amy: There are different bits and pieces of that that happen. But I think you mentioned something that’s important to bring out front and center. It’s a two-way street. And so the score card rules apply to a person looking for a job, too.
And the one thing that just blows my mind, Bryan, that really blows it, is that whether it’s a founder, or whether it’s a person looking for a job, they know it’s important. They know that they need to do it and they want to do it. But then they take a back seat approach to something that’s so very important. And that just blows my mind.
I can’t tell you how many people I meet that tell me that they are afraid to ask the tough questions in an interview, because they’re afraid that the job will get pulled from them. And if you’re afraid of that now, what do you think it’s going to be like when you work there? Don’t you want to know this up front?
And so that needed to be said. And thank you for letting me say it. But on the flip side, what you’re describing, those are all tells. I don’t play poker, but I know that term. I’m looking for the tells, and what I think is really important in this is how is somebody showing up?
You know, when it comes to a founder that maybe has done the things that you’re talking about, I get brought in for two reasons. #1, what you described. You’ve gone through the thing. And ultimately it hasn’t worked. And now you feel that pain, and you want to bring in an expert to get that right. That’s a big driver demand for me.
But on the flip side it’s the person where this isn’t their first rodeo. They know that the table stakes are high. They know that they don’t have time to do a really good search. And they know that they don’t have a team equipped that speaks the sales language fluently to help them to execute a really thoughtful process that will vette somebody in a really great way, to confirm or deny that what they’re bringing to the table is what I need.

Bryan: So let’s touch that one right there. Is there one act if you will, or one particular thing that you’ve found that helps to clarify those that just interview well versus those that can actually execute? Let’s say you’re that founder. Let’s say you’re that hiring manager for sales. Is there anything specific that you can give on how to really vet a good interviewee versus a person who can actually execute?

Amy: Yeah. So many people tell a really great story that’s magnetic. And it has a (hook), and you want more of that. And it’s like ticking mental boxes off, right? Okay, great; they talked about this. Great; I don’t have to go through that with them because they just talked about it. Awesome!
But it’s like slow down for a second. So this person told me a really great story. And they told me about how they grew the business and how they’ve been where I’ve been before, and that they’ve got a team. And they’ve taken the team from five people to 15 people, and all these different things.
Those are all statements. Dig into the how. How did you do it? And the number one reason why people don’t move forward in an interview is that they can’t get specific.
So if you can get specific with me about the what, but you can’t get specific with me about the how, or you’re rambling and it never really answers my question in the first place, that’s not a hack; it’s just something to do.

Bryan: Yes. And my belief or my thought on this—and you can correct me here, Amy,--is that I believe that sales people facing positions are sometimes the most difficult to hire because those ones tend to be able to weave a good story, or can tap dance on their feet a little bit. And if you don’t know the questions to ask to dive down more deeply to get that clarity or specificity in their answers, you’ll never realize that they’re just blowing smoke.
And I think that’s one of the reasons that these are so challenging to hire. But I don’t know if that’s what you’ve found or not.

Amy: Yeah. I think people take it for face value, right? So it’s like “Oh, you told me; this is great!” And then the interviewee is expecting that, right? Okay, so I solved that; boom!
And I don’t always think that it’s a calculated conscious thing of “I’m going to go and bamboozle somebody.” I don’t think it’s that. But I think it’s okay; I know it’s expected in the interview. I go to the glass door. I see the questions that they’re going to ask. I’m going to get prepared. I’m going to go to Modern Sales Prose or The Slack Channel or LinkedIn, or whatever it might be. And I’m going to say, “I’m interviewing and these are the things. How would you do it?” So I’m going to get really well-groomed and prepare it that way. And then I’m on auto pilot for myself.

Bryan: Yes.

Amy: And I like to break the pattern, right? So if the pattern is that I ask you the question and you tell me the answer, great! We chalk that. Check!
I don‘t like the standard issue—read, rinse and repeat interviews. It’s when anybody asks me “What are the questions? What are the top three questions that I should ask, or that I should be asking to someone that I’m considering?”
I always say, “Stop it!” The number one question that you should be asking is understanding the other person!

Bryan: Yes.

Amy: And when you do that you’re not shoving the standard issue interview that they’re prepared for, that they can go to any one of those communities and get well-scripted answers that sound really great.
So let’s say I’m interviewing you. And you tell me, “I grew the business last year inside of, say, 200%.”
I’m going to say to you, “That’s amazing. Why do you think that happened?”

Bryan: Yeah.

Amy: Most people go, “Yeah, whew; yes! You can face adversity and you’re resilient; yeah!”
But when I say, “Why do you think it happened?”, and then I would say, “So when you got into COVID, what did the business look like? And how did you adjust to get to that 200%? And what was the biggest obstacle you faced? And how did you deal with it, and who was involved?”
See how I’m digging, digging, digging, digging, digging, and having a conversation. And in that one scenario lots of things come up.

Bryan: Correct. And the funny thing too is that I was going to say that 200% was the deal that closed on February 28 before all of this happened, and that’s what made the year. So digging down like Amy was pointing out is critically important. I’m sorry; you were going to say one more thing.

Amy: No. And I don’t even remember now. So—

Bryan: Son of a gun, I cut you off; forgive me.

Amy: No; it’s okay.

Bryan: And then you said “going to hiring process.” Any suggestions, because they’re not going to be too different. I mean, you’re going to follow a specific path—maybe three, four or five steps. But that’s going to tie also into not shooting from the hip. So let’s talk process first, and then not shooting from the hip, which I’m guessing is going to be a strategic alignment with your business objectives versus your talent strategies. Is that accurate?

Amy: Yes; they become exclusive, right? I think that those two things have to co-mingle. So when it comes to good process, it needs to be intentional, first and foremost.
So shooting from the hip is the opposite of intentionality. So that’s why I look at those things as being sympatico; they have to exist together.
But what I mean by a good process is before anything is done. So this happens all the time. It’s to get around the fun yang. And this is one thing I will say to founders and to people looking, or for executives, or whoever. It’s one thing to have a growth mindset. It’s a very, very different thing to have a growth-at-any-cost mindset. And when it’s the latter it doesn’t matter, because it will be growth at any cost.
I don’t care what you have to do. I don’t care how you have to do it. I don’t care what hack you need to take. Just get it done.
And there’s an expense to that, and one that I don’t want to be a part of. And so that’s where a lot of the churn happens. That’s where you see a lot of these VPs that just spin out within one or two months. It absolutely has to do with that.
So it goes back to that intentionality of whether you’re at growth at any cost, or you’re just trying to grow. The intentionality is to take a step back, and to go a bit slow up front and to go fast later.
So that means who do our buyers want? Do we know who our buyer is? Do we know what the business looks like to support the hires that we want to make? And how are we going to do that? And is this the right time to be doing this?
So instead of being like oh, I’ve got my A-Round and now I’ve got to hire ten sales people, maybe you start with one. Maybe you start with two. Maybe it’s a build-up; maybe it’s a different strategic (method.) What is the business telling you?
Because so many times I think that people over-hire. And they do it so fast up front. And then the business is suffering; the people are suffering. Nobody is set up for success. And then all these people are let go.
And it doesn’t mean that the people are bad. It means that there was a lack of intention up front. So I think that the first step is what is it that we need and why?
And then it’s about developing a hiring process around that. So I talked about a score card. I talked about job descriptions. Don’t just wing it—like a resume; don’t just wing it. These documents are merely invitations for conversation, that’s it. They’re a backdrop for having that conversation.
So these are the things, these are the critical things. You don’t need to get it all down on paper because that’s what the interview is for. But these are the things that help that person that’s on the receiving end understand, to confirm or deny whether it makes sense. It’s the same thing with the resume. Everything else is all the context in between.
So it is important to be thoughtful and intentional about the description. It is important to be thoughtful and intentional with the hiring score card. It is important to be thoughtful and intentional about the people that are involved.
So there’s that adage in sales: “Time slows deals.” It’s the same thing in hiring. And in 2021 hiring does not slow down for sales; it’s still the number one role that tech companies are looking for.
So when I think about that. And I think about what that looks like, who needs to be involved in the interview process? Who has a stake in the game? And for each individual that’s involved what is their role? What is their responsibility? And when we look at the score card and all the things that are in the score card, who is responsible for what?
And let’s be thoughtful as a hiring committee to be prepared. So for anybody that we’re inviting in for a discussion we need to show up, to know that we’ve done our diligence. We’ve prepared; we’ve looked at their background. And we’re coming prepared with some kickoff things that we want to discuss together.
It’s also the understanding that it’s a two-way street. You’re not just bringing people into your company. People are coming to you for their lives and their careers, and that’s a big deal. So are you giving them grace and opportunity to truly understand that it is a two-way street, that their questions can be answered?
It’s also about candidate experience, even if it’s a no. We’re living out loud in this digital age. If you treat people like jerks and they’re not jerks, they have a mouth. And not only do they have a mouth; they have a platform—lots of them—to describe what their experience has been—good, bad or indifferent. They also could be potential role sources for you.
So again, it’s like sales. Just because it’s a no today doesn’t need to be that it’s a disaster or that it’s a no forever, and that the door needs to be slamming shut. It’s okay.
Maybe they know other people. Maybe you want to hire them two years from now because they have such a short experience for education that now makes them incredibly magnetic. Maybe they could be hiring you one day. Maybe they could be a customer. Maybe they know other customers.
These are the things that so many people take such a shortsighted approach to something that’s so important. The employment rate is not a fluffy statement. It is directly correlated to everything that you do and the decisions that you make. And it’s how you make those decisions and how you translate them into action, not just word, that people are paying attention to. So you’ve got to choose wisely.

Bryan: Yeah; I couldn’t agree with you more. And one thing to keep in mind is that, you know, for those of you looking for positions, just remember that you can really tell the character of a person by the way they treat somebody who they view as not being able to do anything for them. So you really need to watch how they carry themselves.
Now one thing that you said is that by doing the job description, by laying that out, one thing that we suggest is really putting the expectations that they’re going to be held accountable for even in the interview. So if there are certain activities that they’re supposed to do, laying out those expectations right up front, because oftentimes I’ve found this. I don’t know if this would be right or not, but I’ve found that if you say “Hey, this is what the day-to-day looks like. These are the numbers that we’re going to be holding you accountable to,” they go, “I don’t want to do that; that sounds horrible,” or “I don’t know if I could.” So is that something that would tie in with that job description and that laying all that out so we’re not shooting from the hip? I’m not sure of an exact word to use, but does that seem to align with the process that you use?

Amy: I’m a huge believer that you set the stage often for how people are with you.

Bryan: Yes.

Amy: And application, that’s everything. So it’s like a foreign concept to think about not doing that. So yes, it all goes into play. My mind just gets blown, Bryan, when I hear about how there’s that constant bait and switch. I’m telling you one thing, and then you get here and it’s completely different. And the closest you can get to understanding that, to confirming or denying, is to have a conversation like that.
So if I’m interviewing I’d rather know now than later, because now I have to onboard these folks. I then have to support them on an ongoing basis. If I’m misconstruing the situation, or I’m not being forthcoming about expectations of what the job really is, ultimately people want to be heard and understood, even if I have some warts along the way. Nobody expects perfection. And maybe that’s the thing that people are fearful of.
If I’m honest about what the work is, they’re not going to want to come here. Well, wouldn’t you rather know now than with a seven-figure problem later that continuously bites you in the rear end, and you’ve got it wrong. And so I think that people are afraid. It’s that vulnerability thing of I want to be honest.
I think this is why my clients like working with us so much. We go through a really rigorous kickoff and discovery up front before any work is ever done. There’s some pre-work that they do. And then we get the band together, and it’s really robust. And it’s very detailed.
And part of this is that I need to understand the reality of the situation, because when I take you into the marketplace, it’s not just pitching, right? It’s just like in sales. If you just pitch something to someone, you’re hoping that you’re throwing enough spit against the wall and that something sticks.

Bryan: Right.

Amy: In my mind let’s be intentional; let’s be strategic; let’s be thoughtful. And ultimately people want to know the entire picture.

Bryan: The real one.

Amy: So what’s the up side? What’s the down side? Where are the bodies hidden? And how are they thinking about those bodies? Because nobody expects perfection; that’s okay. What I do expect is that you’re not going to bamboozle me. That’s not okay.
And vice versa. If I hire somebody and they’re a great con artist, and now I get them here and they’re a hot mess, I don’t like that. Well I don’t like that; why would I want to do it to anybody else? So it’s that double-sided situation here where it’s not just one or the other; it’s both. Bryan: Yes. It’s that transparency and authenticity from both sides, or it’s going to be a disaster. So I wholeheartedly agree with that.
So you’ve laid out a ton of stuff here. And my gosh, we could go all day. But I know our schedules won’t allow that. So are there any resources that you might recommend for those that are listening to this, that they might glean some more insights? Any resources that you might recommend for them to look over to help them out in their hiring practice?
Amy: Yeah. So one thing, if they’ve enjoyed what we’ve talked about and they want more actionable stuff, come to Thursday Night Sales. We talk about this all the time in things that you can do.
The other thing is that I have written an entire methodology around the score card. And that’s been published a la Sales Hacker. So if you Google my name, and you Google the words “score card” and “Sales Hacker,” both articles will come up. One is for if I’m hiring somebody. And the other is if I’m looking for a job.

Bryan: Interesting.

Amy: The other thing that I think people should do is that when you’re trying to figure out what you need, and you’re not really sure, what you need oftentimes comes from knowing what you don’t want. And the only way to really do that well is to harness the power of a journal. I journal every day. And so journaling is really good. You’ve got to invest in a journal. I also have a methodology of journaling, so if anybody wants that, look me up.
On the flip side, I love Todd Caponi for writing a book called The Transparency of Sales.

Bryan: Yes.

Amy: And it’s a lot of what we’ve talked about here about intentionality, but understanding how to have transparent discussions that aren’t icky. Chapter 11 is all about negotiation that can be applied to hiring, selling, looking for a job. The book is great. So those are just some initial things that people can use that I hope are helpful.

Bryan: Very helpful. And then the last question and then we’ll go on to how people can contact you. So what do you see coming down the pike? It’s 2021; we’re kicking off; we’re still remote. Give us some sense here. Read the tea leaves; you’re shaking the magic 8-ball. What’s that thing saying today?

Amy: If I were only Nostra Damos, (laughter), I would sound responsible if I’d throw out a lot of platitudes. I don’t know. I mean, I can tell you that hiring has not slowed down. Sales is still the number one role that tech companies are hiring for. And yet it’s also the hardest role that they admit that they have to hire for.
I think that a lot of the things that we saw last year are not automatically going to go away this year. And so what I don’t believe is that even if everybody gets vaccinated and we’re all safe to go to work together, I don’t think that it’s a black or white scenario that everyone is going to be in the office again, or everyone is going to be remote. I think we’re going to see a lot of different kinds of ways to work together, meaning that maybe there isn’t a huge corporate office within 18,000 square feet, a fancy thing. Maybe it’s little clusters of shared office space throughout the country where people can go to be with other people when they need to.
Really, what I think isn’t going to go away and has never gone away is that ultimately people want to be heard and understood, whether it’s hiring or selling, and the ability to do that. And you begin to make real connections with people, and not just what’s in it for me. That’s not going to go away this year.

Bryan: Yes. I wholeheartedly agree with that. Great, great, great stuff, Amy; I can’t thank you enough. So hey, who should reach out to you? How should they do it? And why should people reach out to you, Amy?

Amy: So I think people should reach out to me if they’ve enjoyed what we’ve talked about and they identify with this, and they’re struggling with any of those things. You’re my people; bring it on. The best way to find me is either through that’s y company website. LinkedIn, I Live Out Loud. And to your earlier point, I share a whole lot there. So I’m there every day. I’m accessible and I’m easy to get to, and I pride myself on being responsive. And then “Thursday Night Sales.” Those are all a variety of ways where people can engage with yours truly.

Bryan: Yeah. And those Thursday night episodes are really good. Gala was on a couple shows ago, and she said that she stays up until one or two o’clock in the morning to participate. She’s a pretty sharp cookie, so if she’s doing that, definitely take Amy up on that.

So Amy, I cannot thank you enough. Some great stuff, as I knew it would be. Thanks so much for joining us today. This is Bryan Whittington on behalf of Amy Volas. Get after it. Happy hiring. Don’t get lulled into the fact that oh, it’s going to be so much easier because there are so many people on the sidelines. You heard it here first. Amy is saying that it’s just as difficult today, so make sure you’re doing it right. Sales matter. Get after it; make the universe better. Thanks, everyone. Be well.

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