April 23, 2024

Between Two Hires with special guest Nellie Aube


Episode Highlights

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In episode 3 of Between Two Hires (The Subtle Art of Not F#*ckin Up Your Team), Nellie Aube and Tom Wilkonson discuss Nellie’s experience in hiring and managing sales teams, hiring ‘nightmares,’ unconventional interview questions, and advice on hiring for ‘hunger’ over ‘skill.’ 

Episode Transcript

Nellie, welcome to Between Two Hires. Thanks for coming on! A great run with Nitro, moving into your last almost a year now with Everlaw, who we’ve loved working with over the years. So if you’d like, just- yeah, give Everlaw and yourself a shout. Yeah, it’s wild that it’s been almost a year, about 10 months I believe, after almost six years at Nitro, an Australian based software company, but they were based in San Francisco.

And then Oakland, as we know over here in a lovely Oakland in the background. We’re actually in the office most days, which is exciting. But yeah, running the sales development group over here and then at Nitro and prior two software companies, been running inside sales teams for about 12 or 13 years.

I was trying to think about how many quarters that is and how many folks we hire and inside teams and enablement teams on an ongoing basis. But I don’t think I could have came up with an exact number, but probably 100+ I would say, over the 12 years or so. Which means about 200 years in tech terms.

Yeah, basically. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think six years at one software company. I was ancient at that point, so. Well, I hear you’re doing wonders, so keep up the good work. Yeah. Yeah. It’s a great team, for sure. So let’s get into it. Nellie, wanted to start with the numbers as we’re on the subject of numbers.

So in terms of hiring, what are your numbers? How many people have you hired? I think at Everlaw probably, I want to say like 10 to 15 around there. So as most software companies, we’ve kind of halted growth and just focusing on becoming more efficient, right. And we’re hearing that everywhere across the board, the doing more with less. But I’d say over the last 12 years, I was actually doing the math and like, if I hired maybe one rep a quarter, it’s about 48 total, just if we were to hire one and that excludes all those large hiring sprees that we have in tech when times are good.

So, yeah. If I had to guess, I’d say probably about 100. And a lot of that is because it’s, you know, sales development. We’re always hiring, right? Just because it’s the one role in an organization and in tech where you want to hire people who want to get out of it, right? So whether that’s promoting within or just making sure that we have the performance management on par with that bell curve of keeping top performers in seat. So it’s a transitional role, for better or for worse.

So it keeps it fun at least. Always changing. Yeah. Well, I think it’s very safe to say you’re an authority on the subject. So I’m very glad to have you, very glad to have you on. Yeah, thanks for having me. Of course. So under that same vein, if you can, let’s think about your best hire story. Yeah, I was trying to think back.

I mean, as far as specific people just because we don’t know, I think to me, the best hires are those that have come in and just hit the ground running and have been able to move and be promoted within. So actually, my company Sailthrough, they were acquired by Campaign Monitor based out of New York City.

I was there for about three years and there are still reps there, and this was seven years ago or so, that are the top strategic AEs and enterprise AEs, even with their larger portfolio of brands, you know, who started as sales development reps or inside reps and have just been promoted within and kind of moved through the ranks.

So to me, those best hire stories are all the ones that were able to move up. And I typically choose organizations that have that clear path or at least a plan to build that clear path. Because otherwise, you have SDRs kind of sitting there or inside reps, even mid market reps, you know, when I’ve managed closing teams, like if there’s not a path into enterprise, that’s pretty clear.

You end up having attrition when you don’t want it, right? So unhealthy attrition. So I’d say that’s probably the best. I think in general, just thinking about referrals, like I’ve always been a fan of going after folks, top performers and kind of feeding into their network. I think most SDR leaders talk about how it becomes harder to tap into your network the older you get so you end up- I used to tap into my younger siblings, their friends, and now they’re too old.

So it’s just getting harder and harder as you as you move away from kind of the two year out of grad school. But I’ve found a lot of success in neighboring universities and kind of partnering with their athletic departments and kind of the academic advising center. So I work with someone at Cal Berkeley who works with athletes and identifying those that kind of have that innate sales driven hunger and bringing them on board.

And then I worked with some agencies as well that specialize in hiring athletes. So I’m a little biased towards that, but I think it kind of gives you that foundation with discipline and team camaraderie and competition and kind of some of those things that are tough to interview for.

It does. And what a feel good factor seeing the folks that you brought in, trained, developed, now in those strategic roles. It’s got to be a feel good type of thing. Best part of the job, for sure. Yeah. So I always tell them, yeah, I hope to be working for you someday. So, I don’t know if that has come true quite yet, but hopefully soon.

Yeah. No names here, but on the other side, worst hires and why? Yeah. I have some kind of funny ones, but I did have a- somebody leave to go on a trip to Mexico after investing onboarding, as we know, is time consuming and expensive and all those things and went to Mexico on vacation and just never came back.

So that was kind of an interesting one right after onboarding. And phone disconnected and never heard from the person again. So if they’re listening, I’d love to know what happened, but it was just a very, very bizarre situation. I’ve had a couple not direct hires, but we did have a couple those like con artists, I would say. Where they are-

I don’t know if you’re familiar with some some sales folks who will just go to get hired at their professional interviewers, and they’re fabulous at it and have fabulous resumes and then they just get your ramp time quota for multiple companies. I’ve had this happen to me twice, actually, on teams where they get the ramp and the draw from like three different companies at the same time and then leave. Because if you’re in enterprise sales, I mean, obviously, we know that the draw is pretty significant.

So if you can get that in the first six months with three companies and kind of fly under the radar. So that was an interesting one. But no. I think in all- your face right now! But in all seriousness, I think what I’ve learned too, is just, especially in the Bay Area and New York, which is where I’ve lived and worked in tech hubs, you know, you have so many folks that just come into tech wanting and sales just to afford the cost of living. Which is absolutely admirable and completely understand and why a lot of us do what we do just to live where we live.

But I think that to me really sets apart hires initially when it’s tough in a 25 minute phone screen. Those that are wanting to be in tech sales for the right reasons versus those that are doing it just so they can afford their studio in San Francisco or with living with three roommates that are also in inside sales and tech companies.

So I think just being able to kind of filter that they’re in it for the right reasons and that, you know, their hearts in it and that they have compelling reason. So asking even as simple as like, “Sell me on why you want to be in sales” like a lot of companies don’t even ask those simple questions.

I kind of ask the character, values, which are all important. But I think just getting very direct about that and hearing kind of their drive and how they’re intrinsically motivated, is critical. I have not heard of these fraudsters that you’re referring to.

Maybe I just rubbed shoulders in the wrong place. Yeah. Yeah, you may not know. Unbelievable. Unbelievable, but it makes sense too. Yeah. Right? For someone that might want to take advantage of the system. Jesus. All right, we’re going to be on the lookout for those. Blacklist. Yes. So let’s talk about weirdest interview moments.

We know that people have the tendency to do interesting things from time to time and the interview process is no exception for that. Anything stand out to you in that regard? Yeah. I was trying, I know I have better ones, but I think just the first two I was thinking of, especially with the pandemic and folks interviewing where they never had to actually interview in a real in-person setting, just a lot of more like funny things in the background.

I really could not get past one candidate who was an okay candidate, but just had hampers of dirty clothes and dirty towels like hanging in the background on the screen. And I just- like he just looked dirty. And it’s just, I can’t imagine you coming in here in person after seeing your room.

So I think those, we all have those kind of funny stories from pandemic interviews. And then I did actually have a leader interview recently at Everlaw with just like in bed, which was interesting. Like it was clear that he was in bed and actually reported- and I’m positive I did not do this, but he clearly wasn’t passed to the next step and he actually went to my HR team and sent In-Mails to them complaining that I was ageist and that- and I’m like, I’m also probably the oldest one on this sales where I don’t think I was- like he said that I asked all these questions to find out how old he was. Which was not whatsoever what I was asking about.

I think it was just that, plus the bed in the background, where that one stuck out at me. Maybe a signal that he needed a nap. Yeah, probably. The ageist thing. Yeah, maybe it was like, are you doing okay? Oh God. Okay. Never totally surprised by these, but those are some hawkers, so thank you. Yeah, I know I have some better ones.

I just couldn’t think of any. For another time? Yes. So, I don’t want you to give everything away here, but particularly for those who might watch and then interview with you, but secret or unconventional interview question or tactic. What’s yours? Yeah. This one was tough for me too because I typically go off script and HR yells at me because I go off script because I just like to have a conversation, especially with the role is having a conversation and building rapport.

So I typically kind of steer away from those funky questions. However, I was asking some of my managers on my team and one was, she likes to, or doesn’t like this one, but has been asked, if you were a raindrop, where would you land? Which was curious. Not really sure what the point of that one is, but I will say what I, I kind of touched on it, but I really like to just say, “Tell me why sales?” And I get a wide range of answers, but I’m really looking for the heart in it.

And then I always like to say, kind of catch them off guard, but I’ll say like, “Okay, let’s do a quick role play.” And then they get a little nervous, but it’s like, just sell me on something that you love. It can be anything. And. I’ll pretend that I hate it. So recent in just the last couple of weeks, I’ve had like pizza to air conditioning, golf, whatever it is, and I pretend I hate it.

And nine times out of 10, it’s just spewing how great golf is or how great pizza is and like asking absolutely no discovery or digging for pain or asking why I even hate it. So then it allows me to kind of have a quick coaching session to kind of see how they take the feedback and then do it again

in terms of like how you would position to me, loving air conditioning. Like find out if I’m even hot first. Right? So it just kind of creates a good coaching and see how they’re receptive to coaching and feedback in a quick 20 minute call. So I always like to ask that. We ask what, or one that came up was, “In your friend group

what role do you play?” was kind of weird, but it kind of sees how they, you know, if they’re going to bring up that they’re the leader in the group or a planner or if they’re introverted or extroverted is always kind of interesting. I also ask at the end usually what do you like to do for fun if I like them just to get them out of the rhythm of the interview at the end and kind of open them up a little bit, make them feel comfortable and see if they can kind of humanize it a little bit because a lot of folks will just stick to work and I’m like, okay, like, give me something, give me some personality.

So I’ll sometimes throw those in there. So with that in mind, most important piece of wisdom on the hiring, you wish you’d known earlier.

Hire for will, not skill. Hire for hunger. Hire like those folks. I think lately with that new law in California, where you have to expose money and like salaries, I’ve actually was nervous about that, but I think it’s been really interesting to actually have people be open about, especially women finally being open about, like, I want to make money and I actually appreciate it.

I mean, there’s lots of reasons why we feel valued at work and all that and why we’re happy. But I think in sales, I mean, if you- especially when reps will say, you know, I paid my way through school like things like that I really hold at a high regard because I think it just shows that you’re not in this privileged situation to where it’s just a job for you.

Like I want people that are actually in it for a reason. I think earlier is interesting. I think the one thing with the pandemic, I was very focused on hiring right outside of school for SDRs. I think particularly, I mean, even inside reps with less experience just cause you know, they’re not stuck in their ways.

There’s a lot to it in terms of what you can coach and that energy. And it’s hard to be an SDR more than a year and all those things. But I think in recent years with the economy and everything, and obviously the market’s hot, like we’ve been able to retain SDRs for longer, which I think is a good thing for the function in general. And so I’ve actually, probably in the last five years, very much appreciated hiring folks that are shifting industries. And so doing that earlier and more regularly, like folks that are bartenders. I mean, you name it. But have just professional experience because I think just the ramp time is so much quicker than having to teach somebody how to actually be a professional and just like business acumen and just overall office etiquette, especially because you know, we’ve had three years of folks not even being in an office.

And so I think that’s been interesting to hire folks that have had very different industries, come in with more experience and kind of create more of a diverse sales force. Yeah. And I hear you might be hiring for your team currently. If so, who would you like to see? Yes. Always be hiring.

Potentially to reach out to you directly. Yeah. Yeah, currently in Oakland, we have at least one spot, but as I said, like in an inside sales world, I think we’re always hiring because we’re hoping to promote some folks as well and into our mid market roles and building out additional mid market roles potentially for next year.

So we’re always looking to uplevel and backfill and it’s always an ongoing piece. So yeah, definitely reach out to me directly. I always say SDR me. Love to hire and interview those that reach out to me directly on LinkedIn because you’d be surprised. I mean, in the nine months I’ve maybe had seven people do that to me.

Which is more than I usually have. Don’t just apply to a website. Do the actual job and find my contact information and reach out direct to the managers, hiring managers, myself, I mean, head of sales. We have the resources now to be able to do that, so. I love that piece of advice.

Do not apply just directly. Reach out, do your job as if you were in the SDR role. It’s a waste of time. I wouldn’t even apply. Yeah. Just apply once you have engaged with someone. And how disheartening to see the 396 applications before you. Exactly. So this gets straight to the source and I love it.

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Nellie, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. I appreciate you and I’m looking forward to maybe having you on again sometime. Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much, Tom. Enjoy Sausalito out there. Will do. Appreciate the time.

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