April 23, 2024

Between Two Hires with special guest Todd Busler 


Episode Highlights

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In episode 4 of Between Two Hires (The Subtle Art of Not F#*ckin Up Your Team), Todd Busler, co-founder of Champify, and Tom Wilkinson discuss hiring and interviewing strategies for scaling SaaS companies, his weirdest interviews, and the importance of aligning on hiring criteria (Looking beyond direct experience, and understanding candidates’ interests and passions).

Episode Transcript

Welcome. Welcome. I’m Tom Wilkinson. I’m the founder and CEO of The Collective Search, and I’ve been half decent at helping scaling SaaS companies hire right for over a decade. We know that an amazing new addition to a team can completely change the direct trajectory of a business. Get it wrong,

it cripples growth, it’s time consuming, costly. Just a general pain in the a**. The problem is the difference between the two is often very nuanced and there’s relatively very little out there to go on. So we decided to start this short form podcast. Here we’re bringing in seasoned business leaders who’ve seen it all and can share their wisdom and show their battle scars.

That all being said, I’d love to introduce our guest Todd Busler, co-founder of Champify. We got to know each other when we partnered with Heap Analytics and that was to build out the early sales team and where Todd was the founding AE and later VP of sales. How are you mate? Welcome. It’s doing really well.

I don’t think you gave yourself enough credit in that intro. You helped us build an awesome team and really think through what different profiles of reps mean. And that’s going back now almost 10 years. So there’s a lot of good education and partnership in that. I couldn’t agree more.

The difference is subtle and also huge, right? When you get one of these right or wrong So you didn’t give yourself enough credit, but I’m doing really well. Having fun, started Champify about 18 months ago. Team is up to 10 people. Helping a lot of companies figure out, you know how to creatively fill their pipelines. I think the world of prospecting in sales changed a lot since we first met each other 10 years ago and I think we’re working with a lot of the forward looking companies to figure out what the next stage of this looks like.

Very good. Well, it’s been impressive to kind of chart your career and certainly it’s been fantastic now to see you go off and do your own thing. And I know you have a really strong team in place, so congrats on the progress you’ve made so far. I appreciate that. Good stuff. Okay. Well let’s get into it.

We’re going to talk through a few bits here and we’ll kick off with- so the credibility side of your hiring expertise. Let’s talk numbers. How many people have you hired across the course of your career Tom? I don’t know exactly, but I would say either me directly hiring onto my team or into my org via, you know, a frontline sales manager, I would say probably in like the 50, 60 range.

Okay, good. Yeah, I think that definitely gives you an opportunity to talk on the matter, for sure. Yeah. And I made all the mistakes under the sun, so definitely kind of thrown into it and learning as you go. So yeah, this stuff’s tricky to learn and I think extremely important. Agreed. Well let’s talk maybe about some of the success stories.

If you can, let’s speak to sort of the best hire to date. One that comes to mind was the, you know, early, early days of HEAT. I joined as the sixth employee. We brought on our first like CSM technical support person in that stage company. It’s a lot of wear a bunch of hats, but we hired a person that had a really good technical background from college.

And then she was actually in Teach for America, which obviously, a very different skillset. But she came in and was our first CSM kind of wore the sales engineer hat. I remember her first day she started, I threw on her call with me and I realized she had never even worked in the corporate environment, let alone in a tech job or tech sales job.

And I’ll tell you what, she just picked everything up super quickly. You could throw any problem at her. I think it goes to maybe some things we’ll get into later today about really understanding the person and not just over indexing on exactly what they’ve done, especially in the early days.

Very good. Not over indexing on exactly what they’ve done, certainly in the early days. We all know people can have some weird and wonderful outcomes, particularly in a interview setting. So I’m going to ask for maybe the weirdest interview moment you’ve experienced. I don’t think I have any crazy weird experience on me being- doing the interview. But I actually remember right out of school was actually, I going into my senior year,

there was people doing on campus recruiting. I wasn’t actually sure what I wanted to do yet. And I was interviewing for a big like commercial real estate developer. I’ll never forget this. They flew 4 of us out. I went to school in Philadelphia. They flew 4 of us out to Los Angeles for a final round interview.

And it’s very strange because we were doing meals together and getting meet and greets. And then in the interview, they would ask you, “Hey, why are you better than these other people? Exactly what can you bring versus other people?” And I was like, this is a whole strange process of trying to understand who we’re competing with.

And also like, I don’t know, survival of the fittest type of thing. It was very strange. And I’ve never seen anything like that, nor would I want to put people through that. I don’t have any crazy stories of me on the interviewing side of the table. Luckily or unfortunately. Yeah. I’m sure there’s still to come.

Interestingly enough, a good interview question can sort of separate good and bad candidates pretty quickly. So do you have a secret or unconventional interview question or tactic that you like to employ? So I’ve run sales teams. Even now, that’s like definitely my focus on the Go-To-Market side.

So I don’t know how many of these are completely unconventional or secret but there’s kind of three that I’d focus on. The first one, a lot of people do some type of mock sales presentation, mock discovery, mock pitch. I think the biggest thing you can do, especially if you’re looking for people’s ability to learn is what I call the repeat sales pitch.

So this would look like, “Hey Tom, you’re coming in. You’re doing a mock discovery or mock pitch.” We go through it. Maybe the exercise is 15 minutes, but you have an hour allotted. I asked them how it went. I give them feedback after that. And then we do it right again. So we hop right into it a 2nd time and really what that teaches you, or what allows you to assess is how quickly can Tom take feedback and act on it.

And I think a lot of these companies, that’s really what you’re trying to optimize because you can teach these people a lot of things, but who can pick it up the quickest? I think the second one that I really like, again for a sales role, sales development, marketing, is saying okay, you start tomorrow. Tom, this is going to be your patch or this is who you’re going to go after.

Let’s say you had a million dollar quota or 800K quota, whatever it is, I’ll give you 100, 000 tomorrow to use any way you want. How are you going to use that money to creatively make sure you hit your number? And I think this shows a lot because A, it shows you what is their style? Like, how did they think about building pipeline?

How did they think about getting into deals? It shows you their creativity. And in the best situations, it shows how can they ask you questions about what’s working or not working today, and then put together some rough math around how they’re going to do that. So bad answers there look like, “Hey, I’m going to go buy some new sales tool” I’m like, we already have that.

Good answers are like, “Well, talk to me about what your pipeline sources look like today. What’s happening on the velocity side? What have you learned over the last six months that’s changing? Okay, now based on what I heard Tom, here’s how I’m going to break this down. A, you know, X dollars in bucket A. B dollars in bucket C, etc.”

And you can tell a lot from that answer. Very good. And you mentioned a third. A third one is we used to have a standard kind of business case exercise, almost like a consulting interview that was like, “Hey, let’s assume this is a customer and we’re trying to expand this account. Here’s what you know about it.”

And that really, it had two things. I think a lot of people have good interview questions, but they don’t think enough about what do good answers look like, right? So what this allowed us to do is, you know, we’ve done it with 30 people or so. You take the best ones and kind of this is what great looks like.

And it could be a different flavors of it. It’s not like an exact 1 answer. But when you do that with people, you can understand and very easily compare, and then later you can look a year out and say like, hey was that actually a good indication? So what this looked like in our time at HEAP was, a business case that was you’re trying to sell to a sports clips, and this is basically what’s happening,

and here’s their business model, and here’s what we’ve heard in some calls. How would you approach this? And it was a very good exercise to just see how people think critically, which was very important for the sellers at that time. Yeah, I think it’s a fantastic piece of advice. Oftentimes these interviews seem to be constructed or should we say they’re kind of bodged together with a hodgepodge of, you know, we’ve heard this from someone, this is something I used to ask in the past.

And sometimes these don’t really get to the root cause and they don’t really get an address, you know, how we’re sort of separating again, good versus great. So really good to hear that. Thank you. Sort of in keeping with advice and wisdom on the hiring, what would you say is the sort of most important piece of wisdom on the hiring you wish you’d known earlier?

I think it’s kind of what you just alluded to. First off, a align on the rubric. People will just throw together, hey, Tom’s going to chat with them and then someone else is going to talk with them. Then Todd goes like a align on the rubric. What are you actually trying to test for? Be super clear on the must haves versus the nice to haves.

And then one thing that I probably didn’t put enough weight in early on is like too much weight on their direct experience or recent experience. I’ve been burnt in the past that people have come from a competitor or sold into this persona and did not work well- and more on what are their interests?

What are their passion? What actually makes them tick? Like I don’t care if they like dancing or basketball. I want to know what they do outside of work, what they’re thinking about, what podcasts they’re listening to. And it just shows, are they constantly trying to learn? Do they have a mission and understand like, okay, this is why I’m doing this job to get me to the next thing.

So I think the big wisdom for me is don’t overweight too heavily on most recent experience and understand like what really makes this person tick. And you can find out a lot about that, you know, what they’re doing in some of their spare time. What are their side projects? What are the other businesses they’re part of?

Yeah. I think again, stellar piece of advice there. And that’s why we sort of started this and what we’re looking for is to kind of explore and learn and teach others that maybe haven’t been doing this for a long time through some of the battle scars of the likes of you and others. So appreciate the wisdom and advice.

Certainly can see a lot of nuggets in there that I think people can really benefit from. So thanks a lot, Todd. Thanks for joining and wishing you every success with Champify.

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