May 18, 2021

Vetting and Interviewing Salespeople


Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Episode Highlights

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Hirewell partner James Hornick talks with Stephanie Benavidez, the Senior Director of Sales Enablement at WellRight. Her deep experience in sales management and hiring within sales has allowed her to find top candidates for all levels of the organization. 

In this podcast, Stephanie and James dive on best practices for vetting and interviewing salespeople. 

Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Episode Transcript

Welcome to the Hirewell, recruiting insights podcast. I’m your host James Hornick partner at Hirewell. Today I’m joined by a special guest,the senior director of sales enablement at WellRight,Stephanie Benavidez


Thank you for having me James


So we’ve known each other for quite some time, the reason why I was really excited to have you on the show today is you’ve got a lot of experience hiring salespeople and hiring different types of salespeople.


that’s a challenging thing to do. like all hiring is hard and, but salespeople, I think has their own challenges. maybe first give us a bit of context about yourself, like your career, what your role is at wall, right? The type of people you. Type of work, you focus in the type of people hire. Does everyone kind of understands kind of where you’re coming from? 


Sure. So currently in the senior director for wall, right? I’m senior director of sales enablement. Sorry, it’s so new. I actually just got this promotion. But typically my background has been in sales operations, sales enablement, supporting outside sales efforts. Today. I oversee a team,  more on the enablement and operations side, but I have a very dotted line to the outside team.  


Our reps that are in two different channels of business.  but yeah, I’m involved in the hiring for all these different roles on my team. So from that BDR all the way to an RVP of a territory.


Got it.


Okay. So, and that’s the thing too, is I think there’s, there’s always different, there’s so many different types of roles within sales, the junior roles, senior roles, that there’s different kinds of, there might be some different things you needed to get into or things you might vet more seriously on a higher level and certain things you can train people into on a lower level.


So, and we’ll talk a little bit about that too. But I’ve always thought, I guess just to kick things off, like, yeah. No matter what the competency is, whether it’s recruiting for salespeople or just anything else in life, like you learn more from when you screw it up, then when you get it right.


Cause a lot of times when you get it right, it just, things just happened to work out, you know? And you don’t really. You know, you didn’t know why it works. It just kinda did  and I think that was one of the first things. So like if you can  in terms of like vetting mistakes, so when you made a bad hire, you know what I mean?


Or someone who just, didn’t end up being a good employee , for whatever reason. from a vetting standpoint, what are things that you’ve seen missed or things that you missed in the past you’ve learned from or that you think other people miss quite often? 


So I think it depends on the role, but I think in some of the senior roles where we’ve had a referral and it’s been, maybe this is,  somebody I’ve worked with previously, I think referrals are great, and I don’t discount those.


I mean, every single role that I’ve had has been a referral, basically, including, well, right. , but, you know, you have to really, uh. Can’t just rest on your laurels and just sit back and say, Oh, this is my guy. You still should vet that person. Right. And understand, their strengths, their weaknesses, and salespeople have a lot of charisma and sometimes they are able to really persuade you. 




And maybe. Take over the interview a little bit just because they’re used to leading a boardroom. So there has been situations where I’m like, wait, are they interviewing me? Or, I mean, what’s going on here? Which I think, you know, can sometimes detract from what you’re trying to do because they are so good at being, the commanders of the room.


But sometimes that is not a good thing because maybe you weren’t able to ask those specific questions that you maybe have identified a weakness on your team, and you’re trying to find somebody who is not, you know, in that same vein, like, you know, they don’t use Salesforce or,  the tech stack, and they’re like, Hey, I’m just kind of a lone Wolf and out on my own and just trust that I can do the job well.


So that’s kind of one area that, you know, if they overtake the room, that sometimes is not a great thing. Right. I’m trying to think of some of the other things. 


so back to the referral thing, cause I’ve seen that a million times, like in our business. I think there’s, it’s a natural. whether you’re a recruiter like myself or whether you’re a hiring manager, there’s always that, of like, you just want to get this role filled and all, somebody knows somebody easy.


This is perfect. Like, one thing I don’t have to worry about because like, you know, somebody, but I think that’s, that’s something we’ve seen a lot is, you have to make sure you’re vetting everyone fully and not just rubber stamping, like someone’s referral that comes through. And sometimes like referrals or different times, like sometimes it’s somebody’s friend and they may be a great person and their friend might be trying to help them out, but 


they might not know that this person does not have the background that they need for this role, or they may actually have no idea like what they are to work with. because being someone’s friend versus being someone’s like coworker, it’s two very different things.


 and I think sometimes people, they feel. Pressured by their friends to refer them to things, you know what I mean? Even though it may not be companies are giving referral  exactly  and if it’s not in your team, like you’re like, yeah, not my issue. You know what I mean? I just want my grand or two grand, or whatever it is.


but I do think, you know, referrals are a great thing. I do think that they’re a wonderful, you know, um, olive branch, but also say, you know, I don’t have a lot of, a professional work experience with this person, or maybe you do, and maybe you can help fill in the gaps to say in your interview, maybe you can ask a little bit more questions around X, Y, Z. 


Me. Let me underscore that by saying it is by far and away the best way to hire.  Referrals are the best way to  build your company up, but it’s not a perfect way and you just have to be kind of cognizant of that because you can definitely make bad hires by making assumption.


yes, the other lesson learned, was. I’m not doing like practical application type communication exercises or maybe a pitch on the spot, because you know, salespeople need to be able to think on their feet. , and whether that’s, you know, the BDR role in, you’re setting up that voicemail, right. 


To just, you know. Quickly leave a voicemail with what you’re,  calling about, who you are, what the company is, a quick pitch, you know, that first intro, email, followup email, et cetera. I mean, that was something that I figured out, I think a little too late in some of my hiring practices where it’s now a standard. 


same thing with any of those intermediary. And then, outside rep roles, asking them to quickly develop a pitch, whether it’s, Hey, tell me about, you know. A Ted talk that you’ve been thinking about, you’ve got two minutes, go. 


or rather than sell me this pen, I don’t really like that,


that was like the worst era, especially on LinkedIn, like the amount of people, like I remember in those days, like when that movie came out, everyone’s saying, here’s the best, sell me your pen example. I’ve heard, I’m like, it’s still terrible.


No, I don’t like those


Like, it was a reason why the movie was about like awful sales techniques and like, you’re not supposed to take it seriously. That there. Anyway, I digress . But I, I think to your point, I think when you’re mentioning people kind of taking over the interview and it’s easy to kind of fall in love with candidates that might be great at talking or great at certain things that there’s so much goes into sales besides just the ability to talk on your feedings or talking to your feets obviously.


Great. But, there’s always gaps no matter like me, you, anybody else, there’s always going to be some gap in what we do or what our skill set is versus a position where you’re going to get hired for. It’s just whether or not you’re aware of those gaps when you’re hiring that person. Because. I think there’s certain things you’re, I mean, you should always be willing to train your employees up, but if they have more gaps in your realized and they’re less ready for the job.


Like I, I can think of examples, like if someone’s just, they might be able to talk, right. And I have a great attitude, but they might be just an atrocious writer, you know? And maybe, maybe you can work on 


that’s part of, that’s part of why I do that communication exercise down was because I realized somebody was, I mean, they struggled with it where I had to set them up with a writing course. Like I didn’t want to put this person on a PIP. I didn’t,  right out of the gate, I was thinking. 


All right. How can I set them up for success? Let’s download Grammarly on their, on their desktop. That’s like a quick fix, right? Let’s, set them up for success. Maybe they are struggling. Maybe there’s an underlying problem here, I don’t know. But, also identified a reason to have more templates and things and outreach, which is what we use for our, like.


Oh, outreach. Um, jeez. But all to say, you know, that still requires some, again, thinking on your feet, the ability to just personalize messaging because you can’t just send boiler plate stuff to people all day long. It’s just gonna. Be deleted. So that was one reason why I kind of put some of those other measures into place.




if you find that out after you’ve hired that person, gosh, I really wish I would have had identified that during the hiring process interview process.


. Yeah. And that’s the thing is too, I’m a big believer you’re going to have to train people on something.


It’s just a matter of knowing if there’s more things you need to train them on than you realize and it becomes a complete time suck. So that’s why just it’s having the awareness and making sure you don’t skip over certain aspects that you don’t necessarily aren’t always top of mind. 


So , in terms of vetting, just getting into that further,  I don’t know if we want to go, I don’t want to make this about  top favorite sales questions, but 


like certain things you always want to hit on or certain techniques or ways you go about it. anything that you want to underscore that you found helpful? Like you kind of mentioned it  but what else I guess, do you think is important to kind of dig into from, from that standpoint?


maybe behavioral questions, you know, scenarios and situations I’m asking about there.


You know, wins in book of business I think is, especially if it’s like a higher level, you know, asking them, you know, tell me about a difficult sales cycle, you know, how did you push them to the, the goal line? goal line. Yeah. Anyways, the finish line.  Flexibility, so we’re a startup technically, you know, and being able to be dynamic with change, understanding if somebody is going to roll with the punches.


If we change the playbook next week with a process, or if they’re are going to be like, gosh, this place I can’t get my foot in because you guys are changing. Like change management.  but also understanding if someone is dynamic and able to be,  a chameleon like that’s important to us as a growing organization because we’re always changing and I think that’s a good thing, right?


You mentioned this when we met the other day video calls. 


Uh, yes, yes. Um, so we use a platform where we can basically, you know, see everyone, I think phone screens are dead you can never really gauge when someone is pausing and then you talk over them  you can’t see their body language.


You don’t know if they’re, um, I think it also forces them to be in a spot where they can take the time to have a conversation with you about versus . Sitting on the street corner and someone drives by and you know, rap music is in the background, cause that’s actually happened to me before where I’m like, where are you? 


so video calls allow me to see somebody’s,  ability to make eye contact, their mannerisms. are they engaged? Are they sitting there? Are they slumped? Are they bored? Are they looking around 


even taking out of the sales context. Like I’ve known for years, there’s, back when I was doing tech recruiting, that was always an issue where people are, you know, I think they’re Googling the answer to this, but I can’t tell.


You know what I mean? Like it’s one of those, but I can certainly see from like keeping it kind of specific to sales. It’s, it’s definitely , presence and attention and are they being mindful about the interview? You know what I mean? 


not everybody is an extrovert that’s ready to like. Snap it on, right. Somebody in tech and , a developer is probably not going to like sitting on a camera with you and you know, they’re gonna be like, why? 


Why is this guy putting me on a camera and wanting to have a conversation with me? This is awkward.


 Yeah. Yeah. We’ll talk a little bit about the difference between,  senior reps like your outside reps and BDRs and how you might kind of vet things a little bit differently between the two. 


Sure.  I think. Some of those soft skills that, you know, you can’t, not that you can’t teach them, but I think they’re just a small sense. Maybe, I don’t know what I’m trying to say here, but you know, some of those,  commanding of the room. I’m not thinking on your feet. 


how fluid they are 


how comfortable they are with using different technology, how comfortable they are in their, their process. I mean, they just have more, you know, experience, right? And maybe their experience can even help. Make my team better. So I want to know about your experiences. What tools have you used? 


what successes or fails have you had?  so I think when you’re hiring some of the, you know, very determined and hungry, you know, BDR people, that’s the other thing, you know, I feel like. As you’re hiring fresh blood, I guess, you know, maybe they’re a little bit more hungry and determined and willing to roll up their sleeves and work really hard.


whereas you have to make sure that you’re going to get that same level of engagement from somebody who does have a lot of experience, because the last thing you want is somebody, not that it’s dead weight, but somebody who is just as hungry at the, you know, senior. Or RVP level on that outside team that they’re going to hustle just as hard.


Again, startup mentality. You’ve got to really, you know, be the CEO of your own territory.


 yeah. And , that’s the thing. It’s always kind of difficult to gauge is someone’s driving desire because it’s CPL can turn it on and then interview and you don’t find out until, 


that so hard to gauge. Right. And I think that that’s why you do employ a team effort when in interviewing people, just to see are they consistent in their responses. 


we actually have a new HR manager and she is employed a survey after each of the interviews to make sure that people are not just walking away going, yeah, they’re good. Go ahead. Like why could you give me some qualifying responses? Yeah. I didn’t like, um, what’s the why? 


I’m so guilty of that by the way. Cause anytime we hire we have a panel of people and I just trust everyone else who can do a great job vetting.


And then I’m just like, I’m, I really need to get better feedback on these. 


But it’s helpful just because we’ll have this survey and it’ll force us to have like an actual sit down debrief, talk about the why’s. Maybe that person brings up something that this person over here didn’t realize and be like, Oh, I’m glad that you dug into that.


We’ve also have those teams of people, it’s like set of two people each where they’re tasked with asking certain questions. So if it’s a sales engineer, sales enablement type role, maybe our VP of product is digging more into their technical capabilities, whereas that’s not my suite. Spot and don’t ask me to ask those kinds of questions because I don’t even know what to ask truly.  but you know, that person does. And so they can really get in there and give me their feedback as to, is this person winging it? Are they flubbing it, you know, or do they actually kind of know what they’re talking about? 


 It makes sense. It’s having that kind of team effort is great and I think that, organizations. True startups really struggle with this because these are the kinds of things that once you’ve been around for a while and you’ve had, you have to have like failures to know how to do it.


And I think that’s why I love having these kinds of conversations because like our audience is very much a mix of people who are experienced or might be experienced, people starting their company for the first time, new sales managers trying to hire. And I think these are all, these are all great points you bring up.


 The podcast we had last week.  Was interesting because my guests really talked a lot about how retention is what’s made hiring easier, and just your ability to do a good job of training and retaining employees , that permeates through the organization.


So everyone else who’s.  it’s not just the people in the interviewing panel. They’re going to be happy about their job and help sell, but you know,  your employer brand is going to get out there. In terms of other people who work at the organization, they’re going to have nice things to say, which makes it easier to kind of hire.


So, and I know from the conversation we have in the past, like retention is definitely a big. So it on the forefront of your mind. So I’m curious  what you think is important how you go about kind of retaining employees, kind of what your, take is there. 


 So I think when I joined, I had nobody reporting to me.


And now I have a team of what will be , eight people and when I’m interviewing people, I’m always thinking. About potentially what their next role may be on my team, because I’ve built out these levels. I’ve built out these different segments and niches based upon, you know, interest or necessity and gap, , for our company and our department.


So, retention, career pathing, setting goals. We just became members of sales assembly here in Chicago, which we’re really excited about. they offer a lot of opportunity in terms of training and certifications and networking and things like that, which I think is really great. So as new members, I’m making it part of everyone’s KPIs.


I, my team to attend at least once per month. Maybe that gives them a different flavor for learning new skills. So they’ll go attend that comeback and then debrief and teach us because maybe presentation skills is something on their goals, because they do want to be an outside rep in the next five years. 


So setting that tone from the beginning and understanding. Hey Emilio, what are your goals when you join us? And you’re joining us as a BDR and now he recently, actually, this is a real person, just got promoted on my team. so, building out this. Plan for him and others on my team is super important.


I have somebody else on my team who has done teaching, and so I can very much see her doing sales training eventually. Hopefully, if she’s watching this, which I know that she is.  maybe that’s of interest to her in the next couple of years as we’re, again, building out different segments on my team.


Again, it’s all about meeting their needs and goals because I want to keep them as an employee. If they’re a good performer, a high performer, please don’t go somewhere else. Right. and secondly, meeting the needs of the company and identifying gaps of maybe where we need help training, RFPs,  CRM, hygiene, finalist presentations, like all these different things are part of a sales cycle, but who’s doing it?


Not the outside rep, can’t do everything and then also have no 10 meetings a week. 


 this isn’t even specific a sales per se, but I think the companies that do a great way of kind of getting people into doing,  getting them to want to try out giving them opportunities to try stuff, it’s not their core job.


And you know what I mean?  it allows them to expand their skill set and it just breaks up the day, frankly, 


sales can be like kind of a grueling and monotonous process, and if you don’t give them other things to be interested in special projects, then they might, you know, if you’re a BDR and you’re getting objections all day and you’re just building.


Lists and doing research and finding the right person and smiling and dilate and trying to stay motivated, like, well, what’s next for me? So I think identifying what can they be working on? Can they be helping with reporting and building dashboards in Salesforce? Can they be helping with, presenting some stuff in the playbook at the next Monday’s meeting.


So I’m always trying to, like I said, keep those things in mind so that they can. Be on my team, 


yeah.  for the all the time in recruiting, I can definitively say that the companies that have this approach have way better retention than those who usually want to talk to people who want to leave their job. It’s most of the time, or some modern reason probably, but like just feeling stale


I’ve had some bad managers and my day, and I think learning and understanding what they did and. hopefully not doing that to my team. Giving them more opportunity, having an open door, all of those things. 


. Okay , one thing I want to mention too, like any advice? the one thing I’ve always liked about sales is it made, it’s very much like recruiting.


Like no one went to school for it, right? Everyone, you know, everyone kind of fell into recruiting or sales or whatever. It’s the, it’s the one field anybody probably could do. there might be some gaps people have, but let’s say someone want to make a career change. They want to get into sales, or they’re interviewing for your team.


Maybe it’s a junior level job or whatever.  making a career change is always tough though. And I talk to people all the time in different industries trying to make that change. And there’s certain things I always advise them to try out. What do you see if someone wants to get into sales and they haven’t done sales previously, you know, what of ice do you have? 


 I would say there’s a lot of opportunities on LinkedIn in terms of different groups and things that they can .


You know, podcasts they can listen to. There’s different books that they could be reading. I mentioned sales. Assembly is a thing that I think they offer career fairs in different trainings where they could go and immerse themselves into that industry and understand like, what is it?


I think I was telling somebody earlier before we started the podcast that,  I had a BDR. Who was going to be graduating in may. I had them actually come in yesterday and shadow our team. I wish somebody had given me that opportunity when I was graduating college. I said, look, I really appreciate, , your excitement.


do you even understand what this role does?  maybe we can consider you when you do actually graduate.  but come in. Meet our team, come to a team meeting, shadow our BDR, shadow, our sales enablement specialist, our proposal writer. Maybe understand what we do. And from there you can hopefully apply for jobs that you actually understand what’s being set up, you know, ask w. 


so I think, you know, there’s opportunities out there in terms of learning on, like I said, LinkedIn. SDR Chronicles. I think Morgan Ingram, he has like a really good podcast 


I think the important thing too is just  knowing if someone is trying to make a change like this,  that they are taking these steps, because if you were to interview somebody and they want to make a transition to sales and you ask them, okay, what books are you reading? Or what podcasts listening to? And they’re, and it’s just like, you know, blank stare because they haven’t done anything. , if you want to be taken seriously,  it’s.


The kind of homework you need to be doing. you’ll never be in sales until you’re in it, but at least like you’ve shown like the interest.


So, anyway , is there anything else you wanted to cover today? And then I just want to highlight, . Maybe we’re done. 


Awesome. Thank you for coming. thanks for listening  to Hirewell’s recruiting insights podcast. If you like what you heard and want more insights from our recruiting experts, visit  dot com slash recruiting dash insights .


And remember to subscribe to the podcast on Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, or YouTube. See you soon.

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