The Foundation of Successful Sales Hiring: Unmistakable Clarity

The Foundation of Successful Sales Hiring: Unmistakable Clarity

Sales Hiring
Chris Orlob
July 19, 2022

This is – by far – the most powerful thing you can do for more successful sales hiring:

Create unmistakable clarity.

In fact, any sales hiring technique or fancy interview question is useless if you don't have this in place.

It is the foundation.

Imagine a towering skyscraper.

What's the most important part of that building?

The foundation. The part you cannot see. It goes deep into the ground. But without it, the building would fall over.

With it, you can build a towering monument.

That's what "Unmistakable Clarity" does.

It lays a deep foundation. On top of which you build the rest of your hiring process.

And here's the reality:

Or if they do, it's done in a sophomoric way, such as a job description, and a basic ideal rep profile.

Three Elements of Unmistakable Clarity

These elements, working together, are mission critical to successful sales hiring.

  1. Role outcomes - You must define nuanced outcomes to achieve for your sales roles. "Close more deals" doesn't cut it.
  2. Ideal rep profile - The ideal traits, experiences, and skills, based on your role outcomes. And the sales environment in which you're selling.
  3. Evaluation methods - The pre-defined methods you'll use to assess attributes. Many sales leaders have an ideal rep profile defined. But without consistent evaluation methods, you're rendering an ideal rep profile useless. Inconsistent evaluation methods lead to inconsistent patterns and results.

1. Role Outcomes

Here's what Role Outcomes are NOT:

Job descriptions are a list of day-to-day activities.

They are not "desired outcomes" a role intends to achieve.

What's what a Role Outcome is: What are the nuanced desired outcomes the role must achieve?

"Close more deals" or "sell our product" doesn't cut it.

Let me give you a few examples.

This is the best way to learn what I mean by "Role Outcomes."

You'll notice we have three (very) similar-looking roles.

At least on the surface.

But when you dig into the outcomes, it's clear you're hiring for different hiring profiles for each.

Take a look at the first role:

Account Executive (1)

You can see we've defined  three Role Outcomes:

  1. close $800k in new business (across 20 logos)
  2. Maintain at least $1,000 price per seat
  3. Self-source three $40k+ opps per month

What does that tell you about this role?

A few things:

First, this role is focused on new business revenue.

But, not JUST that.

New logos.

In other words, it's not enough for this role to sell $800k by any means necessary.

Quantity of new logos matters. Two $400k deals doesn't make the grade. In this case, the hiring company has a strategic imperative to fill the install base with new logos.

Account Executive (2)

Once again, here's an overview of the three roles:

Let's compare AE(1) with AE(2).

Same job title.

Very different roles.

Very different traits, experiences, and skills needed.

Here are the Role Outcomes:

  1. Close $800,000 in net new ARR (across both new business and upsell)
  2. Close at least 12 new logos per year
  3. Expand top three customer accounts by 100%

This is a far different role than the first role.

Even though there's a focus on new logos, there's also an equal focus on upsell and customer expansion.

It's a hybrid role.

In this case, the company is likely NOT in a land-grab "win at all cost" market share race. They want to maximize total revenue, rather than market share (as was the case in the first role).

Now let's look at the last one.

Account Manager

Here are the role outcomes once more:

  1. Close $900k out of a $1M renewal book.
  2. Sell at least $600k in gross upsell.
  3. Expand into at least six new customer success departments within your book.

That tells you a lot about the strategic imperatives of the company.

Here's where most hiring managers fall flat: They say "renew your book of business, and go find upsell."

They don't say:

"Go find x-amount of upsell revenue within y-type customer."

So, the priority for THIS role is to expand into Customer Success organizations.

You can see how that would influence who you hire. You'd look for reps that have experience selling to Customer Success.

You can see how different these roles are by getting clear and nuanced on the Role Outcomes.

Write this down on a sticky note:

Generic outcomes won't do it.

If you define generic outcomes, you'll hire generic reps. Who get generic results.

How could it be any other way?

Let's move on to the second element of creating Unmistakable Clarity.

2. Ideal Rep Profile

Your Ideal Rep Profile springs from your Role Outcomes and your unique selling environment.

Most sales leaders have an ideal rep profile.

But they simply jot down what they think they should hire for based on their experience.

Rather than thinking: What do your Role Outcomes and selling situation demand?

There are traits. Soft personality traits such as grit and coachability.

There are experiences. What kind of sales experiences would a candidate need to be set up for success?

And then there are skills. What kind of selling skills do reps need to be successful?

Traits. Experiences. And skills.

Here's an example of how this works

Let's pretend you sell a complex product to CROs with an account team to large enterprises.

Check out this hiring profile.

On close examination, you'll notice that every attribute screens for your context.

  • Collaboration. Your reps work with a full account team. It's critical that they know how to work well with a team.
  • Budget creation. You're selling a new category of products. There's never a line item. Does your candidate have experience creating new budget items?
  • Project management.  You run complex 60-day proof-of-concepts (POCs). So project management becomes a necessary job qualification.
  • Competitive experience. You're in a competitive market. Reps must have the skills to handle this.
  • Assertiveness. You sell to VPs of Sales and CROs. These people "tend" to have strong, type-A personalities. If your reps can't withstand that with some backbone, they'll crumble.
  • Business acumen. Heads of Sales often have far higher business sophistication than their C-Level peers. Your reps must have the business acumen to be able to "hang" with these buyers.
  • Demo skills. You don't have sales engineers. AEs run their own demos. Does the candidate you're interviewing have this skill and experience?

These are all traits, skills, and experiences that your selling situation dictates.

Here's what to do next.

Once you've written the attributes of your ideal rep profile, write a definition for each.

Too many sales attributes are nebulous.

If you have nebulous attributes, two bad things happen:

  1. Misalignment on the hiring team (what are you hiring for?)
  2. You're not clear on what you're hiring for (even if it's just YOU).

"Coachability" is a great example.

Let's say coachability is a make-or-break hiring attribute you're hiring for.

What does that mean?

In fact, here's an exercise: Write down your own definition of that word.

Before moving on with this post.

Let's compare notes.

I'll wait.

Write it down now.



This will be a GREAT way to show how EASY it is to lack unmistakable clarity.

Now let's compare.

Here's what my definition looks like:

"The ability to apply feedback and change sales behavior rapidly."

Here's what a lot of people might write down instead:

"The ability to take feedback. The ability to not resist coaching feedback."

That's fine if that's what you're looking for.

But notice my definition is different. I want to give someone feedback and see their behavior change.

If you don't have "coachability" defined in this case, you're not going to have a consistent way to assess it. Because now you're evaluating different traits.

You'll use different methods to assess the trait.

That leads to very different hiring outcomes.

Pull everything together into your profile.

You've got your three sections.

Aim for 2-5 per section. No more. These should be the make-or-break hiring criteria. Don't throw on everything that would be nice-to-have. That's how you create a profile so overwhelming that it becomes useless.

Define your make-or-break traits, experiences, and skills required to achieve success.

And write down the definitions for each attribute.

Now let's move onto the last piece of creating Unmistakable Clarity.

3. Evaluation Methods

Write this down...

If you have inconsistent ways to assess the profile, you'll have inconsistent results.

And that's where most sales leaders stop.

They go far enough to create the ideal profile.

But not far enough to create the methods in which to assess it.

As such, it gives them 20% of the value it could.

You must have a consistent evaluation method for each one.

If you VARY how you assess each attribute, you'll get noise instead of signal.

You will not build "hiring cognition," which is the secret of secrets of successful sales leaders.

You won't tap into your ability to use pattern recognition.

Most sales leaders only do the first one.

  1. Behavioral questions - Interview questions designed to assess whether someone possesses an attribute.
  2. Work samples - Many sales leaders ask reps to share outbound emails they're written. Or business case decks.
  3. Live behavior - Some sales leaders assess "Assertiveness" by seeing if a rep "closes next steps" at the end of an interview.
  4. Backchannels and offline research - Much of which you'll gain at the end of the hiring process.

Write all of these things down.

Write the Role Outcomes.

The profile attributes.

The definitions.

The evaluation methods.

Do not keep it ricocheting throughout your mind.

These should not be tribal knowledge.

If you're trying to create consistency, a lack of documentation is one of your worst enemies.

Before you finish reading, I created a free cheat sheet of 91 interview questions.

These are STRONG evaluation methods.

Look through the list. Swipe those that apply to you.

It's free.

Only use those applicable to your selling context.

That summarizes unmistakable clarity.

When you have these defined:

  1. Role outcomes
  2. Ideal rep profile (including definitions)
  3. Evaluation methods

... you have poured a DEEP foundation of successful sales hiring.

I can almost guarantee you're ahead of 99% of sales leaders.

There are 7 elements of super effective sales hiring.

We covered one today.

Create Unmistakable Clarity.

But there are six more.

Want to learn the rest?

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  • Why nothing hurts your credibility more than a bad hire
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  • Slide 20: The first (and most common) fatal mistake of sales hiring
  • Slide 32: Four powerful “methods” for assessing your ideal rep profile
  • Slide 36: How to design a predictive sales hiring process that you run like “clockwork”
  • Slide 48: The #1 interviewing mistake (that leads to BAD hires).
  • Slide 51: Three elements of “predictive” interview questions.
  • Slide 55: A step-by-step exercise that helps you craft interview questions that PREDICT
  • Slide 58: The four “meta” levels of a consistent, structured hiring process
  • Slide 65: A 5-step interviewing “technique” that tells you if you have an A, B, or C Player.
  • Slide 68: How to “tee up” an interview to get reps to SHARE (without this, they might withhold KEY info).
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  • Slide 87: How to get rid of the “halo effect” (and why it almost ALWAYS leads to bad hires).
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  • Intro
  • 01: Create Unmistakable Clarity
  • 02: How to Design a Predictive Hiring Process
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  • 04: How and Why to Run “Chronological Sales Interviews”
  • 05: How to Form Judgment with Behavioral Science
  • 06: Get Multiple Independent Views (and How to Do It)
  • 07: Write a “Deal Memo” to Crystallize
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