Recruiting for sales positions in a small service firm is not the same as recruiting for sales positions in large service firm, or in a product company. This session will help you avoid making costly hiring mistakes as you build out your sales team.
Greg Alexander [00:00:10] Hi, everyone. This is Greg Alexander, the host of the Pro Serv Podcast, brought to you by Collective 54, the first community dedicated to the boutique professional services industry. On today’s episode, we’re going to discuss recruiting salespeople into a small services firm, which is a very precise recruiting process. And we have a wonderful role model with us today. His name is Carter Hopkins, and he’s a member of Collective 54, and he runs a firm that this is what they do. They recruit for sales, and he’s successfully done this for several of our members. So he’s got a lot to offer on this topic. So, Carter, it’s good to see you. Please introduce yourself to the audience.
Carter Hopkins [00:00:59] Yes, they’re great. Thank you so much for having me. Honestly honored that you asked me to be on the podcast. So, yeah, I’m the founder of Pursuit and we are a sales and marketing recruiting firm that specializes in helping our partners scale out their sales and marketing function with top talent.
Greg Alexander [00:01:16] Fantastic. So let’s jump into it. So my first question is how is recruiting for sales positions inside services firms different than recruiting for a similar role in a product company?
Carter Hopkins [00:01:31] Absolutely. I think a. You know, for me, recruiting for sales in general is so different than any other type of recruiting out there. And that’s really the reason I started our company eight years ago, is because I there are a million recruiting firms out there. There’s not a lot of sales recruiting firms. And I believe sales recruiting done well is very, very different than recruiting an engineer or recruiting somebody in I.T. or something like that. And the reason why is it’s it’s it’s not as much about the resume. It’s a lot of it is about the intangibles. It’s about the person. And there’s no certification on a resume that’s going to sell anything. And so, you know, our approach to sales recruiting and don’t get me wrong, a lot of times we are looking for specific things on a resume as well. We’re looking for those intangibles that you may not necessarily be able to to see on the resume. And I think that makes it a little bit different, as well as recruiting for a professional services firm and sales within a professional services firm. Just the motion is a lot different than it is when you’re selling a product, you’re selling a product. A lot of times it’s the same sales pitch over and over and it doesn’t really have to be a solutions based sell. And when you’re recruiting somebody to a professional to sell within a professional services firm, it’s not tangible. Your the sell itself looks so different than it does when it is one product and you’re selling it the exact same way every time. Yeah.
Greg Alexander [00:03:12] I agree. That’s a that’s a really good point to bring out. You know, sell services. You’re selling the intangible as a product, as a tangible. That’s a very different emotion. So that that’s a good ad. All right. Let me let me ask the next question, which is, you know, our our membership, because you’re a member and, you know, this is is focused on boutiques, which is code for smaller firms. So let’s talk about the size dimension. So when you’re recruiting sales positions for a small company as opposed to a large company, how is that different?
Carter Hopkins [00:03:44] Yeah. Working at a big company. Opposed to working at a small company is so different. And you know, the thing that I would encourage members that are listening to this is when you recruit, you need to sell for what you are. And be very upfront and honest what you are with these candidates. And if the candidate is the right candidate for your small firm, that will excite them. If the candidate is the wrong candidate and you’re in, you are going through the good and the bad about working for a small firm, it will scare them away. And so for us, you know, for me, I started the company eight years ago and we’ve built it out. And, you know, I have when people come in to interview with me, I have to tell them, hey, it’s it it’s not a huge firm. We may not have all of the benefits for a lot of these sales reps that are coming from from big firms. What I see is they have a ton of resources. They have a marketing department, they have all of these different resources that they have access to. And then you throw them into a small environment and they’re not used to that. Like they’re like, Hey, where’s where is the client marketing collateral? It’s like, Well, I don’t know. You may have to create that kind of small firm. And so, you know, I think for me personally, I love small business, obviously. And if you sell it correctly, because to me, there’s a lot of advantages of a small firm. Candidates want to know that they can move up quickly. And I believe that you can in a small firm, they want to know that there’s not as much team in to work through. In a small company like that. There is a big company. They want to know that they have access to the founder. There’s a lot of selling points that you you can talk to candidates about that are true. But I would also say almost sell against your opportunity. Hey, here’s what it’s not in the interview process and what it will do. We’ve lost candidates that I liked and I thought could have been good, but they didn’t want that. And I would rather know that in the interview process than figure that out four months down the road and have them leave.
Greg Alexander [00:05:43] Yeah, I like that. So against it, that makes it’s kind of reverse psychology. And I agree with you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen our membership and even outside of our membership, people get enamored, you know, with the person with 20 years of industry experience, you know, try to bring him in to this small firm. And it’s a trainwreck because they can’t scale down to a small firm. They’re used to being surrounded by all these resources and small firm. It’s it’s largely, you know, building the plane as you’re flying the plane. And you need scrappy people that can make it happen. And sometimes these big company people, they have a really hard time scaling down like that. So that’s a mistake. We’d like all of our members to avoid making speak.
Carter Hopkins [00:06:25] And I think real quick on that, Greg, another selling point that I believe in small business for is if you’re in sales, you want to try to you want to try to create value within your company as an individual. And I believe it’s easier to create value for a sales rep in a small company than in a big company. And the reason why is because when you work for a big company and you walk in there and the name on your shirt sells itself, yeah, it’s really hard. You’re very replaceable. Yeah, very replaceable because the company’s buy, the buyer is buying from the company and not from you. When you work for a small company and you walk in there. And when we were a, you know, a six person company that preceded you, and our sales rep walks into the room and says, Hey, we’re pursued. They don’t know who pursuit is. So they’re buying from David. They’re buying from a person opposed to buying from a company. And so for me, that’s one of the reasons I always we work with a lot of small companies, and that’s one of our selling points to candidates about going to a small company. You may miss out on some benefits and some of those things, but you’re able to create so much more value for the company, which in turn creates value for yourself.
Greg Alexander [00:07:33] Yeah, good point. So let’s get to one of the biggest mistakes that members are making right now, and that is they’re over hiring in the sales leadership role and they’re hiring for it too early. Yeah, you and I have spoken about this previously. I’d love for you to share with our members why you think this mistake is happening and maybe what to do about it.
Carter Hopkins [00:07:59] Yeah, I think so. Here’s kind of what I see. And we have the opportunity to work with some professional services firms, and a lot of times it’s on their first sales hire and you know, they’ve been they’ve been the CEO and they’ve been selling more or less and they may not even wait to sell. Yeah, they may like the delivery side of things and they may be specialized in that, but they find themselves selling and then they listen to Greg and they listen to collective 54. They go, Hey, I need to scale out my sales team. And and they reach out to me. And a lot of times they want us. They want a sales leader. They think that they want a sales leader. That can be a player coach at first that can come in and is going to be an individual contributor. And then go into sales leadership. Right. And what I find is, you know, they want somebody that’s been leading people. Mm hmm. Because they want them to own that sales function. But the hard part about that is somebody that’s been leading people. It’s very hard for them to go back and to go back to selling all day, every day. Right. And they end up frustrated and it ends up not working out well, in theory, in my opinion, from what I’ve seen. And so, you know, I always in most I won’t say always in most scenarios, I believe in hiring somebody that’s going to be a straight sales rep. That’s a little bit probably junior that has no problem reaching out 30, 40 times a day. The person that’s been leading other people to make 40 calls a day is really hard to get them to go back to making 40 calls a day. And what I’ve seen. Yeah. And so, you know, I always cash is king. Right. And like people, how you get cash is you get people that are selling it. I believe your first couple of hires. Most of the time it’s important as long as you can put them in the right atmosphere. It’s important to to find somebody that’s okay with getting out. It’s selling all day. Would you agree with that?
Greg Alexander [00:10:00] I agree 100%. I mean, listen, individual contributors in sales, it’s a grind. And it is when you get to a mid point in your career or maybe even later on in your career, going back to the grind is just culturally a very difficult thing to do. And for our community, if you think about it, you know, most of them are, you know, early in the development of their sales function in general. So hiring an individual contributor to start with and using that person to kind of be the guinea pig or the test lab, if you will, to figure out what works for you. And then once you understand that maybe that person has the ability to grow into the sales leadership job, if not, at least you know what’s needed now, because you had that junior person in there grinding all the time. So, so really good advice. Speaking of which, I wanted to get to the next question, which is.
Carter Hopkins [00:10:46] Yeah.
Greg Alexander [00:10:47] Our members. The stereotype of our members, if I could place it on them is this. They’re absolutely brilliant domain experts in what it is that they do. And that’s the reason why they’ve been able to build their firms, is because of their, you know, intellectual horsepower and their expertise. But they didn’t come up through sales most often. Therefore, they really don’t know what good looks like. And they have out of whack expectations. So they hire somebody and they think sales are just going to miraculously come in and they don’t understand that there needs to be a whole system in place. So can you tell us a little little bit about what expectations should be like and how to avoid this mistake?
Carter Hopkins [00:11:32] Yeah, I would always I would even caution a lot of times what I see is people want to go hire the person that’s been doing it for 15, 20 or 20 years that says they have a Rolodex of contacts and they just move over the business and all of a sudden they’re making all this money. And where I talked to founders that have made a lot of mistakes is they’ve hired people that say that. And then they get in there and they don’t they don’t do anything. Sales is not easy. It’s not that’s why their sales reps make as much money as they make, is because it’s hard and it is a grind and there are no shortcuts to it. And, you know, I I’m going to quote as a friend, this is sales consultant Gregg Stanley. So I’m not going to take credit for it. But how he talks about it is it’s like a houseplant. You go you go buy a houseplant. And if you don’t put that houseplant in the right environment, it’s going to die. And, you know, and then what ends up happening is the plant dies and you don’t know if it was the environment or if it was a bad plant. And a lot of times you think it’s a bad plant, but really it’s a bad. It’s a bad it was a great plant, but you put it in a bad environment and it died. And so that really hit home with me because I watched that happen time after time again, where you have to create a sales environment and you have to have somebody within your organization to set up that right environment. When I say environment, accountability, KPI is a sales atmosphere where they don’t they they don’t feel like they’re flying solo when the day’s tough and they made 40 calls and they haven’t talked to one person all day long. Like you have to put them in an atmosphere to where they can thrive. And it may be like, Well, Greg, how do I do that if that’s not my background? Fortunately, I love sales. You know, when I started the company, that’s my passion and my background. But for a lot of founders, that’s not their domain or expertise. And I would just say like. I believe in. If it’s not going to be you owning that function, hire a sales consultant that helps you set up that environment correctly from the get go before you go hire that salesperson to put him in that environment overall. And then also don’t think once you hire that salesperson as the CEO or as the founder, you’re just going to be hands off and all of a sudden money’s going to start showing up. You’re going to have to be involved in training, in teaching and coaching the whole way through.
Greg Alexander [00:14:01] Yeah, I love the house houseplant analogy. You know, when I was in the sales consulting space, I used to tell my clients, Listen, you don’t put a football helmet on Tiger Woods. Yeah, but if you hand him a golf club, you’re going to win Majors, right? So it’s matching the talent to the environment and making sure that you’re putting the talent in a position to win. And it’s very often not understood. And I think your advice of maybe renting a sales consultant that can build your sales environment first. Yeah. Then recruiting in the talent is the way to go.
Carter Hopkins [00:14:35] Well, and I’ll say the last thing I’ll say to that, Greg, is be patient. Like if you have to play the long term game, far too often I see people playing. A short term game is like, you know, they’ll call, will fill a position, they’ll call me like, hey, never sold anything. It’s like, how long it been? It’s been a month and it’s like, man, it it you have to play the long term game with some of these you know, these people in your organization as well because it’s going to take time to figure it out, especially if you’ve never had anybody doing it before and you don’t have a playbook. Yeah.
Greg Alexander [00:15:05] All right. Well, listen, we need to wrap this up, but I’ve got a few calls to action here for the listeners. So. So if you’re a member, keep your eyes open for the meeting. Invite. That’ll be coming to you shortly for the private Q&A session that we’ll have with Carter. You’ll be able to ask him direct questions, will go into much greater depth and more able to do in a short podcast. If you’re not a member and you want to become one, go to collect 54 Ecom and submit an application and we’ll get in contact with you. And then if you’re just someone who wants a little, little bit more, I would drive you towards our book. It’s called The Boutique How to Start Scale. And so a professional services firm written by yours truly, Greg Alexander, you can find it on Amazon. But Carter, on behalf of the membership, I appreciate you being here, making a deposit into the collective body of knowledge and I look forward to our upcoming member session.
Carter Hopkins [00:15:59] Thank you, Greg.
Greg Alexander [00:16:00] Okay, take care.