How to plan sales hiring to hit your goals

Top sales leaders know that an essential component of hitting their annual target is to have the right salespeople in the right role. It sounds simple, but it’s challenging. 

Luckily, during our monthly Pavilion meetup, Teddy Chestnut spoke with Jessica Klek, VP of Strategic Sales at 6Sense and a master at building out sales teams. She is responsible for high-performing sales teams at SalesLoft and LinkedIn, and offered some fantastic lessons on what leaders should do when they’re working on their hiring plan. Three stuck out:

Tactic 1 -Make finance your best friend

Finding and hiring great sales talent requires a significant investment, which is typically managed by the finance team. If you don’t maintain a great relationship with them, it can be hard to secure the necessary budget to effectively fill your team. 

Jessica discovered this the hard way. Early in her career, she built a model around how many people she needed to hire and the corresponding budget. Jessica then brought it to finance, expecting an easy approval. Instead, she was told  “no,” and was forced to proceed with a scaled-down team. 

Now, Jessica makes friends with finance as soon as she starts a new role. She builds her forecasts in concert with the finance team, so they can better understand why she needs a specific budget. This also helps her better understand the company budget and in turn build a better business case for why sales requires investment beyond other functions.

Finance and sales are a yin and yang when it comes to hiring. Make sure the relationship starts on the right foot. 

Tactic 2 – AE churn is more costly than a pull-forward hire

The cost of losing an employee is much greater than pulling someone forward or bringing in someone new. However, most sales leaders spend their energy hiring and promoting employees when ramping to meet their plan. Jessica knows that it’s essential to hire and train, especially as work picks up. Still, she balances those efforts with doing all she can to avoid losing employees, which can be truly detrimental to hitting the yearly plan. 

Losing a top-performing rep can cost a company as much as $2 million in lost annual revenue! What’s more, it can take up to six months to find a new AE and three months to get them ramped. During that time, you are losing critical revenue while basic operating expenses become sunk costs. It can take 9 months to fully ramp a new sales rep, and more money is lost as they get up to speed. 

Tactic 3 – Communicate early and often 

The two lessons above both demonstrate that communication is essential for any leader trying to ramp hiring. 

Jessica emphasizes bringing people together and rallying them around a common goal. She accepts that her approach is part of a long, arduous journey but that bringing people along for the ride is the best way to get buy-in and support. 

You have to make finance your best friend, but HR and other stakeholders are also essential to your success, so communicate with them openly. One specific tip she offers for getting team buy-in is to ask for help and show vulnerability to every stakeholder involved in the process. It’s important to acknowledge that meeting the yearly plan can make or break your career.

It’s rare to face rejection after demonstrating vulnerability, and encouraging an environment of open communication can reduce backtracking and help teams stay focused. 

You can watch the entire conversation below:

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