5 Insider Tips to Recruit Top Sales Candidates

By Tim Peters, MBA
Vice-President of Marketing at Ideal Candidate
AceTech Ontario Executive Member


Job applicants think they have it hard. But anyone looking to grow their sales team knows they also have to put in a tremendous amount of effort to attract, evaluate and hire top sales talent. The perfect candidates that can build strong, trusting relationships and sell your company effortlessly are hard to come by, especially when you don’t have a coherent plan in place.

Candidates in the interview room can range from nervous to overly-excited, and assessing a quality applicant at first sight can be extremely difficult.  To get you on the right track, here are 5 insider tips to help you find those sales people who will help you crush your team quota in 2016:

Have a Strategy

When should you start recruiting? The answer is always! Once you need a sales person… that’s when you’re in trouble. Recruiting should be an everyday activity and there are several ways to accomplish daily recruiting. Establish a consistent hiring mentality with your current sales team. You would not believe how many amazing candidates can come as referrals from your already established sales team. Give an incentive for hired referrals and you will never be in want of a new resume to review.

Phone Screen Before

This pre-interview step can save time and energy when it comes to interviewing potential candidates. Phone screens (done by yourself or a recruiting agency) can give a company more in depth knowledge about a potential candidate. Resumes do not tell the whole story like personality and ease of communication. Set up a 15-20 minute phone screen to allow time for an applicant to tell you more about themselves and ask questions.

Have Them at “Hello”

“Hello.” It’s a simple greeting, but you can identify a quality candidate by their response to it. Sales are built around conversation and personality. In most cases a candidate should be able to greet and build rapport effortlessly without the interviewer pushing for a conversation. If they can’t sell themselves, what can they sell? By being aware of how a candidate responds to your greeting, you can identify who has natural talent for conversation and ultimately, success on your sales team.

Ask Them THE Question

Ask what motivates them. Is it the compensation? The challenge? The people? Successful sales representatives have internal motivation that challenges them to be the best at what they do. Finding an applicant that can coherently identify what drives them will help you find self-motivated talent and give you ways to retain them. The biggest difficulty in hitting sales targets can often be employee turnover, so asking THE question can help you find amazing talent and keep it.

Check the Data

Gut feelings should be considered when it comes to interviewing, but the data tells all.  Modern recruiting agencies like Ideal Candidate utilize the science of psychometric assessments to identify candidate strengths and then match them to companies where they will be most successful (all while streamlining the recruitment process for the organization looking to hire). “Often, recruiters have completely missed the mark on matching potential employees to our corporate culture,” says Philip Gude, Director of Sales at Bonitasoft, a global technology company. Human error is real, and there is no excuse to not be incorporating data into your recruitment process.

Recruiting top talent for your sales team will not always go smoothly, but with the right tools, and with a data-based approach –  you can dramatically increase your odds of building  a successful sales team in 2016.


Less is More: Successful Request for Proposals (RFPs) Yearn for Detail and Polish


“One person looked at our RFP and was firmly against signing with us, but I guess somebody else in the office liked what we did and eventually overruled him. They were originally only going to short-list three companies, but they actually short-listed four – we snuck in the running.

At the end of it, we got the job. So I called to do our usual debrief and I got the whole story about us being rejected at first. The person said he didn’t like that all our websites on our showcase were blue… I was surprised, I saw this as a very small thing. It goes to show how anything can be the reason you get rejected.”

These are the smiling words of Senior Director Padraig O’Shea, who for over six years has called West Corporation his pride and joy. On that day he so acutely recalls, O’Shea learned something he would never forget – every little detail matters in client acquisition.

“Needless to say, we don’t use those websites together in our RFPs anymore.”

O’Shea has many client wins under his belt at West Corporation, but not before getting a real handle on the art of the RFP. It took nearly four years of trial and error to get to where he stands today. O’Shea’s first advice is to know the process in and out.

What is an RFP and How Does It Work?

So pretend for a second that you are extremely hungry. The grocery store is closed and there is no food in the house – it’s time to order take out. Thank goodness you have been saving those flyers you got last Thursday in the mail. Pizza Hut, Harvey’s, KFC, that new Indian place down the road – each business personally sent you a detailed document of what they can offer (the food you so desperately want). This time, it’s a very welcome form of solicitation.

These flyers are essentially RFPs, and just like the flyers, each RFP is considered among the others before one is finally chosen. The RFP is an extremely important part of sales today. Often times, it can be that all important first impression – it’s not to be taken lightly, says O’Shea.

As such, O’Shea offers his advice in writing the successful first impression:

More People, Less RFPs, More detail – It Works

“Generally what we do is we look at how many RFPs we source per month and try to increase that number. We also make sure we have the appropriate staff to write as many writeable RFPs as we source.”

“There was a time when we tried to send a high volume of RFPs with very limited staff. We waited to see how often we got selected or short-listed. Eventually we doubled our staff and wrote half as many RFPs per person. We wanted to spend a lot of time making sure each RFP was written extremely well. We found that through this we did a lot better with positive response.”

Get the Scoop

“People are stringent and they very easily disqualify you. It’s best to make sure you never get disqualified – that will send you to the short list much more often.”

“And anytime we are not short-listed, we always follow up with a call and find out why – sometimes you can be given another chance. In any case, you can improve for next time.”

Should I hire a COO or CFO?


Contribution by Friend of AceTech  of SurePath Capital Partners

Venturebeat declared in an article yesterday that “The CFO is dead, long live the COO”. The premise of this piece, written by a CFO, was that today’s CFOs are intimately involved in growing their businesses. Rather, than just reporting on historical results, they are a key partner working across the company to promote better strategies and decisions, leveraging current, real time data, not just histocial financials.

All of this is true, but there is a big difference in my books between an actual COO and a CFO who happens to be adding value across the business. The COO is ACCOUNTABLE for those results. She will have P/L responsibility and will be managing a large team that is directly tasked with delivering those results.

If you’re just supporting the delivery of those results with insights and analysis, then you’re not a COO.

The question that comes up in this then is what should you hire when? When do you need a CFO and when do you need a COO?

When should I hire a CFO?

I have a pretty simple framework for when to hire a CFO:

  • Seed stage: Have an advisor or investor with this experience
  • Series A: Hire a part time CFO
  • Series B: Go full time

There’s a lot more to think about when it comes to hiring a great CFO. Check out my talk on the High Performance CFO here.

When should I hire a COO?

A great many companies never hire a COO. So the answer here is not as obvious. If you look at companies that do have them you tend to see a common pattern: a founding CEO with a functional specialty who has hired  a right hand to take care of the stuff that the founder doesn’t want to manage directly.

Facebook illustrates this well. Zuckerberg is a technical, product-focused founder. So, he hired a COO  early on to drive sales and operations. There are many more examples of this.

If you’re always on the road bringing in deals or if you are in the office but want to go deep on a particular function, like product, then it probably makes sense to hire a COO.

Unlike the CFO role, COO is not something that can be done part time. So, I would not really think about COO until Series B. Once you’re into scaling mode, that’s the time.

If you’re interested in this role, there is a great book on the subject: Riding Shotgun.

Getting Started

At the early stages, you don’t need all those fancy C level titles running around. The fact is your first finance or Operations hire will likely be neither a CFO or COO. Instead, this person will head of finance or Ops position. This person will be doing everything from annual budgets to ordering computers and chairs for new hires.

Hold off on the fancy titles until you hit scaling mode.

Burning CTO Questions Answered By 20-Year Industry Veteran


So we’ve entered 2016, 16 years after the millennium and four years after the presumed end of the world (Thanks Mayans – now what am I going to do with all those cans of tomato soup?). Yes, we live in an exciting time. You can give Maria at the office those files she’s been asking for while chatting with LeBron James, all in the comfort of your queen-sized bed.

Much of what we do and what we purchase can be done before our first cup of coffee. Have no clean clothes? Having a bad hair day? Fear not! It’s 2016, and as long as you have a computer, you probably won’t need to leave your house.

This reality has exponentially increased the demand for software developers over that last decade. Technology leaders are churning out software solutions faster than you can say “app.”

That brings us to the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). How important is this position? Well, for a technology-heavy company, it very well could be the most important executive roll. The CTO has to answer the question of future. How do we stay relevant? How do we stay ahead of the technology game? How are we going to win the innovation race? How on earth are we going to get this done on time? This is all on the CTO’s shoulders.

Warren Gedge

Warren Gedge, CTO of Resolver Inc. has been at the software development game since 1997, and over his 19-year journey, he’s been a part of the growth and development of nearly a dozen companies. As a result, we asked Gedge a few burning questions that are challenging many CTOs today…



How do you as the CTO come to a decision with your software? What advice do you have for those who are facing a roadblock or having a hard time developing a strategy?

“I find that most companies or most CTOs are followers and I don’t think they actually listen to what the consumer is doing or watch where the market is going. But if you focus on keeping customers happy and finding out what they actually need versus what your competitors or doing, then you can bring yourself ahead of the crowd and make some real innovation.”

“It starts at the customer and it comes down to what can you do with the data, what can you do with the customer, and what do they really need and want? Not just today, but beyond.”

“If you do market research, you are going to follow somebody and following somebody isn’t going to help you achieve what you want to do, but by doing customer research, you can beet the pack.”

How do you manage and monitor your team? What advice can you offer someone who is struggling with management?

“I find that most companies like to ram in Scrum and Agile. Scrums are not supposed to be deadline driven, they are supposed to allow for communication. So typically what I’ve done is take my team from scrum to Kanban.

With Kanban, you can hold people to their word. It’s not time based, it’s word based and that allows you to give your employees pride and allows you to give a measureable deliverable that you can actually tie your employees to.”

In a time when software developers are in higher demand than ever, how do you retain ‘superstar’ employees?

“I’ve never had that problem. I have people leave their companies to come work for us.”

“I don’t look after just the superstars, I looks after the whole staff and I run with transparency and respect – I give people a say. I don’t believe in a hierarchal structure, we have more of an ‘everyone plays a part in our machine and we all need the machine to move forward to keep the customer happy.'”

“I don’t think it’s a good thing to try to retain the context of fear, it’s better to think ‘how do I make my employees feel valued?’

What has been your biggest triumph with Resolver Inc. and how do you attribute that?

“I don’t know if I can call it a triumph… Our revenues are growing, our customers are giving us more money and they are smiling more, hungry for more.”

“I like to see our customers happy, I like to see them smile. I don’t think the customer is always right, but they should generally like what they are doing.”

“Too many people hear but they don’t listen, or they listen but they don’t apply. Customers don’t want to be told what to do, they want to be listened to.”

What’s your biggest advice for a young / new CTO?

“Hire thinkers, be transparent with them and work with them to move things forward.”

Is your Revenue Model accurate?

15614101_sContribution by Friend of AceTech  of SurePath Capital Partners

We specialize in 3 sectors at SurePath: SaaS, E-Commerce and Marketplaces. The commonality across these segments is that they are all data-driven. Companies in these segments have lots of knobs and levers that they can twist and turn to optimize and grow.

In this post, I’d like to show you the first of three simple tests to ensure that your SaaS Pro Forma Model is solid. I’ll do the same thing for E-com and Marketplace businesses in future posts.

Test #1: Your Historical Funnel

It’s pretty easy to forecast expenses. The magic is forecasting revenue. If your SaaS business targets SMB, then you likely generate new revenue through a large marketing/ freemium funnel. If you run an enterprise SaaS business then you probably grow new revenue through an inside sales machine.

In either case you have some conversion funnel for how you acquire new revenue. And of course, you have a retention assumption (1/ churn rate) for how much of your existing revenue you keep.

The easiest way to test your revenue model is to run historical data through it and see how closely it aligns with the actual revenues that you generated in those months.


i. New Revenue:

Take your last 12 months of funnel data and plug it into your model.

Many businesses have some seasonality (i.e. August and December are typically low months), so make sure that you line up January from last year with January this year in your model, and so on.

Update your assumptions (key drivers in a model should always be on a separate and easy to update assumptions tab) to show the conversion rates that you experienced last year.

Running last year’s traffic with the related conversion rates, ARPU and other key assumptions should replicate the new revenue you added last year.

ii. Retained Revenue

Plug in your opening customer count from last year in the model. Update your churn and ARPU, upsell and other key assumptions for last year’s. This should spit out the revenue you retained.

Add i. and ii. together and compare with your actual results.

If this works, then you know that you have an accurate revenue model. Keep this analysis handy. Your current board and future investors (especially them) will be able to use this analysis to confirm that your model is a good one.

Now that you have a good working revenue model, you can plug in this year’s data and forecast revenue with as much accuracy as possible.