By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
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We were thrilled this last time to talk to Dan Fantasia, President & CEO of Treeline in an episode called, “Secrets to Successful Sales Recruiting – Best Practices, Pitfalls and More”
It was great this week to talk to Dan Fantasia, President & CEO of Treeline one of the largest sales search firms in the country. I wanted to have him on to talk specifically about recruiting and the hiring market for B2B salespeople right now. Because I feel like every company we’re working with is looking at entire sales reps, of looking to hire inside sales, BDR reps. It continues to be a hot market, and the right candidates, the best candidates continue to be elusive, I would say. Listen in to get his take on the hiring environment right now in the market.
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Matt: Welcome everyone to another random episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. We usually start by talking about the beach drizzle next to Paul out there in Southern California. This is the first official week, it’s the first full week of college football. We finished week zero, which was two or three games. We got many more games coming. By the time some of you listen to us on the podcast feed, many of the games will be over, but I’m excited to be here today.
If you’re listening live on the funnel media radio network, thank you very much for joining us in the middle of your work day. If you are joining us from the podcast feed, thank you so much for joining us. Our numbers continue to grow and very humbled to see the reach that we’re getting with the show and every episode, of course, of Sales Pipeline Radio, past, present, and future is always available at salespipelineradio.com. We, every week, are featuring some of the best and brightest names in B2B sales and marketing. Today is absolutely no different. Very excited to have joining us today, the president of Treeline, Dan Fantasia. Dan, thanks so much for joining us today.
Dan: Thank you for having me. Matt, how are you?
Matt: Doing well, doing very well. So Treeline, one of the largest sales search firms in the country. And I wanted to have you on to talk specifically about recruiting and the hiring market for B2B salespeople right now. Because I feel like every company we’re working with is looking at entire sales reps, of looking to hire inside sales, BDR reps. It continues to be a hot market, and the right candidates, the best candidates continue to be elusive, I would say. I’d be curious to get your take on the hiring environment right now in the market.
Dan: Oh yeah. It’s crazy. It’s crazy busy. Companies are looking to generate revenue, net new revenue, renew revenue and just hit their numbers and overachieve.
Matt: Are you seeing that consistently across levels of hiring? Are you seeing that at the VP level? Are you seeing that it is the SDR level? Are there certain roles that are in greater demand right now?
Dan: I think right now the BDR, so the SDR, BDR and inside sales reps, they’re incredibly hard to find. And the only reason I say that is because, at one point, three, five years ago, we would build a lot of inside sales or SDR-type teams in these high-velocity environments and for most of those environments they were in the technology sector. Now pretty much every other industry that we deal with are all hiring the SDR, BDR inside sales-type of roles pretty much for every industry we represent.
Matt: For those roles, do you find that, for finding the right candidates, are you looking for, is it a compensation package? Is it a culture fit? What are the things that are driving the most successful matches between candidate and employer right now?
Dan: Well, for the SDR and BDR roles, because there’s no proven track record of success, it ends up being one of the most challenging positions to search for because when you’re searching for a talented SDR or a future BDR, you can’t see on their resume where those successes are from past experience. As a result, there’s a substantial amount of heavy lifting because we need to speak with and talk to every single candidate that is considering an opportunity in sales or inquiring about sales opportunities to educate them on exactly what the field looks like, what the job entails, and what their responsibilities will be.
So many times, while we’re educating them, what we’re looking for is where we’re looking for people that have drive, positive attitude, that have grit, that have shown some experiences in their life, whether it be paid for their education, work full-time for college. By the way, it doesn’t have to be Harvard. We’re looking that they have gone to even a mid-level type of school, tends to have excellent sales professionals that work really hard to find success throughout their career, to pay for their education, to be the captain of their baseball team or lacrosse team or volleyball team or what have you. And so we’re looking for those intangibles that identify a personality type that would fit well in the sales industry, basically.
Matt: I would absolutely agree with that. I remember being at a startup a couple jobs ago and one of our best sales reps came to us and didn’t have any sales experience at all. Through the interview process you could tell that he had the attributes to be successful. He was actually an alternate on the US Olympic rowing team back in the day. So he came in and very quickly just outworked and outpaced most of his peers just by being an active learner, having humility, having the work ethic. So I completely agree with you. Is that hard to get employers to understand? Are they look saying it would be safer to hire someone who looks like they’ve already done this or are you finding that more employers are open to finding people that can be successful that are coming from other disciplines?
Dan: It depends. From an SDR and BDR-level, most companies do need just some free consultation to understand, looking at their environment, and the culture they have, what type of up and comer or recent college graduate they could consider. For other companies, for a higher-level enterprise sales rep positions, a lot of our clients are looking for some domain expertise. The challenge is, while we have over 90,000 sales candidates that are in our database and work with hundreds of sales organizations, most of our clients come to us, and they say, “This is exactly what we’re looking for.” So I’m not talking about necessarily the BDR or the SDR, inside sales rep, but the higher-level positions. And for most of those companies, unfortunately, while they say they know exactly what they’re looking for, they typically don’t.
And the reason why they don’t know what they’re looking for is because they just don’t have enough data. They don’t have enough information on the market. They haven’t talked to enough candidates to really understand what it’s going to take to acquire top talent that they’re pursuing. And what I mean by that is as we go to the market, there are a lot of variables. The assumption is, “I work at a great company. Everyone wants to work here. This is the compensation package, and my competition is going to want to work with me.”
But when you really reach out to the market, and you find that five to seven years of experience that have the direct domain experience that you’re looking for, and you realize that every person that Treeline has introduced me to is going to cost me $125,000 more in base salary, and the on-target earning is $50,000 more than we’re anticipating to spend. So now they start looking at that data, they start to realize, wait, there are variables. And, by the way, of the 10 people that work for your competitors, none of them show interest because there’s a brand issue or there’s some challenges with your hiring techniques or what have you.
Or they go through the process, and they get turned off in the interview process. The point being is all of those variables, as good as your company is, all of those variables will affect how your search runs. And as a result, for the companies that hire the best and top sales candidates, they adapt, they change, they look at the data, and then they say, “Okay, maybe seven years of experience is too much because we can’t afford to get that person. So we’re going to have to look at three to five years.” Or, “We clearly need to increase our compensation structure to compete for the talent that we want in today’s economy.” And for those companies that learn and take that data and adapt, they hire excellent sales candidates. For those that say, “It doesn’t matter. I’ve seen 10 candidates. I know none of them want my job,” but keep looking, those companies never seem to get a hire.
Matt: Great advice. Really, really good advice today. Joining us today on Sales Pipeline Radio, Dan Fantasia. He is the president of Treeline, one of the nation’s largest sales recruiting firms. So we’re curious to get your perspective as well on sort of the attributes of a successful sales executive. I think we’ve all seen different profiles of sales leaders. I think you increasingly have sales leaders that are analytical, that are comfortable with CRM, that are comfortable sort of managing the dashboard, managing the pipeline reports that get fed up the food chain. There’s also the old school, I guess, cowboy sales leader, right? Who isn’t as big on the numbers. And some people kind of say this, the basketball coach kind of a mentality. I don’t think it means one is successful, one’s not successful. What I’m curious to hear is what attributes do you see in today’s selling environment most successful with sales leaders?
Dan: Yeah, that’s a good question. So we approach it a little bit differently. There’s no silver bullet, right? There’s no one silver bullet to just give you a quick, easy solution to hiring or the right attributes for your organization. The first thing we try to do is figure out what type of selling environment you have and then we try to align the selling characteristics of our candidates to your environment. So, in other words, if you are looking to build an enterprise sales team and you’re looking for a sales representative with a quota of, let’s say, $2.4 million, we love to ask questions like, “What’s the average sales size?”
If the average sales size is 9 to 12 months or 6 to 12 months with an average sales cycle of two $250,000 to $500,000, then we know that the type of individual that you’re going to be looking for is strategic in nature, that understands how to work on a long sales cycle, that understands and feels of comfortable at a C-level, that can present and understands how to work and put together a large deal. If we’re introducing you to candidates that are more transactionally-driven and that are hungry and maybe they present themselves very well and maybe your company’s looking for a lot of net new business so you think a transactional type of individual is going to work very well, as you start to interview those candidates and as we start to introduce you to them, you’ll find that those characteristics are different than the characteristics that work well and find success in your company.
So if I have a highly-transactional sales person with an average deal size of $10,000 to $30,000 and is used to closing in 30 days to 60 days, no matter how much you like them, when they join your organization, they’re not built for solution-selling sales environments and, as a result, after six months that candidate fails. They either quit or you fire them because they just can’t handle the type of sale, that strategic thought process, that goes into the type of sale that you’re selling.
Vice versa. If you have a highly transactional SAS environment and you’re looking at enterprise individuals or strategic complexity type of sales people, your average deal size is 5,000, their average deal size is 250, once again, they may present very well. They may sell you on why they’re so great and should be part of your organization, but you end up failing with that hire because, again, they quit or you fire them within six months because they can’t handle the activity metrics required to be successful.
Matt: I love that advice and I think that if you are a hiring manager for these kind of roles, I think thinking through this balance between the type of sale you have, the attributes of a successful seller, successful executive, is critically important. My follow-up to that is really around when you get hired or when you’re brought in to do recruiting, how much are you able to, or how much are you almost maybe required to set some of those expectations with the hiring manager? Do they come to you and say, “We know what we want, here’s what we want.” How often do you look at that and sometimes think, “This is a mismatch. This is already not going to work.” How often are you able to provide that level of almost consulting to the company to make sure that you can do your job well and they’ll have a good fit?
Dan: Our best clients, the ones that find the greatest amount of success, take that free consultation. The ones that don’t… And, by the way, everyone says and tells us they’re awesome at hiring, but that’s just not the case. We usually figure out pretty quickly who’s great at it and who’s not and, by the way, there’s a big difference. There’s a huge gap. You can see it crystal clear. We can have one client that hires 10 people in 30 days and we’ve got another client that just can’t even make a hire in nine months.
And so you can see the obvious differences between each one of those clients and, like I said, for the ones that that are open and understand, they find the most success. In some cases we just have to do the search and while we are doing the search, we’re educating them, as we go, on “Here are these five candidates. We know this is the background you’re looking for but, as you can see, this is the compensation structure they require. If you want to interview them, you have to move up on the compensation plan,” and it’s just data points for them to understand what’s happening in the market.
Without that information, without seeing those candidates, without understanding compensation, a lot of times, while companies say, “This is what I want and this is what we’re going to pay,” they really don’t know because they don’t understand the variables in the different markets. They don’t understand the variables in the different industries and so that’s just data they need to figure out and find.
Matt: Love it. We’re going to have a lot more here with Dan Fantasia. He is the president of Treeline, a sales recruiting firm based in Boston. We have to take a quick break and pay some bills. We’ll be right back with more on Sales Pipeline Radio.
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Paul: Okay. We’re back. Sorry, I lost focus there for a moment. But we’re back with Matt Heinz and his guest.
Matt: Thank you so much, Paul. Down here gelling today on Sales Pipeline Radio. We’ve got Dan Fantasia again. He’s the president of Treeline, and Treeline is not only one of the nation’s largest sales recruiting firms. Dan, and this is probably one of the things that I would be most proud of, is being one of the best places to work. You’ve been ranked in Boston as you continue to grow, just a great place to work. Talk about what kind of pride that gives you as the leader of the organization and why that is so important as a priority to really prioritize and maintain that.
Dan: Yeah, that’s a great question. Thanks for bringing it up because it is awesome. We just feel so lucky and it’s so helpful for us. We’re such a dynamic, hard-driving, hard-charging organization. So as you continue to grow, we always find it’s challenging to grow. We grew at 34% last year, so to grow at that rate and also be recognized as one of the best places to work in Boston is awesome. And it feels great. It feels great for everybody.
The reason why it’s so important for us is not only because it’s healthy, but because it helps us recruit. I mean, recruiting is a tough industry. It’s a tough job. And we work really hard on brand awareness and brand identity and brand following. And so we believe in just doing the right thing every day, all the time. And as a result, while sometimes we can be naive and maybe taken advantage of, it has really proven to be very effective for us because we have just a wicked following.
We help our clients hire excellent sales professionals. The sales person’s happy, the client’s happy, and as a result we continue to get and gain more traction and more business. So being a best place to work helps us find people that are genuine just like we are. And it just continues to help with our philosophy. And it’s been very successful for us so far.
Matt: So we talked about hiring SDRs. We talked about hiring sales executives. Talking about hiring a recruiter, because I think, for the uninitiated, there’s many recruiting firms out there that are cross functional. There’s a handful that are focused on hiring specifically into the sales function. I know a couple that are specifically all about marketing B2B marketing executives. How do you recommend hiring managers or companies that look at and evaluate a recruiter? What should they be looking for? What are some red flags that if they see that they should be concerned about? What’s your advice for that?
Dan: Are you talking about a recruiter internally for a corporation that’s looking to hire?
Matt: No. I’m looking for someone who is looking to bring in outside firms such as yours to hire them to help recruit. And it’s specifically because there’s so many different agencies out there and I think it can be difficult for hiring managers to know who to trust. What are some attributes of effective external recruiting firms that you think people should be looking for? And maybe conversely as well, what are some warning signs that people should be looking out for?
Dan: I can only speak from our experience. When we’re working with organizations, at least when we’re first introduced to companies. And the first thing I would recommend is I would definitely work with a company that has a specialty. It’s easy to be a generalist in the recruiting space and take any job that comes up and try to fill the role. But there’s very little commitment. I mean we’re trying to build a sales community. We want to work with kids that are coming out of college and educate them, show them what the sales market looks like, help them find a great home so they can sustain a career and grow a career. And we want to help people move throughout their entire career until they are chief revenue officers. And by doing so, it really builds this very positive, selfless environment that we can all share in.
And so for us it’s more than just making a placement for revenue, it’s about doing the right thing. So when we work with every one of our companies, our first introduction is to figure out what their needs are or what they’re looking to do. And then we are incredibly genuine, honest, upfront. We want to help them and give them as much free advice as we can. So if they are experiencing something, we would make a recommendation or we would say them, “Well, what we’ve seen is this happened in the market and these are the challenges that we see for most companies that are similar to yours.” And most of the time these companies would identify and we’ve been doing this for so long, they’ll identify. We understand their market, we understand their space because we specialize in sales. We know what the challenges are. We know what the comp structure look like.
So when we’re that up front and forward and we help them with a free consultation upfront, what happens is they start to realize how genuine we are and how we’re trying to do the right thing by finding them the right individuals. And then we make sure they understand what services we offer and which service is the best for their needs. And once we’ve done that, if they choose to work with us, we’re happy to help them out. If they don’t choose to work with us, we understand. But our goal is to set those accurate expectations upfront. We’re not trying to sell you, we’re just trying to educate you on the market and what we can do for you. And if you choose us as your partner, we’re happy to take the business.
Matt: I think that sounds good. I think you guys definitely put your money where your mouth is as well. If you check out treelineinc.com. But I’d recommend, for those listening, check out your profile on LinkedIn. You go to linkedin.com/company/treelineinc. Some pretty impressive stuff up here. You clearly invest in educational content and reasons you fail at hiring sales people, how to fix it. Here’s a bunch of, I’m looking at some recruiting templates that actually works, so some really good advice that I think some of your competitors might say, “You’re giving away the farm. You’re giving away all the good stuff. How are you giving this away and not getting paid for it?” But I think just listening to you talk about the value of earning that trust up front makes a lot of sense.
Just a couple more minutes here with our guest today, Dan Fantasia, he’s the president of Treeline. Dan, you’ve been at it for quite a while. I’d love to get your input on who are some of the people that have been influential to you along the way. It can be managers, it could be peers, it could be authors, it could be anybody alive or dead. But who are some people that may have been particularly influential for you that you might recommend others check out as well?
Dan: You can’t check them out, but one is, of course, my dad. He was an entrepreneur and he helped me understand the ups and downs and doing the right thing and working hard. The other individual that really helped me in this particular business in my career, his name is Tony Nutella. He has now since retired but he was a huge influence in my career. He actually really helped build belief, empowerment and understanding and confidence in myself to go get it done and make it happen. So he was an excellent, excellent, mentor.
Matt: Where do you see the market going? I mean, you think things are going to continue to be active for hiring sales reps? I think, from our prospective, things haven’t slowed down at all. But do you see that, as we head into the last home stretch of 2019 into 2020, are you still seeing increasing high demand?
Dan: Right now we are incredibly busy so we’re not seeing anything slow down. But as an early indicator, typically, at least in 2007, 2008, we could see it slow down quickly. We’re not seeing it now. We saw it before others did because we saw a huge amount of sales reps starting to get laid off and calling us and started to see the job recs slowing down. Company’s slowing down on hiring or pausing on hiring. But we’re not seeing that right now. We’re not seeing any slowdown. We’re not seeing any challenges. It’s hard for me to predict the future, but I can tell you right now we’re feeling pretty good.
Matt: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, I want to thank our guest again today, Dan Fantasia, for joining us, talking a little bit about sales recruiting. I got some really good advice, Paul, on attributes to look fo, thinking beyond just whether they’ve hit their number. But in in many ways just making sure they’re doing it the right way, making sure you’re finding people that have the attributes of tenacity and endurance and hard work and resilience that is required for sales professionals at every level. So thank you, Dan, for that great advice.
If you’d like to hear this again and capture more of his great advice today and if you’d like to share this episode with some of your peers, you’ll find it at salespipelineradio.com in a couple of days. And as always we’ll have a transcript, an edited transcript of this conversation up at heinzmarketing.com in about a week. More great stuff coming up as we get into September. It’s the last month of Q3. We’re officially into fall now that we’re getting past Labor Day next week.
Speaking of hiring, we’re going to feature someone who’s on the front lines. We’re going to feature a business development representative from a Seattle-based startup that is doing the hard work of setting appointments, qualifying leads and talk about what that role is like. So definitely join us next week and for our next episode. But for today, on behalf of my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thank you for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.
Sales Pipeline Radio is sponsored and produced by Heinz Marketing on the Funnel Radio Channel. I interview the best and brightest minds in sales and Marketing. If you would like to be a guest on Sales Pipeline Radio send an email to Sheena.