Architecting Your GTM Motion: Part 2

How to set-up your interview process


“It’s so hard to hire salespeople...they all interview so well!” - every early stage founder

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the profile of the first salesperson you should hire for your startup. Before you can determine the profile of the person, you need to decide whether your sales motion will be a solution sale or technical sale. Once we know the ideal sales motion, we can determine the profile we want to hire and begin sourcing and interviewing target candidates. 

In Part 2, you’ll learn everything you need to know about setting up the right interview process for your business. In order to get a new perspective we’ve collected additional input from our good friends, Carina Brockl and Julio Bermudez. Carina is currently the VP of Commercial Sales at Box, and has built high performing technology sales teams at scale. Julio, is the VP of APAC and LATAM at Amplitude where he has built solutions sales teams globally. Both Carina and Julio have interviewed thousands of sellers in their tenure, and in this post they share their favorite interview projects that they use to fully feel confident in their vetting process. 

Let's get started with making sure you and the team are aligned. 

Questions to ask yourself and your team before beginning the hiring process

As a startup, you don’t have the same financial resources as the big companies have to attract talent. One of the easiest ways to stand out is to provide an incredible interview experience that blows candidates away. You’d be surprised how many companies mess this up by not preparing for an interview with well-informed and thought-provoking questions, setting wrong expectations, not getting back to candidates in a timely manner, or being way-off on compensation levels. 

In order to stand out, it’s important to streamline the interview process before candidate sourcing begins. To prepare, you should consider the following questions: 

  • Who will be on the interview panel? Do they know what questions they should ask? 

  • What values do we want the candidate to have?

  • Are we asking the right questions to get the best candidate for the job we are hiring for today?

  • How long do we want the process to take from the initial interview to offer acceptance?

  • What is the compensation package and quota?

  • How long will their ramp be? 

  • How do we plan to onboard them?

Once we have the answers to the above questions, sit down with the interview panel and set expectations with everyone. Once that is set, you and your team should be aligned and ready to discuss team values. 

GTM team values 

If you don’t already have company or team values, that’s ok since many don’t at this stage. But once you have a sales person (or people) representing your business, it’s important to have some guiding principles for how you want them to act internally (with colleagues) and externally (with prospects and customers) and that’s where values are pivotal. Your values need to take the lead. 

To get some ideas flowing, here are a few values that we hold in high esteem: 

  • Diversity 

  • Creative problem solving 

  • Open communication 

  • Receptive to feedback

  • Team players who empower each other

  • Holistic understanding, i.e., the better the business, the betterment for all

  • Strong work ethic

  • Positivity

  • High integrity  

  • Makes business decisions by putting the customer first, then the business, then themselves

Once you name your values, we’ll be in a great position to build out the interview structure that we will be able to use, not only for this hire, but for all hires within the GTM organization moving forward.

Structuring your interview process 

Every company is different so this isn’t a one-size-fits-all structure.  As well, no matter the seniority of this hire, it’s important to be thorough. The structure below offers you and the team enough opportunities to vet the candidate as a professional and as a human. We also get a few tips from Carina and Julio about which projects are their favorite to ensure they fully vet the candidates one last time before making an offer. (Always remember, time kills deals - and interview processes - so this process from end to end should take no longer than 2 weeks per candidate.)

  • Stage 1: 30 Minute Phone Screen- w/ Direct Manager

-If the candidate seems like a great fit, you can let them know on the call or via email (no more than 24hrs later). When telling them the good news, make sure to tell them next steps and what to expect. 

-If the candidate does not make the cut, make that clear on the call and provide feedback, or tell them after via email (24hrs) with feedback.  Always provide feedback! 

  • Stage 2: Small Project: 

    • Example: Have the candidate watch a recording of a demo, take notes, and send you a recap of the call in a follow-up email. 

-If the candidate passed, quickly set up a time to come onsite. 

-If the candidate does not make the cut, the same holds true as above.  Feedback required! 

  • Stage 3: Onsite interview (three- 45-60 minute Interviews w/IC’s/founders and one -60 min w/ hiring manager focused on different criteria that allows your team to get an understanding of the candidates skills, values, and culture fit): 

    • Individual Contributor/founder/manager (45-60min)

    • Individual Contributor/founder/manager (45-60min)

    • Individual Contributor/founder/manager (45-60min)

    • Hiring Manager (60min)

After the first onsite interview

Following the first onsite interview, each interviewer puts their feedback in the Applicant Tracking Software before talking to each other. We recommend scoring on a scale of 1-4 and adding notes as to why they chose that score ahead of the team talking about the results. Below is what the scale means:

  1. I will fight for this person not to be hired 

  2. I don’t want them to be hired but I won’t lose sleep if they are 

  3. I want them to be hired but I won’t lose sleep if they aren’t

  4. I will fight for this person to be hired 

Once all the scores are in the ATS, the team should meet the same day or first thing the next morning to review the feedback and determine if the candidate should progress.  

Here’s a few pieces of advice for when you meet as a team to provide feedback:

  1. CEO/co-founder goes last. This way all others feel comfortable sharing their feedback. 

  2. When hiring your first salesperson, you want a minimum of two 4’s. 

-If the candidate passed, the hiring manager calls them to congratulate them (24hrs or same day) and tell them about the final presentation. Manager to send presentation criteria. 

-If the candidate does not make the cut, manager calls and provides feedback (24hrs)...always over the phone

  • Stage 4: Presentation (60 min)- examples from Carina and Julio

  • Carina’s favorite interview presentation format is to get the candidate to think critically about how they plan (logical path) to get to their quota. She provides the interviewee five variables: 

  1. Quota 

  2. ACV

  3. Sales cycle duration

  4. Inbound / outbound ratio

  5. Win rate 

Once the candidate is provided the above numbers, they are asked to present a logical path to achieve their quota. 

The goal of this simple exercise is to analyze how the interviewee prepares, asks additional questions, style and optics of presentation, and most importantly is the interviewee capable to logically break down how they will achieve their goal. Great candidates showcase a model down to the number of calls, demos, discovery calls, and emails per day. They will include partnerships, SDRs and other cross-functional teams. They understand that out-bounding is a constant in a sales role and also communicate clearly during their presentation.

  • Julio’s favorite interview presentation format is having the candidates run a simulated sales meeting; either selling the candidate’s current product, or the product of the company where they are applying. What Julio is looking for here is the following: 

    • How the candidate sets the agenda and expectations of the meeting

    • The questions the candidate asks and if they layer the questions 

    • How the candidate uses the answers to the questions they asked to run the meeting and drive next steps 

    • How they quantify impact 

    • How they drive next steps 

    • Do they include everyone in the room and speak to each person about what they care about

Once we have the structure of the interview process, we can then think about the questions we want to ask the candidates in order to best vet them. In the Part 3 of this series we will do a deep dive into both Julio and Carina's favorite questions, and what traits they look for in a technology and solutions sales person.