Sales Hiring: Why You May Have Already Missed Your Revenue Target

January 15, 2017
Guest Post
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As a sales leader, you have many responsibilities: Hiring, ramping, reporting, forecasting, and training are some of the many. But the one responsibility that trumps all others is hitting your number.

So, what if your 2017 sales force planning, already has you missing your revenue target this year?

Why sales headcount might keep you from hitting your number.

What many sales leaders may not account for is the need to over-hire in the beginning of their fiscal year (often January / February), in order to provide enough coverage to hit revenue targets. Here’s why:

  1. Sales rep ramp time & training. All sales reps, no matter how experienced, need time to learn your product, sales process, and market. In fact, most companies allow for between 3 to 6 months of “ramp time” before reps are required to carry a full quota. So, even if you hire 10 sales reps in January, you might not be able to count on 100% quota contribution until June -- depending on your sales cycle.
  2. Involuntary departures. Not every sales rep on your team is going to make it, even if you have a solid recruiting process and develop tight candidate personas. In fact, plan on at least 14% of all of your reps to have involuntary departures this year, according to Forbes.
  3. Voluntary departures. You’ll also need to account for 10% of your team to turn over for new opportunities and greener pastures (Forbes). This means that unless you’re bucking the norm, you’ll lose a quarter of your team annually, even in the best of times.
  4. Reps aren’t hitting 100%. Even with the best product and training, setting quota is not always an exact science. And since there’s a good chance you were handed your number from the top-down, your team may have also inherited lofty quotas to hit unrealistic business goals. Without every sales rep hitting 100% each month, you might quickly find yourself in a hole you can’t dig out of.

Why hire in January and February?

The good news is that it’s not too late to get ahead: The beginning of the year is also the best time to hire new sales reps. Here's why:

  1. Sales reps are looking for new roles, voluntarily. Just like you may have had reps leave on January 1st to find greener pastures, some sales reps will be looking for a new challenge, industry, or product to break into. Keep an eye out for sales reps with great track records and references, who are interested in trying something new.
  2. Sales reps are looking for new roles, involuntarily. Everyone fails at something in their career (otherwise they’re not trying hard enough), and at the end of December, reps who weren’t cutting it elsewhere, may have been removed from their teams. Just because a rep didn’t succeed in one sales role (e.g. highly transactional) doesn’t mean that they won’t succeed in another (enterprise, relationship building). Obviously, do your homework to understand why their employer “set them free” and where they need to grow, but don’t shy away from this class of recently mobile sales reps.
  3. A new influx of December grads. While campus recruiting can’t solve every sales hiring problem, college graduates can be a great addition to your business development efforts. And while graduates traditionally don their caps (and start their job search) in the late spring, many students graduate “off-cycle” in December and will look for their first job in the New Year. Hiring and training these hungry grads in January, who don’t have any “bad habits” from years in the workforce, might be just what you need to jumpstart your business development efforts (and help someone start a career in sales).
  4. New year, new career. Just as many of us have made personal resolutions, January is a time to make career resolutions as well, especially for those who crave personal and financial independence. Open your recruiters and your process to job-seekers who haven’t sold: Especially those who have held business roles before like finance, operations, and marketing).
  5. Sales kickoff. Most sales teams that operate on the standard calendar, have team-wide meetings, or Kick Offs, early in the year to align goals, motivate the team, and train. By hiring sales reps in January and February, you can often bring on new hires just in time for the kickoff. Or, consider recording it, so that new employees can review sales goals and training sessions when they join. They’ll start 2017 off on the same foot as even the veterans on your team!

Get ahead of the competition.

The one downside to hiring early in 2017 is that the competition will be, too. The real spike begins in February, however, when interest in recruiting reaches its annual high point.

February Recruiting Spike

Get ahead of other sales teams and open job reqs by getting aligned with your recruiter and bringing in new candidates now. If you haven’t already:

  1. Create your ideal candidate persona
  2. Draw up a candidate scorecard for each interview
  3. Work with your hiring team to set expectations

Your fast action could be the difference between winning top sales talent or fighting an uphill battle to hire and train for the rest of 2017.

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