Building v Billing: How to grow maintain a sales target whilst growing a sales team

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Being a sales leader isn’t what you think it is when you’re an individual contributor. Before I became a sales leader, I was unaware that in many roles you actually stop selling. 

Instead, your days become filled with everything except actual selling. Your calendar is packed with obligations from reporting to the board, developing strategy, and all the other non-sales responsibilities that are now part of your remit. Your team constantly needs your help with things and there’s always fires to put out.

But you’re a sales leader. And sales targets must be hit.

Headcount in budget = headcount on targets

Once you get to grips with your sales target, and your non-direct selling commitments, you need to understand that headcount in your budget means additional targets in your budget.

For example, let’s say in January you get approved to hire someone new starting in March, with the expectation that they’ll be fully ramped up and contributing by April/May. You need to be fully aware that you’ll be on the hook to deliver bigger numbers starting in May to account for the additional headcount. 

Therefore, it’s crucial to hit your targets, build repeatable processes, and make hiring decisions based on when you’ll need to deliver those bigger numbers. This is really hard as a sales leader because you have limited time and might have limited options with the methods of hiring. Posting a job on LinkedIn, using an internal talent team, or partnering with a recruitment company all have their pros and cons. But choosing the right method could be the difference to hitting your targets or not.

The hiring process

The opportunity cost of miss-hiring is massive. Successful sales leaders need strong sales teams so getting your recruitment right is pivotal. But how much time should it take?

  • Reviewing countless CVs is a waste of your time
  • Meeting candidates who lack qualifications is an even greater waste of time. 

If you meet five under qualified people, that’s five hours of face-time plus prep work to review their resumes and provide feedback. 

This distracts from building an effective team. Whatever method you use to hire talent, your recruitment process needs efficiency to meet targets without sacrificing candidate quality.

Hiring’s impact on targets

Like most things, I learnt the hard way. I was working for a seed-stage company with £500k ARR and had just raised £1m and had brought me in as their first sales leader to build out the sales team.

I thought my role as sales leader was to lead from the front in the hiring process. I was using three recruitment companies, which duplicated my efforts rather than saved me time. I was reviewing CVs, doing phone interviews, and face-to-face meetings. I thought I was leading by example. I believed that the more ground I covered the more accurate I could be in hiring the best people. 

I was wrong. Very wrong. It was a complete time train and a very inefficient way of working. It was time I simply didn’t have. 

The founder will always ask about how you’ve spent your time, and what it’s resulted in. It doesn’t always have to be immediate sales, but it should be efficient and productive. Your time is accountable and must be justified since as a sales leader you are likely the highest paid person at the company, more often than not at an early stage business, even more than the founder. 

Therefore, you need to validate spending 10 hours interviewing candidates that weren’t a good fit for example. To improve this, establish a strict framework to meet with the fewest, yet most qualified candidates, so you can focus on executing your job and only interview the very best applicants. This could involve better training with the talent acquisition team on tighter criteria, or providing clearer feedback to the recruitment firm that you want quality over quantity and very specific qualifications. 

Overall, the goal is to have rigid criteria in place from the start to ensure you meet with the smallest number of extremely qualified candidates. Giving you the time you need to focus on achieving the sales target.

Opportunity cost

As a sales leader, you want to maximise your time on high-impact activities that will move the needle for your business. However, it’s easy to get bogged down interviewing, screening, and hiring people, which can take 15-20 hours per month. That time could be better spent closing deals and generating revenue. The opportunity cost of spending your time in the wrong places is huge.

Be selfish about protecting your time for high-leverage activities. At each month’s review, justify how you spent your time and show the plan for building an efficient team so you can focus on sales. I learned this lesson the hard way and got fired as a sales leader by trying to cut corners and do everything myself. Protect your time, justify how you spend it, and build processes to hire people so you can devote your energy to moving the needle on sales.

And if you only take one thing away from this article it should be this. Opportunity cost.

There is always an opportunity cost associated with your time as a sales leader. Sales leaders in the UK typically earn a base salary between 100,000 and 300,000 pounds, with additional commission that can double their total earnings into the multiple hundreds of thousands. 

As someone earning a high salary, you need to consider the value of your time when weighing different options and priorities. Many sales leaders I work with consistently underestimate the opportunity cost of how they spend their time. You only have a certain amount of hours in the week, and only have a certain amount of weeks to make an impact or hit that target. Use your team to build processes that drive repeatability. Because it’s that repeatability that will ensure you hit those targets in the short, medium and long term. 

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