Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

5 tips on filtering sales resumes for a startup

This post first appeared in this morning.

Most entrepreneurs & founders will admit that hiring for startups tends to be among the top 3 most challenging tasks. The problem of hiring sales people is more acute in India given that “startup ready” and “risk ready” employees are far and few between. In the initial stages of most startups you tend to hire people with some experience or connections, because they need to get up and running quickly.

The most difficult part of the hiring process I have personally seen in India is the resume (CV) screening process.

Our process at Jivity is similar to most companies. We aggressively try to hire from our network, but that’s often insufficient. I personally believe that most (if not all) resumes are written by only one person in India. After that they are all “copy and paste” or “R&D” – rob and duplicate.

The most important part of the resume filtering process first is to understand the type of sales person you want to hire. Depending on the stage of your company, hire the right person for the role.

There are 3 types of sales people according to me: hustlers, relationship sellers, and process junkies.

Hustlers will get you deals, but not necessarily ones that fit your product or service 100%.

Relationship sales professionals have a good rolodex, but will need a “technical sales consultant” to explain the “details”.

Process junkies are best when you have figured out your sales process, but not great at coming up with new types of customers or new uses of your solution for adjacent markets.

Most companies need to hire hustlers early, then hire relationship sellers and finally at a more mature level, hire process folks.

Here are some of my quick tips for filtering sales resumes if you are hiring for technology startups:

  1. I look for specific and measurable achievements, not a list of activities in a sales resume. That means I will put aside all resumes that say generic things like “generated leads”, “was responsible for many customers”, etc. Instead I look for 3-5 metrics – how much was their target, (you can ask them what was the average selling price of the products they sold during the phone interview if you want to get a sense of their productivity), how many customer (actual number) they sold to over what period of time, what was the level (title) of the person they sold to, in which industries, etc.
  2. Hustlers don’t write professional resumes that are easy to read. They are typically first to find you at events and are willing to introduce themselves. Typically hustlers will stay at a company for 1-2 years max. After that either the company gets too boring for them or they are looking for a more challenging sales position. If you find sentences that say – “was the only sales person at the company”, or “the first BD (business development) resource at the company” or “started a new office in the region” or “landed the first 5 customers” then you are most likely looking at a hustler resume.
  3. Relationship seller resumes will typically have a long tenure in one industry or a location, and (in my experience) will typically have worked at minimum of 2 direct competitors. If the resume includes names of specific accounts (customer names) and specific titles they sold to, then you are looking at a relationship sales person’s resume. Typically the tenure at the company along with the combination of the title of their customer will give you a sense of their breadth and depth of relationship. These people will typically have built a relationship for long enough to help them sell to multiple levels and functional organizations (IT, business, finance, procurement, etc.)
  4. A process-oriented sales person’s resume will typically have a couple of switches from selling to one function (selling to IT vs. business) or type of solution (product vs. services) or ticket size (few big vs. many small). If you find achievements such as “responsible for 3 existing customers and added 4 new customers” you are looking at a process person’s resume. Other things that you will find in a process person’s resume include a listing of many sales methodologies – Spin selling, Target account selling or Complex sale process and a list of courses on negotiation or other management programs they have attended.
  5. Here’s a trick that eliminates many bad sales people. Don’t go by resumes alone. Give them an assignment during the screening call. Ask them to come prepared to present their first 30 day activity plan and their first 15 target customers, customer’s title and make them go over the list of steps and throw a few objections that you believe you have heard from customers which they might have to respond to.

Most companies tend to hire from competitors directly first (if you are in a mature market) or from larger companies in the industry (if you are a disruptive company in an existing space). I personally look for neither. For good sales people in India, I have preferred to hire from smaller companies from other industries where there the value proposition of working for a technology startup is more appealing.

Entrepreneurship is underrated

This post originally appeared at VCCircle on Sep 25h.

Speaking at student entrepreneurship event this week, I got a chance to talk to a few investors on the sidelines. They were observing that entrepreneurship is the “cool thing now among students” and they were skeptical that it would last. They also mentioned that they were disturbed by the hype generated by the press and media on the few successes versus the swathes of companies that were the walking dead. I was thinking to myself that they have a valid point but then realized I was buying into the spin myself.

Entrepreneurship is vastly underrated – everywhere in the world, including in Silicon Valley.

I don’t say this because entrepreneurs create jobs – employees at bigger companies create jobs as well. Neither do I think entrepreneurs necessarily create a lot more value than their counterparts at larger companies (there are exceptions). I also don’t believe entrepreneurs create a lot more wealth than their counterparts at bigger companies. In fact entrepreneurs create wealth for a limited few (venture investors) than employees at larger companies (retail investors).

I say this because entrepreneurs are optimists. Employees’ at large companies are realists.

Realists know that they have constraints (student loan, aging parents, mortgage, etc) and work to optimize their constraints. It’s a much needed skill and a hugely valuable one.

The world needs more optimists at this point.

An entrepreneur’s optimism is infectious. She envelopes you with her obsession for the problem she’s trying to solve. She speaks with the eloquence of a seasoned televangelist and the passion of Russian gym coach trying to urge her prized student to over perform.

The entrepreneur’s optimism is all encompassing. The hurdles she faces daily including lack of connections, lack of credibility or even the inability to meet payroll don’t deter her. Her optimism overwhelms her outlook towards the daunting problems we mortals face daily.

The entrepreneur’s optimism is never ending. She knows (possibly) at the back of her mind that the odds are stacked against her. That’s what makes her admirable – she does not care. As far as she’s concerned, she’s not giving up, either today, tomorrow or when gas prices hit $200 per gallon.

P.S: I always use She instead of He in my posts – its interchangeable for all practical purposes

Essays on the Indian psyche: The “Value for money” conundrum or “More is more”

I met an entrepreneur over breakfast the other day, who is trying to address the luxury needs of the Indian consumer. His company offers high-end metal (not gold or silver) based gifts. The luxury market in India is a very strange one. It’s always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Every year is the “year of luxury” and the beginning of the “inflection point” in luxury goods. Although many luxury vendors are starting to show interest in the Indian local market, they realize most luxury bought by Indians is purchased abroad. It’s not uncommon to hear the intense preference for “value for money” in all products and services, even in the high-end of the market, and I could relate to his experiences. I have seen this consistently in our engagement with senior leaders at various organizations.

I was talking to a fairly large multi-national marketing executive whose bank recently inaugurated their new 50,000 sq. ft. campus. To commemorate the building they decided to make mini-replicas of the building and give it away to every one of their employees at the new facility. They had done a similar piece at their US office, and it was apparently well received by their employees. The cost per piece was about Rs. 2000. The piece would retain nearly 70% of its value if made from the metal that we proposed from our partner. So we recommended that option.

After weeks of deliberation and many discussions with their facilities team and employees, they decided to look at alternative options. The main reason was their Indian employees were not appreciative of the “free” gift they were going to receive.

I had the opportunity also to talk to their senior HR executive who was trying to put together the alternative giveaway for about 2500 employees. This is a typical offshore unit of any large company, with average salaries in the 4L – 6L per year range. Many of their executives consistently make over 20L per year, and there are about 200 of them. The main feedback she got from her employees, was that they felt preferred many inexpensive gifts rather than one expensive one.

After a few weeks they finally settled: Quantity versus quality was the way to go. They decided that they got enough feedback from employees to purchase a T-shirt for Rs. 500 (printed with the façade of the building on the front).  They also hosted a catered lunch over a Friday evening (which would cost them about Rs. 500 per employee). Finally the employees were given a gift voucher to spend at a local mall for Rs. 1000.

I could understand, since most of their employees were young, their preference for a “memento” was lower than those that they perceived to be fun. But the HR executive mentioned in our discussion that most of the rank-and-file employees were not asked for feedback. This was the request from their senior leadership team. The leadership team even shot down the idea of putting together a commemorative trophy for the Rs. 1000 and instead opted for the gift voucher from the mall. She knew it would not necessarily bring long-term-loyalty for the company, but the leadership team felt that long term loyalty was overrated. None of the employees, they felt would feel any different or have more engagement with either the company or the building thanks to the trophy.