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"Smarter Sales Recruiting" with Troy Kanter

The Selling Excellence Podcast: Episode 6

On this episode, Troy Kanter joins Tim to discuss recruiting sales talent in today’s competitive environment. Troy is the Co-Founder and CEO of AuctusIQ and has spent his career inspiring leaders, board members, and senior executives on how to accelerate business growth through sales. As an added bonus, he not only talks about recruiting but gives you tips and ideas on how to interview candidates. After listening to this, you’ll know more than you ever did about recruiting and hiring.

Rather watch this episode? Stream here!

Episode Transcript

Tim Geisert (00:06):
Welcome to The Selling Excellence Podcast for business executives, presented by AuctusIQ. We all know B2B selling is not getting any easier and what’s worse, it is getting more expensive. Hello, I’m Tim Geisert, your host and partner at AuctusIQ, a selling excellence as a service company. Our goal today is to give you some insights, some learnings, that help you turn your sales organization into an asset, a company asset, not a pain in the asset.

All right. Wow. What a great episode we’ve got today and here’s why. We are going to be talking about recruiting and recruiting could not be anymore topical than it is today. I have Troy Kanter with me today, who’s been a part of recruiting his whole life and sales organizations. Troy, just a couple words before we jump into this thing and what you’re seeing.

Troy Kanter (00:52):
Yeah. You can’t talk to a CRO or a CEO without one of their top two concerns about their sales force being this massive labor shortage that we’re going through, can’t get people to apply, trouble recruiting. Everyone’s talked about the great resignation at nauseum. There’s also this enormous demographic shift that’s going on inside sales force. There’s a lot of people that are reaching retirement age or taking early retirement. So there’s a lot of open territories out there.

Tim Geisert (01:21):
Yeah. It’s just kind of like the perfect storm. So today’s episode, and thanks for being here today, Troy, we’re going to be talking about that traditional way of recruiting, the transformational way of recruiting, but there’s also this cool kind of halo that you and I were talking about beforehand, which is this glare factor that happens in and through that process of recruiting and then the final the interview process. But before we get into that, I think you’ve got some really cool stuff here that as AuctusIQ works in both areas of sales and in athletic recruiting, you get some kind of cool parallels. Tell us about that. How does that apply?

Troy Kanter (01:58):
Yeah. There’s great linkages between the work we do with some of the top college football teams in the country, even NFL teams as they think about recruiting and then as we’re working with CEOs and CROs, helping them get those open territories filled and it’s, again, on the sales side, all those things, we talked about, a whole bunch of open territories and struggling to get really good folks in those spots and it made me think about, let’s think about this differently. There’s this concept of glare factors that just get in the way of people making really smart recruiting decisions.

Tim Geisert (02:41):
Yeah. Glare factor, meaning that they see what they want to see or they see the shine on someone’s resume and it kind of head fakes them, to use a football term, right?

Troy Kanter (02:51):
Yeah. Again, on the business side, it’s I want five years or 10 years experience in SaaS or in analytics or whatever that industry segment is that you’re working in. I want X on education. There’s also this natural thing about appearance. Those are glare factors that get in the way of making really smart decisions. In football, it’s 40 time, it’s size, it’s strength, it’s the school that you went to and it’s crazy. The Super Bowl wasn’t that long ago, the NFL playoffs weren’t that long ago and you just look at, I just went down, I just wrote down a list of all of the people in the playoffs and the NFL this year that just had massive impacts on the outcomes of those games that were no stars to two or three stars. You’ve got Josh Allen, was a two star. Cooper Kupp, the Super Bowl MVP.

Tim Geisert (03:45):
Right, right. I mean, he was fantastic.

Troy Kanter (03:47):
I think he might have been a no star.

Tim Geisert (03:49):
Isn’t that something?

Troy Kanter (03:51):
Davante Adams, Travis Kelce, Aaron Rogers, Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Jones, Aaron Donald.

Tim Geisert (03:58):
Yeah. I mean, he was key to winning the Super Bowl. It’s right. Those stars, they’re kind of created around this ecosystem, not just their school, their 40 time and all of that. It’s kind of the ecosystem that creates the glare factor too, right?

Troy Kanter (04:13):
Yeah. As you talk with NFL GMs or college coaches, they never say, “Well, we didn’t understand the 40 time. We didn’t understand their size.” They always talk about what they missed on was the character, who they were as people, their responsibility, their work ethic, their determination, their resilience, their grit, their mental and physical toughness and it’s similar factors on the sales side. Like when I talk with CEOs and just say, “Tell me about the very best people that have ever sold for your company.” They talk about the learning agility, the relationship capacity, the resilience, the determination, the grit.

Tim Geisert (04:56):
Right. Those things you can’t see, but you know are there and they prove themselves out of over time. Yeah.

Troy Kanter (05:01):
Yeah. But yet when I talk with them about, “Okay, help us build these open territories,” they don’t start with that list. They start with, I need X number of years of experience. I want X on education. Like all of a sudden the glare factors jump right back up front and you’ve got to come up with ways that you widen the net, that you’re fishing in bigger ponds because you’ve got to get more applicant flow especially if you focus on the outcome, which the outcome isn’t just filling a territory. The outcome is someone that can crush the number and create enormous value for your organization. Same thing in the NFL, like GMs, the outcome is, will this person make an enormous contribution to wins? Will this person end up being all pro? Here’s a great number for you as I’m working in the NFL. You go to the hall of fame, there’s not a single wide receiver in the hall of fame that ran a four, five.

Tim Geisert (06:02):
Are you kidding me?

Troy Kanter (06:03):
No. Yet, but there’s a great glare factor, yet when I’m working with a lot of these division one football programs, some of them aren’t even looking at wide receivers. They won’t even consider them unless they’re running a four, five. So again, all of a sudden, there’s a glare factor that just drastically limits the pool for you and the ability to do something at excellence.

Tim Geisert (06:24):
It’s so interesting when we have these conversations, we talk about talent. We talk about the intangibles. We talk about the data that is produced in the ecosystem. For our audience, the parallel between football and sales is evident and of course the love and the affection between both of the professions is there, but there’s the key element to this of how do you operationalize getting past those glare factors? Yeah. There’s such a traditional way in which you recruit route, but there needs to be a transformational one. I mean, we’re on the forefront, you’re on the forefront of transformational way to recruit on football. What is that transformational way in which to recruit and get the right talent on the field in sales? What are those key elements to doing?

Troy Kanter (07:16):
Yeah. You know what, there are like two or three slight pivots you can make in just the operational process of recruiting that goes from the traditional way of doing it to just a slight tweak, almost it makes it transformational. Here’s one of the simplest things that go on today in recruiting. Everyone’s chasing the exact same candidates and this isn’t a knock against corporate recruiting departments, but they’re not incentivized the right way, the structure isn’t in place. When you look at the top 20% of any sales force and the people that you’re trying to target that top 20%, sales is unlike any other job family that you recruit for. The very best sales people are not available between eight and five.

Tim Geisert (07:59):
They’re working, aren’t they? They’re working deals.

Troy Kanter (08:01):
If you’re not a customer, you’re not a prospect, they’re not talking to you. What we’ve learned and we’ve been able, like a lot of our clients aren’t facing this kind of great labor shortage that everyone’s talking about because we have sales people recruiting sales people, and I’ll get back to talk to you about why that’s so critically important, but our most meaningful conversations happen between seven and 10 o’clock at night and eight to 12 on Saturday and Sunday. That’s the only time [crosstalk 00:08:31] you can get, again, the very best people. That’s when they’re available.

Tim Geisert (08:35):
Well, and they probably will take the time and you can have a good conversation. You can ask some great questions. They can ask some great questions of you. It just, it creates a better conversation environment, right?

Troy Kanter (08:45):
Well, they’ll take the call if there’s someone on the other end that’s leaving the message that knows their life and the challenges they’re experiencing in their current industry and at their current organization. Just sales people talk differently to sales people.

Tim Geisert (09:03):
They sure do.

Troy Kanter (09:04):
There’s a credibility issue there [crosstalk 00:09:06] all of a sudden you can open the flood gates in terms of those people that aren’t looking for work and those are who you want to hire, the people that are not looking for work and that’s why sales people recruiting sales people is so effective. And then being available at 10 o’clock at night, or again, before the round of golf at eight o’clock in the morning on Saturday and that’s where you make the most meaningful connections and you get the best candidates engaged. So that’s, again, not to corporate recruiting, but companies don’t incentivize their staffs to work those hours and they don’t measure them on that whole quality of candidate component and that’s where I think having an outside partner to supplement your current staff or on those really important high value jobs, to have a partner that just takes full accountability for getting you the absolute very best people that have the right kind of experiences and background, but yet also possess all of those attributes that you know that lead to being in that top 20% of your performers.

Tim Geisert (10:10):
Yeah. And then overlaying into that is like we’re doing with football, measuring those intangibles and understanding those intangibles. So all of those things working together, that creates, I would assume, a very powerful process that just is transformational day one from when you bring people in.

Troy Kanter (10:31):
Yeah. You open the flood gates of employed, highly talent people that aren’t looking for work. That’s who you want to recruit. Then, you know in advance how to engage them, how to get them to even pause, even if it’s at eight o’clock at night on a Saturday morning.

Tim Geisert (10:47):
That’s one of the biggest challenges. Yeah.

Troy Kanter (10:48):
To your point, then to overlay the ability to measure, what are the critical skills and what are those attributes. The attributes that I’m working with of general managers in the NFL on that they want to evaluate. Some of those attributes are fairly similar, you measure them slightly differently, but they’re similar to what CROs and CEOs are looking for and being able to really clearly measure those and then provide that slate of candidates so that all of a sudden, the frontline sales manager, as he is looking at the open territory, he’s down to three really highly qualified folks that possess all of that natural attribute that you know leads to long term success.

Tim Geisert (11:28):
Yeah. As a sales manager or sales leader, to have one or two, three candidates where not only it’s a tough choice, but we’ve seen it, I know you’ve seen it, where sometimes when you provide a good slate of candidates, they actually find other places to put them. They find other positions, they open up a territory because when you find great talent, that’s going to drive your business. You’re going to take them, right?

Troy Kanter (11:52):
Yeah. It’s such a critical, always recruiting, because so often we get the phone call when the territory’s been open for 90 days. All of a sudden you’ve got lag time to fill, but again, to have a partner to supplement your in-house staff or to have a partner that’s just constantly sourcing and screening and building the backlog, just, it enables you to… People on this podcast are people that are trying to hit quarters, they’re trying to hit years and those open territories kill you. So being able to quickly plug people in is everything. Then the other area that I see companies that the traditional way of interviewing in working these people through your process is entirely broken. I’m seeing it add two weeks to two months to the hiring process when all of a sudden you’ve got two or three or in sometimes five or six people that need to be involved in the interview process.

Tim Geisert (12:49):
Oh, that’s right. That’s right.

Troy Kanter (12:50):
Then not to mention, most people aren’t trained on how to do really effective interviews that are really meaningful and that are helping you understand who the candidate is as a person.

Tim Geisert (13:00):
Yeah. Let’s talk about that a little bit because many times when salespeople are in front of another salespeople, they have a great conversation. They look for those relational cues, but that’s not enough really is it?

Troy Kanter (13:13):
No. Again, glare factors jump into how people interview. People listen differently when the person possesses the experiences that they’re looking for or has the educational background that they’re looking for or if it looks like them, it reminds them of them. It’s just the questions they ask and how they listen are entirely different than what they ask or listen of someone who doesn’t possess some of those background factors that they’re typically looking at.

Tim Geisert (13:41):
Yeah. I mean, part of what our job here on this podcast for our audience, which again, thank you for listening in, it’s just a growing audience because no one’s talking about a lot of this, is this a big part of the feedback we’re hearing, but what we do is we provide a tip, some ideas. All right. So what have you learned as far as tricks and tips on asking the right questions? I’m guessing it’s not just the questions, it’s probably what you’re listening for too, is that right?

Troy Kanter (14:11):
Yeah. No, I love the question. So we have a team of PhD level psychologists. So when we’re doing this for folks, you get a really in depth understanding of who this person is as a sales executive or who they are as a sales leader, just like in the NFL. I’ve got sort of some, after literally study this for decades and decades and figuring out what really predicts success, as you try to streamline the interviewing process and make it a great experience for the candidate and make it so that you’re actually objectively understanding who these sales people are, I’ve got like a 30 minute interview process that just, I think it’s almost magical at uncovering who these people are as sales people and it’s a really important part of being a sales leader that you don’t get good training in. So I don’t know. I’m happy if we have time just to explore and it’s really a small number of questions that you can go through and I’m happy to kind of lay those out if we [crosstalk 00:15:18].

Tim Geisert (15:17):
Troy fire away. I think this is exactly the sort of thing we like to pass along.

Troy Kanter (15:22):
So process wise, I think it’s really important that instead of passing someone around to two or three people, or sometimes six or seven, put everyone on a Zoom call or put everyone in the conference room and if they can’t make it, have someone who’s trained in how to ask these questions just record it. So it’s on Zoom so if you can’t be available, you know in advance the questions that are going to be asked and what you’re listening for. It just condenses time because your very best candidates aren’t waiting around very long. So I’ve seen so many clients just lose people just on their process alone.

Let’s fast forward to the questions. So I always think the setup is really important and the setup is, we want to understand you as a person because who you are as a person is one of the leading indicators of how successful you’re going to be here. Outside of the people that you love and care about, what you do for a living’s the next most important part of your life. So let’s make sure it’s not only a great fit for you, it’s also a great fit for us.

So I like that as a setup and say with that in mind, let’s just slow down and let’s just start from the very beginning. Tell me about growing up. Tell me about what was the most meaningful experiences in your life. What shaped and formed you and what put you on this path to where you are today? And then let them go. Don’t interrupt them. Just let them talk. What that’ll give you is just this gold and to what inspired them, what shaped them, what formed them and then you have potential follow up there.

What’s also just as revealing is you’ll find 30, almost sometimes 40% of the time, people won’t, they’ll act like they didn’t even hear you say let’s slow down and talk about you. They’ll instantly jump into professional experiences. They won’t even tell you about their childhood or growing up. So right out of the gates, there’s two things there and neither one of them are predictive of being a great salesperson. One, they didn’t listen. Second, they had zero empathy. They didn’t actually appreciate that you were actually trying to take time to understand them and get to know them. They just ignored it.

Tim Geisert (17:39):
Yeah. What’s so cool about that is that first question right out of the gates, it just, it puts the glare factor away, doesn’t it?

Troy Kanter (17:45):

Tim Geisert (17:45):

Troy Kanter (17:46):
Yeah, and it puts the candidate at ease and you really do, if you just listen, you’ll learn a lot about who they are as people and what inspired them, what was important in their life and just from a character resourcefulness, what inspires them, you’ll learn a ton.

Tim Geisert (18:05):

Troy Kanter (18:06):
Then I like to move into the next question is, that’s great, let’s transition to the professional side. Who’s the best sales leader you’ve ever worked for? Just shut up and just listen and sometimes people will pause and they’ll think about it, but just let them.

Tim Geisert (18:22):

Troy Kanter (18:23):
Just use the [crosstalk 00:18:23].

Tim Geisert (18:23):
Yeah, because you want a good answer.

Troy Kanter (18:26):
And they’ll start talking and then just that alone, listening carefully, you’ll learn what kind of management did they respond the best to. Then, what sometimes you’ll get about 25 to 30% of the time is they won’t answer you again. They’ll talk about characteristic of sales managers, but they’ll never mention a name. So people that don’t mention a name, all of a sudden, again, there’s a couple red flags that go up. One, they didn’t listen to your question, which again, never predicts success as a sales person. Secondly, they lack relationship capacity. Throughout their career, they never built a meaningful relationship with someone that they’ve reported to that had huge influence on their life. So it gives you some warning signs there as well.

As I listen to that, I love the next follow up question is, if I was to sit down and have a cup of coffee with that person, how would they describe you? That again, starts to give you more insights into who they are as a person and they can’t fib it because all of a sudden you’ve got their name and now you can reach out to them and find them in today’s world. So you tend to get some integrity there. And then I love it and then just again, this isn’t a long interview. You move on the next question, just say, God, I appreciate that.

Now, let’s switch gears. Who’s the best salesperson you’ve ever worked for or ever worked with? Now they’re into the flow. They’ll start talking about it, describe them, and then I say, okay, well what did you admire about them? What did you learn from them? It’ll give you some insight into their selling style and insight into what they aspire to be as a seller.

Then again, the follow up is, if I was to sit down and have a cup of coffee with them or give them a call, how would they describe you? What would they say your greatest strengths are? Again, it just, it gives you such great insight into what their strength as a seller is as well as their relationship capacity.

Tim Geisert (20:38):
Yeah. I mean, so let’s take this and kind of put it into a real world situation. I mean, you’ve perfected this over the years and you’ve had these conversations. I mean, tell me about someone who just really kind of came to life in this process, that actually to our point of glare factors kind of revealed themselves as this person’s going to go kick some butt. This person’s going to make money for the company.

Troy Kanter (21:01):
Yeah, just even in my early days of building my first company, I remember one of the, an early interview. There was a young person who, their background was in the area of selling periodical display space.

Tim Geisert (21:21):
Periodical display space.

Troy Kanter (21:23):
They would go call on like-

Tim Geisert (21:24):
Like magazine racks.

Troy Kanter (21:25):
Yeah. Magazine racks.

Tim Geisert (21:25):

Troy Kanter (21:26):

Tim Geisert (21:26):

Troy Kanter (21:27):
So in the product that I was going to market with was this complex, new generation, one of the first softwares of service products with an analytics overlay into the human resource space.

Tim Geisert (21:39):
So your first temptation is to go find software sales people?

Troy Kanter (21:42):

Tim Geisert (21:43):

Troy Kanter (21:44):
Back then, I had to find software because there weren’t very many SaaS sellers yet and we were doing analytics before analytics was even considered a thing. So you naturally would think, okay, well I’ve got to get really highly educated people, like you said, with all the software background. All of a sudden, when I asked those opening questions to this young seller, it was like the work ethic, the discipline, the relationship, the importance of his mother and his father and a couple coaches that he had mentioned and how those people described him because he didn’t have a ton of work experience yet and really quickly able to pivot. He’s like, “Well, I’ve only had one job and I’ve only had it for 12 months. I don’t know if I’ve had great sales leadership yet,” but instantly knew what I had asked and said, “But let me tell you what my high school baseball coach would tell you about me.”

Tim Geisert (22:38):

Troy Kanter (22:38):
“Let me tell you what my college baseball coach would, how he would describe me.” All of a sudden, there was just these incredible learnings about this person that just, I just knew, he may not have the product knowledge or industry knowledge, but he’s got everything I’m looking for.

Tim Geisert (22:53):
He’s got the intangibles and spades. Okay. So fast forward. What happened to this guy?

Troy Kanter (22:59):
Oh, ended up being one of the most productive people in the entire human resource software space.

Tim Geisert (23:06):
I bet you love telling that story.

Troy Kanter (23:08):
I’ve got hundreds of them. I mean, I’ve had a unique career where I’ve built a, part of building an enormously successful publicly traded company that got bought by IBM and then ran one of the world’s largest sales training companies. I’m on half a dozen boards. I mean, I’ve looked at a lot of sales forces and so I bet there are, geez, it’s got to be upwards, it’s probably grown close to 200 people that I worked with or saw recruited as entry level sales people that are now VPs of sales, CROs, or CEOs. So you just know it. When you ask the right question and you listen, even though you’re interviewing for a sales job. You’re like, okay, she’s going to end up being a CEO someday. Even though I’m hiring her to be an account executive, in 10 years, she’s going to be running something.

Tim Geisert (24:00):
All the intangibles are there. So Troy, this has been really valuable and for those of us that are listening intently, especially those that are listening into on the podcast, you gave them some really valuable things. This is incredibly good advice. You’re doing this for the NFL. You’re doing this for businesses, pulling this all together in a way that says, what is that aha moment that you obviously see from the business side and the NFL administrator side, but what is that special thing that happens for that seller? Once they get through this and they realize that they have quite the potential to achieve, I mean, there’s more than just the interview and the recruiting process, there’s the after effect that you’re talking about and that coaching has got to be enormous to the seller and to those that are helping that seller, is that right?

Troy Kanter (25:00):
As a business leader, as a sales manager, you’re in the opportunity business and there’s no greater personal satisfaction than helping someone do something that transforms their life, transforms their earnings transforms what they’re able to do for their family. So that’s a perfect pivot because the last questions on the interview process set you up to ensure that you can shrink time on how these people get productive and those quick final questions are as much to figure out who the candidate is, but also to set them up for success inside your company. Then I like to go to, the two last ones are, what’s the deal in your career that you are the most proud of?

Tim Geisert (25:46):
Well, that’s got to reveal a ton of things, right?

Troy Kanter (25:48):
Yeah, because then it’s like, okay, well why?

Tim Geisert (25:50):

Troy Kanter (25:51):
All of a sudden you start learning about who they are and what their strengths and deal navigation are and what they’re the most proud of.

Then the final question is, you just lay out your selling process and say, I’m going to give you the seven to eight phases of selling here. So take out a pencil so you can write them down and I’m going to come back and ask you about them and then they’re thinking, you’re going to say, okay, well tell me, rank them in order, give me your best, give me your worst. I just say, all I want to know is as sales executives, we have to be good at all of these, but all of us have one or two on that list that have explained most of our success in our career. What are those one or two for you? All of a sudden you can start figuring out, okay, here’s where their strengths are, here’s where their developmental needs are. So it, again, not only gives you great insight into, do I want to hire this person?

That’s all of the data that sets you up for the fastest 90 days onboarding that you’ve ever done. Again, that quick list, that only takes 30 minutes and it just reveals so much, not only about who to hire and why, but how do I make them as successful as possible at my company?

Tim Geisert (27:00):
Yeah. This episode is, for those listeners, it’s going to probably give them a whole bunch of things that can transform how they recruit and you can go down the traditional route, you can go down the transformational, but what’s cool about what you’re saying, this is not some big, wild, crazy idea and you have to go to a seminar for three days. These are just really good points along the way, from the very beginning through the questions you ask in the final interviews, as well as then after that, to get them productive. This has just been amazing. One question though, before we go, how are you seeing this roll out in professional sports and in college sports for the work you’re doing that is in parallel to this here on the sales side.

Troy Kanter (27:49):
As I’ve talked to an NFL GM or a head coach or a division one head coach, I’ve never heard someone say, well, that person I missed on that draft choice or I missed on that recruit because I didn’t understand their 40 time or I didn’t understand the school they went to or I misread the film. It’s always because they didn’t understand who they were as people. Same thing on the sales side. It’s always about you got to start with who they are as humans and in some cases, the frontline sales manager is hard to convince of this. So there’s a number of clients where I’ve actually, we’ve had to say.

Tim Geisert (28:24):
Right, right.

Troy Kanter (28:25):
“Okay. I know you like this conceptually, but you have an open territory. You’re scared to death. You’re behind quota. You want an industry person. Here’s the deal that will make you. 75% of your hires will come from that industry that you’re looking for, but let us also get you 25% of your new hires that are just about the attributes.” We’ve done over, in the last five years, over 300 studies that when you’re hiring to who the person is, 12 or 24 months later, those people are always out producing the people that are hired with glare factors.

Tim Geisert (29:00):
Yeah. Be careful of the glare factors, get to the person, right? So you can recruit them in and make them productive and help them in their career. Troy, another great episode. Hopefully everybody out there learns something about this flare factors that we all need to be careful of. Thanks a lot.

Troy Kanter (29:16):
All the best.

Tim Geisert (29:19):
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of The Selling Excellence Podcast for business executives. I hope you’ve gained some insight on how to help turn your sales organization into a company asset versus a pain in the asset. Don’t forget to subscribe to The Selling Excellence Podcast wherever you get your podcast. For more information about AuctusIQ or to schedule a discovery call visit our website at auctusiq.com. Until next time. This is Tim Geisert, your host and partner at AuctusIQ, here to help you sell more and grow your company.

Speaker 3 (29:51):
A Hurrdat Media production.

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