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About This Episode
“He told us one of the co-founders of our competitor parties with Kanye West, and brought a picture like a private investigator.”
The candidates that really stand out to Test.io are the ones who can find out under the surface things about their industry and competition that they couldn’t have simply googled.
Test.io was founded in Berlin in 2011 and in 2016 launched a customer success office in San Francisco. The sales and success team has gone from a one-man show to an office of 20 and a mostly outbound organization which they manage with the help of Outreach.io.
There is very little inbound that they rely on. Max has had a front-row seat to the building and scaling of sales teams.
The First Steps in Building and Scaling an Outbound Sales Team
What’s important in building and scaling a team? Sales leadership. You see a lot of heads of sales going in and hiring, hiring, hiring.
Maybe they have reps they’ve worked with in the past, and they bring on those dependable people. But something Max did especially well up front is really get his hands dirty himself before hiring his first SDR.
Since they planned from the beginning to hire reps fresh out of college, they needed to fully prove their process.
Knowing they could only justify the expansion to the board when they’d proved things incrementally, they needed a solid process, proof, and traction before beginning scaling.
Test.io is different from a lot of companies in San Francisco in that:
- They’re private equity-backed
- They don’t have a “hire hire hire with the VC Money” mentality
- They make decisions based on data
- If they hire a person, they know they’re going to have a contribution
So they spent two months really hammering the process up front so that by the time they began hiring they’d had version one.
Max explains that building that version one wouldn’t have been a good use of the reps time.
By getting his hands dirty and doing the work himself, it helped Max to have the trust of the team. They saw a huge return on investment having version one of the SDL’s handbook complete before having other people involved.
The Tactics in Test.io’s Handbook
In talking about Test.io’s handbook, Max highlights its 3 great strengths:
1. A great starting point
This began with their co-founder in Berlin having built up an awesome demo process.
They have a productized demo process where they can show the value of their product before being under an engagement with a company.
The tech stack ready to go, having pulled out half of the tools that the German team was using in order to optimize for the more heavily email-centric, LinkedIn centric type of outbound that the US team would be doing.
And they have many simple important things like having sales navigator in place.
2. A solid structure
How this took shape was in the form of long-form handbooks for each level. Originally they built out Account Executive, and SDR, and those each have:
- A flow of tools
- A breakout on what each tool does
- How each tool weaves together
- And then operationally what you’re expected day-to-day looks like
3. Continuous adaptation
To this day, 2 years in, with 14 people on the sales team, there is not a single week where those documents don’t get modified.
They are always trying to tweak things, adjust for new competitors, and adjust for new objections.
Each rep can contribute to those. Which as you can imagine on the beginning there was some messiness, but by crowdsourcing their documentation, Test.io is able to have living documents that can adjust and adapt to the marketplace.
When an SDR comes in they have a very clear picture of what is expected of them. Test.io paves a clear path toward promotion (something very important to the culture at Test.io.)
How Test.io Finds People and What Traits They Look For
Test.io has a crazy bunch of SDR’s. They have former athletes, someone with a Master’s from Oxford and another person with a Master’s from Berkeley.
But in hiring they are really looking for one overall attribute: intelligence.
In a startup environment, you can build processes all day, but they can’t cover everything. If you do, you probably spent too much time on them.
So what does Test.io do to screen for the intelligent, innovative new salespeople who can figure things out well on their own and get things done?
They have a great interview process with an especially creative, and highly informative exercise:
- Starts with a phone screen talking about things like what was the first success you remember, what was the first time you took a risk, do you consider yourself competitive, the most interesting thing you’ve learned lately.
- While on the call they try to dig into the intellectual nature of the person and find out if they look like someone who likes exploring new things and digging into things they don’t know about.
- There are two levels of screening, once with an SDR manager, and then with Max.
The exercise Max will probably get heat for divulging:
They give the candidate a background on the types of companies they work with, and they have the candidate prepare a list of 3-5 companies that they would reach out to.
Then they ask of the candidate general market information and how the candidate thinks the company would fit in.
And then, the single most informative question Test.io asks that tells them if the candidate mentally matches up to what they are looking for:
“Tell us something about our market or our competitors that we don’t know or couldn’t easily find out.”
They’ll often get responses that the candidate obviously googled.
But the ones that really stand out are the under the surface responses where someone had to talk to one of the competitors, not something they were able to just google.
If you’d like to reach out to Max, you can find him at email@example.com. He wanted to let listeners know that he’s always happy to help, especially fans of Outreach, saying “I’ve just gotten a lot of value out of Outreach, and I don’t think we could’ve done a lot of what we have done without the data that it’s allowed us to act on.”
And he wasn’t even paid to say that.
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