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What To Look For When Hiring Future General Managers

3 min read
June 1, 2015

Lou Adler, author of Hire with Your Head, uses a performance-based scale to immediately classify interviewees into one of five categories — the top 1% being rockstars and the bottom half duds. But even though spotting 1%ers in an interview is almost as easy as spotting the duds, it takes a little extra digging to determine who’s going to be able to punch above their weight class over the long term.

Kyle Porter shared the growth strategies and tools he lives by as Salesloft CEO in Scaling a SaaS Startup: Behind the Scenes of 2,000% Growth. Starting with the key pillars of a great SaaS company (World Class Engineering, Customer Acquisition Machine, Customer Delight and Love, and Core Values) and then fleshing out daily routines designed for success, the guide provides a tactical and actionable playbook for any growing SaaS startup.

But it’s not just about implementing playbooks and drafting go-getters. When it comes to building a team, don’t just hire “doers,” look for future General Managers. According to Kyle,

We never, ever, hire a sales development rep unless we could possibly envision them one day being the GM of a particular department of our company.

How do you know your interviewee is future General Manager material? Look out for these qualities:

  1. Do they live the core values (positive, supportive and self-starting) in the top 1 percentile?
  2. Are they super intuitive to the needs and feelings of others? Read: empathy.
  3. Are they wicked smart?
  4. Are they intentional about professional improvement? (i.e. What are they doing personally that will help us as a company organizationally?)
  5. Do they have a significant level of belief? In Salesloft, in the product, and in themselves?

This method of hiring future GMs may seem like a strange strategy, especially if said GM roles are already filled. But just think for a minute… If you only hire SDRs with the intention of short-term investment in an “entry-level role,” that’s not going to get you (or the new-hire) anywhere down the road.

Take it from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, “The biggest category of mistakes is in the hiring process. If you add up all of the costs of bad decisions that our bad hires made [in some cases where those bad hires turned into bad managers]… over the course of Zappos’ history, it’s probably cost us well over $100 million.”

Determining which SDRs are going to grow into good managers will end up saving you in the long run. Lou Adler describes the best candidates as those who consider the long-term career opportunity more important than the short-term package. These loyal hires will be the ones you see scaling the company month after month, year after year, driving your company’s growth as a whole.

Spend some time to find the right people that you believe in, because there’s nothing worse than having an organization where you’re moving people in and out — and sales development is very prone to that. We’re looking to change that. -Kyle Porter