Having years of experience sounds like a resume booster that could put you ahead of others when you’re looking for a job, but the tech platform JumpCrew intentionally recruits people without a sales background to sell its social media marketing services.
Launched in 2016, cofounder David Pachter says his company’s initial inclination was to recruit people with as much experience as possible. “We couldn’t afford to hire many of them, so we decided to get as many experienced people as we could and then blend them with folks who were talented enough to pick it up,” he says.
Surprisingly, the employees who had no experience were outperforming those who had 10 to 15 years of sales experience, says Pachter. “It became a fascination, and we changed our hiring focus to people without experience,” he says. “Then we doubled down on the idea, and doubled our investment in training and development.”
JumpCrew currently has 65 employees and plans to hire at least 400 more over the next few years. Only one of JumpCrew’s top sales people has a degree in social media but no background in sales. The others have degrees in education, music and film, health care, and journalism.
“Of course, there has to be some level of palpable understanding of social media, but they don’t have to be a subject-matter expert,” he says. “We can get them there. They do need to be able to tell stories; storytelling is more impactful than selling.”
Instead of sales experience or training, Pachter looks for people who are collaborative and coachable. Candidates who have been on formal teams, such as college athletes, are at the top of JumpCrew’s recruiting list.
Having an engaging personal social media profile is also an indicator of a good fit. “It’s hard to come into an environment that’s focused on Facebook and Twitter and excel if you aren’t doing a good job of telling your own story,” he says.
And Pachter looks for challengers: “A Harvard Business Review study found that a large percentage of top performers in sales had a personality they defined as ‘challengers,’” he says. “These are the people who can talk with folks about an area of their business, and push back with confidence if there is some resistance.”
The interview process is important for finding candidates with the right qualities. The first question Pachter asks is, “Tell me about yourself and why you are relevant to JumpCrew.”
“Candidates often try and hand me a resume. I prefer to ask this question before I accept it,” he says. “If you can’t tell your story, how are you going to tell ours? The ability to make a quick connection is imperative. In an initial conversation, you have 15 seconds before the other person decides if they will listen to the next 15 seconds.”
Another revealing question: What is one thing you wished you were better at?
“Our success depends on strong trusting relationships with our clients and each other,” says Pachter. “Relationships and trust depend on honesty. This question helps me to determine if a candidate is honest with him or herself and willing to be honest with me.”
Pachter finds challengers by asking, How would you respond to a prospect who tells you that online marketing isn’t effective for their business?
“Challengers have acumen to influence conversations,” he says. “When they have a way to enhance a solution, innovate or dispel a misconception, they are assertive—with both their customers and bosses.”
Finding the right people is the first step, but assembling them in teams is key, says Pachter. “In sales, companies often focus on individual goals,” he says. “We’ve found that a team-oriented process is better. It isn’t about becoming the best sales person; it’s about being a well-rounded business entrepreneur.”
Employees are hired in groups of 10 and trained as a team. “We focus on the team and drive our culture by training people to identify the skills they need to acquire to be great at what they’re doing,” says Pachter. “You know what your teammates are looking for and can provide help. There is a level of accountability and a shared desire for achievement.”
Employees are on a 90-day ramp to get at 100% productivity. “Some do it in 45 days, and there are really strong indicators at every month to ensure the person is a good fit,” says Pachter. “The first 30 days is about verifying the interview process and validating the choice. Over 60 days we’re looking for a little more than just that. Are they showing progress and functioning independently and autonomously? At 90 days they should fully be up to speed as a functioning team member.”
A culture of continual learning is important. JumpCrew has ongoing training as well as monthly lunch-and-learns that help employees develop expertise and gain well-rounded business exposure, which helps them relate to the entrepreneurs they approach.
Pachter admits that hiring people with no experience is a not a quick path to sales successes. “It requires an investment and commitment to training,” he says. “If your company has a super-technical sale, you would probably need an enterprise software sales engineer. But if you’re working in a less technical sales environment and are willing to have a commitment to training and development, we believe this is a better investment than hiring experienced teams.”