<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >Sofia Palmelius Kolga on: Building a sales dream team from scratch</span>

Sofia Palmelius Kolga on: Building a sales dream team from scratch

  • 40 minutes
  • Talent Acquisition
  • Ep 16

How can startups grow and thrive with their sales team? It all starts with hiring the right salespeople to lead you on a path toward success.

On this episode of How We Hire, Alva’s Head of Sales and Licensed Psychologist, Sofia Palmelius Kolga, talks candidly about the ins and outs of hiring sales superstars, sharing her insights on how she started as a sales rep and built a twenty-strong team of superstars at Alva. 

Key takeaways

  • What sets sales superstars apart from the crowd
  • Why sales experience is important but not everything when hiring sales reps
  • Tips and tricks on attracting sales talent
  • How to build a concrete sales recruiting machine

On the show

Sofia Palmelius Kolga
Sofia Palmelius Kolga Head of People at Alva Labs
Linnea Bywall
Linnea Bywall Head of People & Operations at Alva Labs

Sofia Palmelius Kolga

Sofia Palmelius Kolga is a licensed psychologist with a broad background within the recruitment industry as well as leadership development. She is currently Head of Sales at Alva Labs. She knows better than most on how difficult it can be to know what to look for when finding those sales superstars, having grown Alva’s sales team from one to twenty plus.

Linnea Bywall

Linnea Bywall is a former NCAA athlete turned licensed psychologist – and Head of People at Alva Labs. Linnea was recently listed as one of the most inspiring women in tech by TechRound and was featured as one of the 22 Innovative HR Leaders to follow in 2022 by AIHR Academy to Innovate HR. 

From attracting and hiring to onboarding and growing Alva's employees, Linnea's main mission is to change the world of hiring every day by challenging biases in recruitment.


Show notes

-Why it’s so difficult to recruit within the sales area-2:04
-The practical reality of hiring salespeople-4:07
-What companies should look for when hiring talented salespeople -6:05
-How having a competitive bonus model can attract top-tier sales candidates-9:29
-Why hiring managers need to focus on a candidate’s past behaviours to understand how well they would perform in the sales role-12:49
-The number one thing companies miss out on when hiring sales reps-16:03
-How to source for sales talent-20:40
-Step-by-step to hiring a sales team-28:20
-The secret formula for interviewing sales candidates-30:13
-Running a great case study and tailoring it to the open role-32:52
-The psychology of a great salesperson-35:31
-How understanding the rules about what makes a sales candidate great helps you to optimise your process-37:19
-Why endurance and longevity are key qualities in a salesperson to watch out for- 37:56

How We Hire Podcast Episode 16 Transcript

Linnea (00:00):

We've been talking about bias and recruitment for so many years now. Everyone is aware that it's happening, but I think this approach of that bias doesn't stop once the hiring process is over. I think the example with you get fooled by fancy resume and overconfident that we're hiring the right person because they have the experience, but you're not only overconfident in the hiring process. That might also be that you're overconfident in the onboarding process in the overall interaction with that candidate. I think that's a good perspective to keep in mind.


Welcome to How We Hire, a podcast by Alva Labs with me, Linnea, Licensed Psychologist and Head of People. This show is for all of you who hire or just find recruitment interesting. In every episode, I will speak with thought leaders from across the globe to learn from their experiences and best practices within hiring, building teams and growing organizations.


Hi, and welcome to another episode of How We Hire. Today, our guest is Sofia Palmelius Kolga. Sofia is a licensed psychologist with a broad background within the recruitment industry as well as leadership development and she's currently Head of Sales here at Alva Labs. She knows better than most how difficult it can be to know what to look for when it comes to finding those sales superstars. That is what we will be focusing on today. Welcome to How We Hire, Sofia.

Sofia (01:36):

Thank you, Linnea.

Linnea (01:38):

You're Head of Sales and it's important to keep in mind that recruiting salespeople have always been important. For the last couple of years it's been hysterical. There's been a lot of pull to get salespeople in and everyone needs it. What's your view on why is it so difficult to recruit within the sales area?

Sofia (02:04):

Actually, to be brutally honest, also with the background that you presented coming from the psychologist background, being in the field of a consultant, praying for the... Stick to the evidence, it's not tricky at all. Just open the talent pole and then you'll find your superstars. Now when I'm actually in the boat of having my manager breathing my back on what are the numbers? Are we profitable? Will we do better? How do next period look like? Then you certainly understand that you need to get the super stars on board and it's also so true. I mean, we have data points telling us that one sales rep could be 10 x better than another and I think that combined makes it super scary and also so important to actually nail it. I think the other side of it is that looking for sales rep, you don't know the 10 x one or even the two x one or even the on target one doesn't necessarily need to be a person with a certain background.


I mean, that is always true, but here it's even more true because you could potentially look for any individual with any background as long as they chose this and then all of a sudden you have all candidates in front of you that you can choose among and you also need to understand what within them should I actually look for? Who would be that superstar? For me, and I think that many are in the same boat, it's so tricky because if someone promise you that you will get the 10 x sales rep, you can take whoever, but then who is that? Everyone wants that person, but no one's really know who it is and how to find them.

Linnea (03:46):

I think it's interesting what you say, you come from this background where you have helped others understand how they should hire and recruit and now you are in the boat where you have all that information, but now you have to do it yourself. What was the biggest, I guess, difference between theory and practice that you stumbled upon?

Sofia (04:07):

I mean, everything that you said and everything that's so easy to say to others to do to say I'm biased to trust the process. That is true and that is something that I literally know that I should do, but it'll also, it's so difficult because since you don't know who will perform, it's easier to go with someone being similar to the top performers that you have and I think putting that aside and make sure that you stick to a structured process and also try to find the [inaudible 00:04:39] that's outside of what one can find in a meta study, finding that great balance.


I think that is the new part, the power of the reality of having both some kind of readiness where you have people that actually can start perform tomorrow, ramp fast as well as potential and that is not just peel them 50% on itch and then you have the magic formula. Also that the right behaviors, closing deals, the behaviors that leads to closing deals can come from so many different parts and it's not as easy as just 50% of both and then you're done. You need to watch within both, will do the combination that will actually, little bit to a great title. I don't know if that's complexity or if that's the one towards being very subjective and also finding that it's something outside of the structure that you want to fit into the structure and that is really tricky I think.

Linnea (05:37):

It sounds like there's one aspect that you can predict or you can measure with the right type of methods and the right structure and so forth, but then there's also that fluffy aspect that's really hard to understand what it is, but that will still matter, right?

Sofia (05:56):


Linnea (05:56):

But if we then jump into that boat, what should companies be looking for when it comes to hire talented sales people?

Sofia (06:05):

I strongly believe, and again I know I told one person in the sales process once it was still over middle size company and it was like, "Maybe I should do this." It was a non-scientific way of finding people and then when you do what you shouldn't do in your role, stepping out and becoming you and your role as a hiring manager, I told him that, "You know what? Putting this sales process aside, like me as a leader of a sales team, I would never in my life in this role or in another role hire someone without having a clear view of the potential. The natural tendencies of actually doing what they're supposed to do in this situation like closing deals and do whatever it takes to get there within the values you have, et cetera. But also having a clear view on what to measure on that side, the interviews, et cetera."


With that being said, I would strongly argue to don't just only say that soft skills are important, walk the talk if you will. Many would probably say that if I get the 10 x one, as I said before, I can take whoever, but then they still write this job ad or go to external recruiters saying that I need someone from B2B, someone that's done sauce before. In our scenario, have some recruitment background and of course that could be beneficial but it doesn't need to be critical. Walk the walk of actually dare to look outside that traditional or easy way of going about it in terms of what you define as need to have. That is the first piece.


Then when you have this whiteboard, make sure to know your hiring formula. If you open up for soft skills because that is critical, you need the ones that actually walks the extra mile to get to the prospect to hunt them down to see if you can get a sign sending that bottle of champagne if that is needed, then you need to also assess that in a good way and that's different from just saying how would you go about closing a deal?


You need to look into what do we actually know about behaviors and how to assess behaviors and what lies within the person and what is actually something that you've learned. I would said why don't the talent pool, make sure that you look into what is critical in the role that you're looking for and in sales that can be different things and it can be different things in different organizations. One thing that I would love to chat around here is also connect that to the bonus model that you use because it's, like I said the sale can be different depending on what kind of sales you will do, but also what kind of company you are and how you decided to actually compensate the sales rep. There's a lot of custom to do and you also need to be aware of. Where am I and how can I widen the pool as well as clear criteria down to what I need, what we know that sales reps are doing to become great, but also what is contextually good for my organization.

Linnea (09:04):

I mean, what research says is important in most sales roles will be that they're socially outgoing, are comfortable interacting with others that they have that what's referred to as grit but in a more scientific language conscientiousness, doing what it takes to close the deal. I think that translates very, very well. Not dropping the ball, always continuing, but I think it's interesting what you say with the bonus model, do you want to elaborate?

Sofia (09:29):

Almost all salesperson have some kind of base salary and then they have some compensation, target based salaries and that can be on the scale. Some do actually walk the path of not having a bonus model at all, rather have higher base salaries have same targets that you need to reach and build on. It's okay to have a slow month because we will do it together and then we might double it the next month. I know that [inaudible 00:09:57], for instance, they're posting a lot around them going that path and I think that is super interesting and I mean going into psychology, it's something within trust and also feel confident about yourself and psychological safety that probably is building that and could really be an argument to have that kind of model. What I do believe when you have that kind of model is that the need of being super competitive is not as strong or maybe not competitive per se.


It could be also that being commercially driven because if you're super commercially driven then you do whatever it takes you. You have your sheet of now I did sell another 50K, that will lead me with a checkout. The other way of doing it if we go to the other side of the spectrum is if we walk all the way there to have a bonus model where the 10 x sales trip actually could earn as much money as possible, they could drive around in a Ferrari because they sell so much and the roof is endless in terms of the bonus that you can actually get and it often also increases. If you reach your 100% quota, everything beyond that will actually give you a lot more money. On that side for that to be super motivating for someone, I would argue that things that we always need to look after in a salesperson, like the grit that you talked about, the competitive side, that will and probably also being driven by the commercial aspects that will be even more important and you'll probably have people really pushing for the lost is even harder.


I mean, that's the argumentation. I think that scenario is also real for not as many ago the [inaudible 00:11:47] pot and I think it's really cool that [inaudible 00:11:49] there is doing that because it takes courage to actually trust your hiring process because if you have a hire base then you really need the sales reps to perform. Whereas if you have a low base with a high compensation, it's low risk, high reward for the company to have the person on board. But that tied to the hiring I think still differs a little bit.

Linnea (12:13):

For sure. We've established that there's some core soft skills that will be important in almost all sales positions. There's something around, I mean, I want to link this bonus almost to culture in the team, how you drive that and that will be suitable for different people. But then I mean, you've also touched on the background aspect. If I'm a hiring manager, hiring a sales team, what should go into the need to have lists on their background?

Sofia (12:49):

I would be pretty hard saying basically nothing. By saying that, I do not say that experience from the past do not matter. It matters a lot and this is something that I really like trying to get my head around. What are secret formula in terms of background and what you've done before and what behaviors have you actually practiced besides your natural tendencies and potential.


But why I argue nothing is because a certain school or a certain experience in terms of being an account executive within this source company, just because you have that from facility, you won't know that that person will perform. I think another aspect into this back to salaries is that often very experienced people are more expensive because that's the way of thinking that most I remember are doing the best people have been on big sauce companies. I know that for those of you nerding down in the sauce world this good Jason Lemkin did a post around when you hire, in this case a VP of sales, one mistake that you tend to do is that you really get so happy when you get someone that's on this huge company with great success.


But what happens is that often sales slows down when that person starts not just for the ramping but also because the circumstances in that company was that it probably had a huge marketing team, all the one pictures that you need all the processes in place. It's more of handling that and whereas if you don't step into a small company in another phase, you probably need to solve a lot of things yourself and you're not necessarily good at that. I think that's one reasoning that you could tend to think wrong in that manner, but there could also be, and I have a great example actually in our team from someone actually applying to another role, not even a commercial role, but will did still in that process, that person both matched with the natural tendencies, having a good profile, having a lot of grit, being very assertive as a person, but also in the interview and also the reference taking.


It came out that this person was, even though being in the supporting role always took the chance to do some sales, even if it was customer service, is what... But maybe you also want, we have this opportunity which captured our interest, putting the parcel in to who to put into what spot in our company and I think that's really interesting. Again, if we shouldn't even apply to our position and then we didn't have a lot of needs to have, but what if we also added needs to have then just limit the pool so much. That's the long rant about not having a need to have. Then I think the tricky part within your specific culture, your specific branch, what is then the news job because I've landed that being able to sell something is clearly and the motivation of actually do sales, it's within, I just live for selling opportunities to sell something and then I don't care what you worked with or what you studied.

Linnea (16:03):

The end to the story of this candidate is that she took the sales role as one of our top performing sales reps and it's been with Alva for two years. It's truly an amazing story. To clarify that it worked out really, really well. I mean, you have now built a team from scratch. You were the first sales rep in at Alva and now we're a team of 20 salespeople, but you've also helped other companies build out their sales teams. In your experience, what's the one thing that most companies miss out on when they hire sales reps?

Sofia (16:43):

Most can agree on what bridge looks like in terms of on the side when you're hired mainly do the mistake of translating that into then I need to have someone from this school, I need to have someone with this experience. You land on that you might not have the resources to teach someone a lot because that's also the assumption when you do junior hires, but there's a misinterpretation of a junior and senior actually is you try to just put labels on what junior looks like and that is then someone with low level of experience or no education at all and senior is equals to being within the same field, the same branch, a lot of years, great education within sales, et cetera.


I think that is the biggest one and I would argue that similar to the example that Jason Lemkin did with the salesperson, my experience from my own journey but also talking to many, many, many hiring managers and recruiters is that you also sometimes tend to go wrong because if you believe that you also hire someone senior, then you're less likely to nudge that person into the playbook that you know works because that person is so senior.


You might start questioning yourself, which of course I'm not saying it should be coachable and learn from your employees, of course you should, that's the way to go. But there could also be done in the wrong way where that senior on paper person gets more saying when someone define a junior could have just as much impact and you change something without having enough data points. I think that you should rather look for what is working for you and again to what you are doing or operating is also important. Do you have a clear playbook? Do you have a team where you scale the sales team really fast? Then it might be more important to have someone that is adopted to both being very coachable. That's something that's always important, but also someone that likes to follow a process, that likes to do that work.


Whereas if you have super complex sales process where it's more like you sell from who you are, I sell as a psychologist, done this for a few years, someone else sells from another point of view. That could be a way of going about it, too. But then you probably have a slightly different profile and I don't think down to back to your questions on mistakes that people are doing that analysis beforehand. You tend to just think that, "I can't spend a minute ramping this person because it's work overload and it's to be 10 x tomorrow." Then you translate that into something that's not necessarily the case of giving you that person.

Linnea (19:30):

I think that's the interesting aspect of bias. I think we've been talking about bias and recruitment for so many years now. Everyone is aware that it's happening, but I think this approach of that bias doesn't stop once the hiring process is over. I think the example with you get fooled by fancy resume and overconfident that we're hiring the right person because they have the experience but you're not only overconfident in the hiring process, that might also be that you're overconfident in the onboarding process in the overall interaction with that candidate. I think that's a good perspective to keep in mind. Bias doesn't stop when you sign a contract and hire someone. It's an ever ongoing process. We've established that soft skills is important, the culture will matter, what type of bonus model, experience can be helpful but don't look too much into it. Where do we find this type of talent when it comes to how do you source for it, how do you advertise for it, what's your best tips and tricks there?

Sofia (20:40):

I would strongly suggest to always open up for combining sourcing and trying to just organically get candidates through job ads. I think that is a really good match and I think that again, back to being in the field only where I would probably argue you don't need to source, just open up the talent pool, just run the process as is and keep it tight. That is still true, but I think the combination of also doing the homework of what kind of sales role am I looking for? What kind of sales process do we have, what gaps do we have? Then also try to see what kind of person do I then need to add to the mix? Because I think it's super important to also have a mix of junior and senior people. I'm not arguing for that. That is not the case that we can't have juniors in.


I just think that we need to be a little aware of how we define it. What is senior, what is junior? In my head, a really senior person could be someone that's worked for one year but it's doing the right behaviors, acting accordingly, taking own responsibility like building others, et cetera. Again, how do you look for it? If you could think around where if we stick to the thought of, what if you have this commercial drive with the willingness of selling something, if you don't ask yourself, we can do the exercise here because I don't have the right answer to this, where can we find them? One way to go about it is to actually look for instead of going after telecom sales reps, because then one could argue that if you've done that before, you probably also you have an eager to close list and then it could make sense to that jump the ladder and do something business to business and maybe look from business to consumer sales within different formats.


But I also think places as a gym, and again we will find different people, but if you have been in a reception or in a gym or whatever, you will most likely find that at least 50% are very commercially driven because there's often competitions around who also doing, don't you want the sneakers as well? At the gym, it's not sneakers, it might be a bar or whatever and sell another-

Linnea (22:54):


Sofia (22:55):

Banana and a six-month subscription of gym. No, but I think you can try to look outside the box. Where can you find the people that have that eager but not necessarily done it already? Again, I think you also need to think about the onboarding process. How well equipped is that to actually get up and go in without knowing exactly how to, because of course if you look at skills from sales, one thing is that you have within you just to close deal.


I think me myself is an example of that. I didn't go to a proper sales school, but as a kid I was the one competing with myself and everyone at school to both win whatever thing that was popular back at that time to be the best, win the most, but also selling this Christmas advertising papers to get something back. But I don't know the formula. Then on the other side knowing how to run sales, there are multiple books out there. There is a formula of being great at doing a new analysis. I really remember training, we had at the former employer of mine where we did this exercise of someone were saying, "I really have a headache, what should I do?" My first was, "I have this paracetamol that you can have from me." She was like, "Maybe." The task was we should probably ask how does it feel?


Why do you think that happened? Is it related and did you just get it? Some analysis to understand because I went for the solution at once. Again, I mean, that is just sales tactics. But again, if you know that and me learning that, of course that helps me. One could also argue that if you did sales before, that could be a great way to start, too, but I don't think you should be focused on the need of being both have done sales before knowing nothing and also no recruitment from our point of view or the branch that we operate in. Try to define could it be either/or and then you also have multiple places to both advertise but also source.

Linnea (25:03):

For sure. It sounds like, I mean, people that have worked within sales but think broader when it comes to industry, seniority, background, but also look at people that work in more customer facing roles, service professions. Then I think one thing that I think you are a strong advocate for internally at Alba is because sales is a little bit of a different beast than other departments. If you find a great person, you will almost always make room for that person because they will pay for themselves. It's hard to... If you are hiring an engineer that will also in the long run be beneficial for the commercial aspect for the organization. But the link is so much more vague.


I think one thing that we have done since start is always trying to have an open position for sales. Constantly... Because you will get inbound candidates, especially if you work with employer branding in a good way and stuff like that. Not ever completely shut down the, we're hiring sales reps, lights bulb. I think that actually is an important thing to keep in mind because it doesn't happen often, but every once in a while you will stumble upon someone that it will be a great person. I think it's broadening the sourcing perspective, advertising where you focus on the more need to have and maybe the culture and then always be looking I guess is what I'm trying to say.

Sofia (26:39):

For me, when I started being basically me, that was super important. Always looking with super harsh on quality. It needs to be someone that could both book buildings close, it's like do that onboard them if needed that that was a need to have for us to even become some kind of company that they will trust. Then again, when you're starting to scale, this is really, it's working. Customers wants the product, then it's easy to go to. We have the playbooks now we just need to fill the boxes. I think now when it's, again, a different world scenario, people are having their heads on quality again. I think that ties really well to what you're saying. How can you keep always looking so that even though when we step into growth, again we have our similar to prospects in the sales program, we have the ones that we could detect, that we could keep warm and that is a work together with HR, talent acquisition and also the hiring managers. That should always be done. But I think that many including myself tend to forget about when excluding times, especially.

Linnea (27:43):

Now we talked about what is the aspects around why we plan the process the way that we do because we do want to optimize for soft skills. We don't want to optimize for background, we want to optimize for salespeople that will thrive in our environment. There's two questions that I want us to dig into. The first one is obviously what does the process look like for us at Alva on hiring sales reps, but then also how you build the team aspect. Should we start with the process? You want to hire someone to your sales team, what happens next?

Sofia (28:20):

I call you, I hope that you'll do your magic. That is partly true, but what we do is that we often, if we're super concrete now, I like when it's concrete, when I try to listen to podcasts and learn something and if it's too detailed, bear with me. But we always start to find, what do we need? What role do we need to feel? We are super keen about what will the process look like? We have this kickoff meeting with the talent acquisition where we talk through, is it because we have this job ad and we have the requirements for an account executive, let's say. But then it's always a shadow of is it something different now? Do we need something different to optimize the team? We talk that through and see if we need to do something with the requirements and the job ad.

Linnea (29:03):

I can just jump in. The example would be early days we focused on only the Swedish market, then Swedish was a requirement, et cetera, et cetera. There's how you sell the product in this market will tie into who you want to hire for that. Now as we are expanding other stuff will be important just as an example of how it can differ, but also of course team size, how ready the playbook is, et cetera, et cetera.

Sofia (29:30):

That's a really good add-on. Also the need of seniority, how the mix between junior, senior people and then what I really like, what I think that's just the process, but what helps a lot is that we are super clear about the different steps. Now we return to the one that we always use this where, which is like, first we will have the talent acquisition person do some sourcing. We will also advertise for the role. We decide upon when to go out with it and we like to gather, see if we want to tweak it down to the requirements for that scenario. Then we're also super clear about the first interview, how many, if we're going to hire one, how many interviews do we want to run in the first phase? Then again if we get a great candidate, we're agile.


I think that the one secret to us is that we have this super clear process. With number of interviews, first ones, number of reps or candidates that I interview, but we're also staying agile for that great candidate that might come later so that we do. We have this first interview with talent acquisition where we are looking into the competencies that we're looking for pretty broadly like SPR questions. Tell me about a time where you saw a commercial win, how did you go about it? What did you do? What happened? Why did you see that opportunity? Connected to sales but not phrased so that you need to have been good in sales before. They also done the tests that should be added. We do the sourcing and step number one before collecting the not requirements, we don't have that many but the nice to haves, so we'll select a few nice to have. We'll have that you've been within the recruitment branch somehow some connection there that you've done sales before, that you've been within B2B.


Again, it's not a need to have, it's a nice to have. They can talk about how they did that so that we just have a hunch of what they have with them. Then they take the tests, which is the personality test, the logic test where we're not sitting and looking into details in it. We just have a scoring. We have an algorithm of what are we looking for in terms of natural tendencies, again, being competitive, being assertive, having it within you that you ask. Who will sign the contract? Do I need to talk to that person? I hear that you want to come back to me, but I will just throw in a placeholder so that we can just move that around. Then I don't need to hump you. The person that naturally are doing those kind of behaviors.


Then we have match core from zero to hundred, how well do you actually match the behaviors that we see as really important? That's all the sciences that's really important. If you follow through that, you come to an interview with me, which is more about what did you do before? We actually have a survey that I fill out of a previous performance and that's what I based the interview on. I go deep into, can you tell me more SDR thinking, be concrete about, you say that you didn't have proper targets, but can you explain, did you have some targets? Did everyone have that? How did you evaluate it? What was 100% of them? What was your score among others in the team? How did you really specific questions down to their answers there. Then we have a case which should talk to knowing to do the job.


In our scenario it's running a sales meeting and we've been on and off of being super concrete, of being transparent of what we will evaluate and assess, but also making sure that we actually evaluate the right things. For instance, you can do it in whatever language because we think that your English skills shouldn't be blocking you. We don't want to mesh English skills here. That's been a work that we're constantly trying to improve upon. Last step is references, also super structured. We only do that with the last candidates where we use the same model as we use in the structured interview. We ask the same questions and I think references is something like, should you always do it? For me, it's extra helpful when you have done not having requirements I've been doing since before because for me an example we took with that women that we took from another process.


For me, it was super important to listen in on a reference to hear the behaviors of being commercially driven in a supporting role because that together with doing a case where that person needed to sell something to me, and again, not having that background, it could be anything. Again, I wanted to see the behaviors of getting to the next step, getting to a meeting with me, capturing my interest basically. That is the process and that's how we run it. We have a thought on how many we want to meet so that it should be efficient but still agile so we don't need out on candidates.

Linnea (34:21):

It's screening questions, psychometric assessments, first interview with tele acquisition, focusing on soft skills, A quick survey that you then use in your interview where you dig into even more sales specific behaviors. I mean now you took the example for the case for an account executive where you get to do a sales meeting and you get to prep that. If it's an SDR, it's more of we do a split case with one is writing sequence and one is more on a call and then the reference taking in the end. This is the process that we've used from the early days or from day one, pretty much hiring salespeople to the team. As I said, I also want to dig into, you have a background in gymnastics. You've coached the national team in gymnastics with great success. I know that you have taken a specific approach that you use since gymnastics team and taking that along with you when you've done hiring for salespeople. Can't you just talk a little bit about how you have done it and how that has helped you?

Sofia (35:31):

I keep coming back to that because I think that the similarities are huge and one can get tired of someone tying back to at my own work or my former position. But I really think that there's so many similarities and what I saw in that scenario, both being the head of the national team, but also when I did this club teams within Sweden, so many great coaches, they were looking for the really best gymnasts at that time when they were trying to optimize the team. The ones that could do the most hard tricks, the ones with the highest level being really high, the ones that's been within the gymnastic hour were long. Whereas again, with bias, they didn't take into account. If we look back at all the competitions that's been made, because in gymnastics it doesn't matter if you're great when you do 12 hours of training each week, you need to do with that once a year on the Swedish European championships, it's one off and you're either out or it's really harsh, high stakes for sure.


What they didn't look at was how do they behave when the pressure is on? One, they didn't work with the team around that, you just practiced the clips and they didn't either you not put that into account when selecting the team to some extent maybe, but in a biased way, more of the feeling of this is someone I can trust. That was one thing that I think was crucial from the leadership team that I was part of that we actually had this Excel sheet where we have a scoring system with, we did look for what that is does it take to win? It's three different parts of gymnastics and everyone needs to be in this more dancing momentum where you do pirouettes and jumps and if you jump a little bit in a pirouette, you're out. If you want to win, you need to optimize for that.


Starting up to understand the rules similar to the role, what do you need to really get the results that you want? When you understand the rules, then optimize your process for that. To even get in, we need people that are great at the dancing thing, otherwise it doesn't matter how great kicks they do, we need to have a high gym level there and then we scored them higher.

Linnea (37:40):

This is like, if we translate this to sales, it doesn't matter if you closed one huge deal, if you don't do the groundwork of always booking second meetings, you're not going to have the results overtime.

Sofia (37:56):

More interested in how did you manage to month after month, day after day, get the results rather than this huge deal being the top salesperson for that year for instance. I mean, that's another way of looking at it, but then it's easy to put structure. What happened in the gymnastics scenario was that people got into this, the best team of Sweden where I got so many calls from their coach, the club coach and what other gymnasts talking around the corner about what is she doing? This is the worst we've seen. She will fail. How is she thinking? Again, that period, we actually won the European championship and that was the end goal. I wouldn't say that it's only because of hiring, but to tie this to another example, when I did a lot of leadership training in a former life, I went to this workshop with this guru about leadership training.


He was like, "I'm going to tell you about all dos and don'ts." I was like, "Now I'm going to learn everything." What he started off saying was that, "I'm going to disappoint you a bit, but I will share dos and don'ts in leadership programs." But the plus 50% impact, I think he said maybe it's 70% impact on how well the leaders will perform after leadership training is the natural tendency is stepping in. Again, I think this ties to how important hiring is, and that is with if you're building a sales team or if you're building a national team in gymnastics and you also need to raise the lowest bar because if that is end to the bottom, then everything can happen. Macro is probably the data of the company because if sales doesn't perform, then the company's dead. Where then that is then more important than having an endless roof where it could be great, but it could also be a total failure.

Linnea (39:44):

I love this sports analogy where, again, it can be so easy to be fooled by some aspects in gymnastics, it was the super fancy flips. In hiring, it can be the super fancy resume, be overconfident that that is what you should base your decision on. Then forgetting about this, I guess, the bulk of work that actually is behind everything where you need to do the nice spins and the nice dancing in gymnastics, where in sales that would be, again, booking the second meeting or getting those little behaviors in and where you might need to focus on the highest bar and get the high performers. But also never ever forget, we still want people that month after month can meet their quota and that it might be different aspects. I think that's a good metaphor to take with you when it comes to hiring and not only for sales of course.


Sophia, we have talked about a lot of different things and I think it's time to wrap this baby up. We have discussed a lot about hiring great salespeople. If anyone wants to continue the conversation with Sophia, you can connect with either me or Sophia on LinkedIn or reach out. We'd be happy to continue talking about this nerdy topic. But otherwise, thank you so much for joining, Sophia, it was an absolute pleasure and hope that the listeners will join us for the next episode of How We Hire. Until then, bye-bye.