How to hire top sales talent better than your competition w/ Gabriella Cuevas

#72: Listen as Gabriella Cuevas, Director of Strategic Accounts at Vendition and an absolute rockstar in recruiting, discusses best practices in sales hiring. She shares her experience in SDR hiring and recruitment, how to streamline the process, the most common mistakes companies make, and how to avoid them.

Listen to the episode by clicking play below OR search “the sales lift” wherever you get podcasts.

Check out the full transcript of this episode below:

The Sales Lift Podcast
Episode #72
How to hire top sales talent better than your competition w/ Gabriella Cuevas
Hosted by: Tyler Lindley


[00:00:00] Tyler: Hey, Sales Lift Nation, it's your host, Tyler Lindley. Today, I have Gabriella Cuevas on the podcast. Hey Gabriella, how you doing?

[00:00:09] Gabriella: Hey. Hey Tyler. Happy to be here. Thanks for having me. Awesome.

[00:00:13] Tyler: Gabriella goes by Gabby. So you'll probably hear me call her Gabby sheet is the director of strategic accounts at condition slam dunk role.

Every day of Gabby is an absolute rockstar, and we're going to learn a lot from Gabby today on hiring. Best practices. So under there's a lot of tech and startups out there listening to the podcast, a lot of leaders wondering how the heck do I hire good sales talent. Gabby is really instrumental at bendicion on getting a lot of great talent in the door and a lot of really cool startups, Gabby, I guess I'm curious as companies start to think about hiring their first few sales hires, what do they need to put together?

What do they need to have in order to start that process of bringing on new goods?

[00:00:51] Gabriella: Thanks so much for having me Tyler. I'm so happy to be here and be a part of this conversation. I think sales recruiting is extremely critical to any organization it's super necessary to get this right, because your sales reps are on the forefront of your entire organization.

They're representing your product, your brand, your organization. What I would say for what you need in order to make the first few successful sales hires is number one, just making sure as a recruiting team or a sales team, you have your value prop down, not only the product, but also the company, the culture, the leadership team room.

Do you have your elevator pitch down about your organization? I think a lot of people forget that the interview process is a two way street. Of course, the candidate is being interviewed and they have to represent and demonstrate their skillset, but also the company has to sell the opportunity. So I think having your elevator pitch down is necessary.

I think second, having a quick, detailed and efficient interview process. I can't emphasize this enough. I've seen so many solid candidates get swiped up because the interview process is too long or companies simply don't know how to move quickly. And this is really key. And then third to piggyback off of the first point I made, I would say knowing how to close a candidate, this can be a strenuous and long process that not a lot of managers.

They think, oh, I extended an offer. Of course the candidate is going to stop. No, the closing process is one of the most important parts of the interview process. Overall. I think you need to know once you extend an offer that you got to woo them a bit, you gotta be able to sell the candidate, connect them with people on the sales team, send texts, call them, congratulate them, hype them up a bit.

I would see if you have those three things down, you will have. Full sales, recruiting, hiring process.

[00:02:44] Tyler: Awesome. Love that lot to dig into there. You mentioned having your own company value prop, the elevator pitch, having a quick detailed interview process, and then closing the candidate as those three key buckets.

How do you stand out within those buckets? So let's say you have those basics down. You've got those three things checked. How do you stand out from that company next to you? Cause great talent is typically looking at more than one company, right? Totally. That's

[00:03:07] Gabriella: a great question. I think it's important to be unique and stick out.

I think there are so many tech companies platforms out there. And so something that I've seen is how the recruiting team or the management team is treating that candidate. How are they treating them throughout the interview process? Are they treating them like a human or are they just another transaction?

And I think being empathetic. Kind diligent with feedback really, really goes the extra mile because when we're working on closing a candidate, the biggest thing that folks will say to me is, oh, I felt like it was just conversation. I didn't feel like I was in an interview. I felt like I was just chatting with the hiring manager.

And so I think making them feel special and human and not just another. Person in their pool is how you can stand out and how you can be unique despite you being the a hundred cyber secure.

[00:03:59] Tyler: Exactly. And that's important. I'm glad you brought that up because candidates never forget how you make them feel as companies, the company, employer relationship, it's really about how do we make our employees feel?

How do we make them feel? And it starts at the interview process. The interview process is. I guess it's the dating. If you made the analogy, real-world, it's like when we're dating, how did you feel on that first date? That really goes a long way. That's going to be etched in that person's brain for the rest of time.

And it's either a great memory or it's an awful memory as we think about making that good first impression, a lot of interview process, start with a phone screen. How do you stand out on a phone screen and a phone screen seems so check the box thing. Is there a way to stand out early on in the interview process?

Even at those early stages, like in a phone.

[00:04:42] Gabriella: I think there is, I think for a lot of the junior candidates that we work with, it's about making them comfortable. It's about tonality. For example, I have some hiring managers that are no BS straight to the point and just drill in and ask the tough questions and that works for some candidates.

But I also have some hiring managers that begin with a really empathetic kind, soft tone and explain the day-to-day of the role and the company along with asking them questions about their backup. I think it's kind of a dance Tyler, like you mentioned, it is like dating. I'm going to give a little, you're going to get a little, and that's what I've seen the most success with being like, wow, I just got off the phone with this hiring manager.

It was so smooth. It was so easy to talk to them. And then from then on, from the rest of the interview process, they're feeling like they're special. Like they're the one, which is a great feeling.

[00:05:31] Tyler: Yep, exactly. And it goes along with. So let's dig into a little bit more to those questions as a hiring manager or whoever sales manager, what should you be asking of these candidates throughout this process?

What should you want to find? This

[00:05:45] Gabriella: is a great question. And I think it's important because as vendors should we work with a lot of junior reps, so people aren't going to have 10 years of professional work experience, or they're not going to have any STR SAS selling experience. So it's important. I believe to pull from behavioral questions and situational questions.

I think behavioral questions. The candidates accomplishments, and also their storytelling ability. A lot of companies will ask the question, Hey, tell me about a time that you have seen a success. And so even if they just worked at Starbucks for the past three and a half years, while at college, if they have the ability to tell a story where they made an impact on a customer or a colleague, that's really important.

And I think situational questions are good because that assesses how the candidate can think on their feet and their critical thinking. The manager by no means is expecting them to be an expert prospector. But if they're able to talk about their thought process on how they would tap into a certain account or reach out to a certain prospect, you're seeing the wheels turn for those critical thinking skills.

I think a mix is good. And once again, I want to emphasize doing your best to try to make the candidate feel comfortable. So they're not bogged up with nerves and then they can't answer it. It relatively simple questions

[00:07:00] Tyler: that make sense as a hiring manager, going through this recruiting process. And those, tell me about a time questions.

Are you comfortable with the candidates giving you both personal stories from their personal background, as well as maybe more professional leading stories, especially for some of these more junior. Who don't have five, 10 years of professional experience. Are you comfortable with either, or should they skew towards things that are leaning professional?

What are your thoughts there?

[00:07:24] Gabriella: I will say yes. I like to hear personal examples or success stories, but let me put an asterix there. It has to be relevant. I don't want to hear something that's not relevant when you're telling me a personal example. I want to hear your values coming through. I wanna hear your strengths through, I want to hear your resilience coming through.

If you can do that. Yes, but I do caution people. Tyler, from going on a tangent about some personal experience, you're in an interview, this is a professional setting. I do encourage you to stick to more professional examples, a less, you have a really great personal story that makes you who you are and

[00:08:01] Tyler: your point of making it personal and relevant.

That's not just bring out that personal story. That's. Field that you love to tell around the dinner table with your buddies, but it makes no sense in a professional setting and it doesn't add any value to the actual conversation at hand. That's so important. What about the typical questions? Gabby? We all hear the question.

Tell me about yourself. Do you think those questions, are they good? That's typically a question that a candidate might prepare for because it's asked so often because a hiring. Should you ask those common questions where you're going to probably get a stock answer they prepared for, or do you like avoiding those?

What's your thoughts there?

[00:08:34] Gabriella: I think that tell me about yourself questions extremely important. And yes, I know people prepare for that as they should, but the reason being is because usually that's asked right at the beginning of an interview, Tyler, and you have to be able to entice that interviewer in the first 30 to 45 seconds, just like you would a prospect.

So if you can't grab me. There the interview might go south. I do think that's a good one also because a lot of candidates share some of that more personal information, whether they worked their way through college, whether they come from a single mother or a single father, or whether they come from an immigrant background, whatever they think is relevant to their values and their skills.

So I do like that question, despite it view a bit cheesy

[00:09:15] Tyler: and overused, it is cheesy and overused, but there's a million different answers. And I think that's, what's important is that nobody answers that question the same way. And even if you've prepared that answer, there's probably something new or some new little nuance that you might pull out.

And I think that's important at the end of the day, we talked about this being like dating. We're trying to get a feel for their personality. Are you trying to figure out, can they do the role versus can I stand this person? You know what I mean? Cause you work closely that hiring manager going out on a limb that sales manager is going to be working closely with this person.

How much of it is just like a billing. Versus they can do the job. Is it both evenly or is it mainly, can they do the job? And I can just put up with those.

[00:09:55] Gabriella: I think the majority of it is can they do the job, but I do think a good 30, 40% of assessing a candidate is can I work alongside this person? A lot of the managers that I work with will pose the question to me.

Can I see myself grabbing a coffee or a beer, this individual? And I like that because I do think it's important to think about that. Despite us being in a remote work. You're going to be chatting with this individual all day nonstop. So ness, I think personality and personality is huge, but I also think you have to have the skills to do the day-to-day.

[00:10:26] Tyler: Exactly. It's definitely more skewed towards the skills. I think if you was a complete miss on personality, if the answer was, I could never grab that beer with that person, that might be a deal breaker. Correct. Totally awesome. What mistakes do you see companies making throughout this process, as they're doing all this recruiting and interviewing and trying to find.

Fits for their sales team. What mistakes are people making?

[00:10:48] Gabriella: I'm grateful because I've worked with a lot of companies who do this very well, but also with being at rendition for over three years, I've also seen some companies just totally miss out on some A-plus players. I would say number one, mistake, moving to.

Missing out on a candidate because you have FOMO. Oh, I don't want to push X forward because I want to see ABC and Y Z the following week. No, if they're a good candidate, they're going to get swooped up. So you better schedule next steps to keep them warm and engaged in the process. So that's number one.

Number two, no feedback provided when it can be. Is rejected or push forward. I actually encourage companies despite you moving forward or rejecting a candidate to always provide feedback. Because even if you really like an individual, maybe they went on a long-winded tangent or maybe they were talking over you, or maybe they didn't enclose you at the end of the call.

And having that feedback is invaluable. And that also allows you to assess their coachability skills. So I think that's a great thing to include in the post. Third lack of selling one, extending an offer. It's just such a bummer. When I extend an offer to a candidate and the manager never reaches out, never congratulates the candidate.

And it's like, it feels not real. It doesn't really feel like you've been extended a real offer because those team members aren't sharing excitement or encouragement for your hard work during the process. So you got to sell, taking this back to our conversation. It's a dating game when a manager. An offer they're being vulnerable.

It's like this two way street that we always have to follow. And the fourth thing I'll say is some companies only have a one step interview process. This is rare, but I think that an individual needs to meet at least two to three folks on the team in order to fully understand if they can actually work, they're taking them to

[00:12:32] Tyler: grow.

I'm glad you brought up number four, because that should be number one on the list is let's not have a one-step interview process that just makes my skin girl, you talked about moving too slow, but if you go too fast and you skipped. Can't you get burned because I feel like sometimes an interview processes, people can really show up well, on one goal for one person, they do a great job.

And the next thing you know, you didn't ask those right questions. You didn't get that other perspective. You didn't put them through a short little example of, can you do X, Y, Z for me and get some more feedback from them. I feel like as much as we're getting feedback, it should be giving feedback to the.

They are doing the same for us. And every example is a touch point of, are they going to do the job? Can they follow up? Are they going to actually care about this entire process? And if you only do one or two steps, especially with only one person, the likelihood of that panning out, you're just leaving yourself open to.

Possibilities that are probably not great. Have you just seen that crash and burn every time or is there ever been that one step? Every process that works out great that it just happened to magically

[00:13:33] Gabriella: fit. There is one company that I work with. I've worked with them for over two and a half years. So we do one step interview process, but it's a three hour.

And it's a one stick. So they do meet multiple people in one sitting. And the reason Tyler they do that is because of the relationship I built with the company. I know what they're looking for in a candidate. And ultimately the candidate does get to chat with a slew of team members. So that works out.

But I do agree with you. My ideal. Somewhere between two to three steps. And I say two, because you can still throw in an assignment in there as well in between steps one and two and fully assess the candidate. I think that's what works best. The STR market is hot. People move fast. I hate to see candidates get swooped up.

So that's my overall rule of thumb.

[00:14:16] Tyler: Two to three. That makes sense. And you talk a little bit about your role. Gabby described us a little bit more about what role do you play in this process between these candidates and the clients? I'm sure some are wondering, what do you actually do at bendicion what's your

[00:14:27] Gabriella: role?

I am playing matchmaker over here, strategic matchmaker. I am working with our candidates very much. So to figure out what they're looking for in a professional new home. Small mid-size large. Where do they want to go after the SDR role? What do they want in their manager? Really hearing all of that. And then I'm working with our companies to figure out what do they want an ideal hire, soft skills, technical skills background.

Do they want to go grab a beer or coffee with them? Frequently? These types of things are really important and doing my best to make it strategic and something that I try to pride myself on is we don't send volume. The ideal ratio is about three to five candidates per one higher. Really, I want you to interview three to five candidates and hire one of them.

And that's why it's strategic because it's, it's all about listening to both sides

[00:15:13] Tyler: and what they need. And I'm glad you brought that up. Cause that was actually, my next question is how many candidates should accompany C? It sounds like there's a lot of variables at play there. How did you land on three to five?

What does that process look like for you? And then is it different for other companies? What should other companies be looking at less candidates or maybe even more candidates? How does that number change?

[00:15:33] Gabriella: Let's zoom out. I think it's important when you're looking to hire an SDR to do a lot of work prior to interviewing.

So you work closely with the companies prior to setting up interviews, to figure out their ideal candidate and process. And so once I hear that, I then go back to my candidate pool and think about who's going to be the best fit for this type of opportunity. And so that's why I have that three to five number because that's historically what we've seen in the past three years.

And it's a number that we pride ourselves on because. We don't want you to interview 10 candidates. We're not a staffing agency at the end of the day. Yes, we are recruiting and doing a lot of the groundwork, but we also are very strategic about it, which is why I love working here.

[00:16:15] Tyler: It sounds like three to five is pretty low in terms of, if you had an open rec for a sales job, typically if you weren't working with a recruiting firm or have a partner, how many folks would you typically need to interview in order to find a good.

[00:16:28] Gabriella: Sometimes the companies we work with before they've started with us, have interviewed over 30

[00:16:33] Tyler: candidates and made zero hires at that point


[00:16:36] Gabriella: made dozens and

[00:16:38] Tyler: dozens of folks. If you've looked at 30 people and you've hired none, what went wrong there? Typically, what mistakes did you make? Because that seems like a lot of people to go through to not find one that you thought was a good fit.

That's a lot. That's a lot of time.

[00:16:53] Gabriella: It's a lot of time. I think it's mainly the avenues with which some of these companies are sourcing. Lot of these managers have their entire day to day role to do and recruit for a new SDR. There's just no time. And so they're filtering through inbound leads. As you know, LinkedIn apply is quick and easy and you can get a lot of folks.

You can cut a lot of folks your way. And so we're really grateful for our career advising team. Cause they do all that grunt work. They sit through the candidates to assess communication, coachability and grit, et cetera, which makes our hiring partners lives.

[00:17:26] Tyler: Exactly. And I think you've got to make that decision as we talk about, do you use an outsource firm or do you try to do this in-house as people are trying to make that decision, especially when they're just getting this started, what things should they be thinking about Gabby, whether to outsource or insource their hiring process?

I think

[00:17:42] Gabriella: that it depends on your bandwidth, how much time you have and time is money. So are you willing to spend 15 to 20 additional hours a week recruiting for an SDR? Or do you want to hire a company like and get a solid candidate within two and a half weeks? I think that the companies we work with are in the midst of.

Startup stage high growth, a ton of work on their plate. And so we really help offload that work cause we know how busy our,

[00:18:08] Tyler: that makes a lot of sense. What haven't we touched on yet. Gabby, if there's a startup company out there, there's a leader out there trying to figure out how do I hire new sales reps?

What should I be doing anything we haven't touched on yet that you want to make sure that they.

[00:18:20] Gabriella: I would just say lead with empathy and kindness, be specific about why your company is unique, what value you add to the market and be efficient. Don't have FOMO. Don't think that if you like someone, you need to see five to six other folks.

Once you get that feeling as a hiring manager, trust your gut, run with it. I think that's really important truth. With the respect that they deserve. I think that's really important set expectations that are viable and ultimately just be open, be open to young junior folks, people who don't have prior SDR experience because that's what our whole business model is.

And we've seen success for over six years. I think you should give people a shot who maybe you don't initially think would be the best SDRs.

[00:19:05] Tyler: Awesome. Love it. Thanks Gabby so much. If my listeners want to find out more about you online, how can they do.

[00:19:11] Gabriella: Connect with me on LinkedIn, Gabriela Cuevas, I'm active and always on LinkedIn.

I'd love to chat about anything

[00:19:17] Tyler: regarding this topic. Perfect. We'll link to your LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Gabby. Thanks so much for coming on. It's been an absolute pleasure. We'll have to do it again soon and talk about what you've learned in a few years. Thanks so much, Tyler. Happy

[00:19:28] Gabriella: to be here.


[00:19:29] Tyler: Thanks Gabby.

Thank you so much for listening to today's show, you can find all the links discussed and the show That's the T H E sales S a L E S. Lift L I F have questions for me. Email We look forward to seeing you back here next week, and we hope today's show brings you the sales lift.

Your business needs. Remember ideas. Plus action equals. You've got new ideas. Now it's time to take action and the results will fall. See you next time. .

Don’t feel like listening? Read the Episode Cliff Notes instead below:

Streamlining the Hiring Process (0:23)

Sales recruiting is extremely critical to any organization and necessary to get this right because your sales reps are at the forefront of your entire organization. 

People forget that the interview process is a two-way street: having your elevator pitch down is necessary for an interviewee; as an interviewer, a quick, detailed, and efficient interview process.

Being empathetic, kind, and diligent with feedback goes the extra mile when closing a candidate. For a lot of the junior candidates, it’s about tonality and making them comfortable.

Questioning Strategies (5:45)

Pull from behavioral questions and situational questions.

Behavioral questions revolve around the candidate’s accomplishments and their storytelling ability. For example, many companies will ask the question, “tell me about a time that you have seen success.”

Situational questions are good because they assess how the candidate can think on their feet and use critical thinking.

Doing your best to try to make the candidate feel comfortable is key. You don’t want them so bogged up with nerves they can’t answer it.

Stick to more professional examples, but if you have a great personal story that makes you who you are, make sure you keep it relevant.

“Tell me about yourself” questions are critical. You have to be able to entice that interviewer in the first 30 to 45 seconds, just like you would a prospect, and this question is often one of the first ones you’re asked.

The majority of the process comes down to whether or not they can do the job. But a good 30-40% of it also assesses if a candidate can work alongside the team. 

Common Mistakes (10:47)

Don’t miss out on a candidate because you have FOMO. If they’re a good candidate, they’re going to get swooped up, so you better schedule next steps to keep them warm and engaged in the process. 

Companies should always provide feedback whether they move forward or reject a candidate. This helps them in the future while allowing you to assess their coachability skills. 

When an offer is made, and the manager doesn’t reach out to congratulate the candidate, it doesn’t feel like the offer is real since those team members aren’t sharing excitement or encouragement. 

Some companies only have a one-step interview process. It’s rare, but an individual needs to meet at least two to three folks on the team to understand if they can work there. So ensure you have more than just a single process is key.

Role of the Recruiter (14:19)

The recruiter is the strategic matchmaker and works with candidates to figure out what they are looking for in their new professional home.

They also work with companies to determine what they want in an ideal hire, soft skills, technical skills background, etc.

Recruiters want managers to interview three to five candidates and hire one of them. So they work closely with the companies before setting up interviews to figure out their ideal candidate and process. 

Trust your gut as a hiring manager and run with it. Set viable expectations and just be open to young junior people who don’t have prior SDR experience because that’s what the whole business model is.

Gabriella’s Bio:

Director of Strategic Accounts at Vendition

I have been recruiting SDRs for the past 3.5 years

Placed over 100s of SDRs

Important Links:

Gabriella’s LinkedIn Profile