Jason and I don’t always agree, but Jason is a prolific blogger and a very bright executive you can learn from, so there’ll be a chance to agree somewhere down the road. This latest post of his is one I loved. He’s basically describing the problem of hiring your first Sales Rep if you don’t have an experienced VP of Sales to do the hiring. The advice is simple:
If you only hire one rep, you won’t learn anything. You’ll have no idea why they succeeded or failed. If you hire two, you can look at the differences in style and results as well as benefit from the sum of both of their experience sets.
The analogy to A/B testing for marketing seems clear to me. If you just make a change and roll it out, you have no idea how that change affected your subsequent results. You can speculate that it drove them, but you really need to have the placebo in your testing to compare it against. That’s why A/B testing is so important and I was tickled to see it applied to this problem. It’s very smart advice.
I have known excellent VP’s of Sales who do essentially the same thing. There is an old saw about how at any given time 1/3 of the sales reps are making their numbers, 1/3 are not, and 1/3 are so new it is too soon to tell. Every year they fire the group that didn’t make the number so they can hire a new 1/3 and continue the process of Darwinian selection. If the company overall misses, nobody fires the whole sales team, at least not if they had been making numbers in prior periods.