Use A Talent Strategy to Hire ‘A’ Players w/ Mike Drapeau. [Episode 400]

In this episode, we hear from Mike Drapeau, Managing Partner at Sales Benchmark Index. He heads SBI’s internal talent development.


Revenue Growth Methodology is built around three pillars of growth: marketing, sales, and product. The equation is 50% talent and 50% performance conditions. What talent strategy can help underperforming companies?

Mike cites Elliott Jaques on talent potentiality, and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn on the alliance between employer and employee. SBI looks not just for accomplishments, but also for potentiality. They measure Sacrifice Tolerance Level.

STL is measured specifically to each position, by asking what they were willing to sacrifice, and if they knew for what purpose they were sacrificing. Mike cites Clayton Christensen. Will what they give up now get them to where they want to be?

Mike looks for people who can do long-term and short-term thinking. Instead of a learning curve, SBI offers a learning cliff, and it’s not an easy climb. The job trial is role specific, but three weeks, 10 hours a week, of their A-game.

Mike explains the type of job trial they might offer to a candidate; in this example, a role-played virtual video presentation suited to the client scenario. Empathy is a core differentiator for working with clients, and they test for it.

Andy says companies write job specifications, but they don’t test to the specifications. Mike agrees it is necessary to create conditions that will test the candidate’s performance and suitability for a role.

Greg Alexander, SBI CEO, co-wrote Topgrading for Sales on how to hire the best salespeople. Calculate the cost of hiring a C player instead of an A player.

References should include the last three bosses, and a subordinate. Look at W2s for three years. Test candidates to analyze data. Use the “threat of reference check.” One killer question for past bosses: “How would you manage them?”

Onboarding best practices are addressed in articles Mike has written at, available for free. SBI uses a self-service tool called Asana. Put someone very senior over onboarding (sales manager or higher).

Onboarding is a four-month process, integrating content specific to a role, by stage of development, by month. A personal dossier merges personal goals with professional aspirations. A tour of duty plans out a three-year path.

Sales training is preparation for coaching. Without the coaching, the training degrades quickly. SBI teaches sales managers how to coach, not how to manage. Coaching is 20-25% of a manager’s time and effort.


The Sales Enablement Podcast with Andy Paul was formerly Accelerate! with Andy Paul.