Scaling the early sales team at Yext

(Editor’s Note: This post was originally posted on DavidGreenberger.NYC and is being republished with his permission.)

Bryan Rutcofsky was our guest speaker for BuildingTheSalesMachine in January of 2015. He shared incredible insight and detail into how he built and curated the original Yext sales team, now one of the brightest sales organizations in NYC. Yext , a listings management platform is one of the hottest startups in NYC. They’ve now raised $115M, are hiring hand over fist and rumored to be headed towards IPO later this year.

Our conversation dives into the nitty gritty, tactical tricks, and challenges that came with building the team into what it is today. See the full length video(40min) of Bryan’s incredibly down-to-earth thoughts & vision at the bottom of page.

How do you set and understand initial sales metrics? What’s realistic?

I’m a firm believer for any sales leader to not ask their employees to do anything they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves.

I did myself and if I knew that I could bring in X amount of sales during Y time, I would set the benchmark at around 80% of where I could be. I can’t expect someone with 6 months of sales experience to always do what I can do.

That said, there’s also going to be people that can come in and do way more than I ever could. I tell my people here’s the model if you can break it and prove out a better process, we’re going to do it that way. I don’t ever stop tracking metrics

Once you understand the sale, how do you scale past one rep and beyond?

We understand this is a product that can be sold, it’s time to grow. Once the the model is set and I knew that I could bring in 3,4,5 businesses / day. We made 2 conscious decisions. 1) we wanted to be inside sellers, contrary to the current thinking of the time: experienced, feet on the street sales people. 2) Bring on green, hungry sellers.

We were very, very strict on our new sales hires. These first 3-4 hires you make, are the people you have to believe your going to build your organization around. If you don’t fully believe the people that you just brought into your company can be the leaders of the sales team as you move forward. You hired the wrong people.

You want someone that’s willing to commit fully to a sales role knowing there’s opportunity to grow and grow the way you want to.

The 50% Rule

Don’t hire too quickly . I’m a firm believer in the 50% rule. I will never hire a sales class that is larger than 50% of my sales floor. If I have 10 sellers on my floor. I will never hire more than 5 people. That speaks to the culture. I worked very hard at curating my team, that buy into my vision and my community. When you bring in a class that is larger than the existing base that can infect the culture that you’ve already worked so hard to build.

You need the existing base to sort of overpower whatever feedback and thought process these new people may have. You need to sort of infuse them with what you want them to know, how you want them to act, the ways you want them to respond… And that can affect they way you want them to respond.

Often founders just want to jump in and just hire 20, 30, 40 people and get rocking and rolling because, “look, it’s working, it’s selling great!, the product’s there!”. You need to beware that it can be very dangerous. It can actually destroy the sales environment and the sales culture that you’ve worked so hard to create (the reason why it works), and can in fact take things in the opposite direction.

What do you look for in a sales hire:

Two things:

1. Confidence. I want someone that can sit down and be confident. I don’t expect anyone to “sell me the pen” if they’ve never sold anything before (although yes, we ask the question just to see what they’ll do). But I’m just looking for their confidence level, how they portray themselves… One of the first things I’ll ask is, “okay, I see your resume here, tell me about yourself” and if it’s 5 seconds long, I don’t want to hire them. I want someone who’s going to be able to engage me. There’s a big difference between cocky and confident. I want confidence

2. Drive. Especially if I’m hiring fresh out of college, someone who worked during school is great. Whether to pay their way or just for pocket change so not just living on mommy and daddy’s dime, knowing the value of “working for their supper”. Someone who played sports sets you up nicely for sales. When you play sports you have to be comfortable with failure because you can’t win all the time. That’s what sales is. Someone who knows what it’s like to be on the field and lose, wake up the next day and go to back to practice so you can be better the next time. That’s what sales is.

So that’s what I look for in an on-site interview. If you can engage me and you have the confidence I might be willing to give you a shot.


See the entire conversation with Bryan below. And come join our next event, May 6th at Foursquare HQ where our guest speaker will be Milind Mehere, co-founder of Yodle.