Does Your Sales Leadership Recruiting Process Need a Facelift? - Sales Executive Search

      Does Your Sales Leadership Recruiting Process Need a Facelift?

      Top Executive Recruiter Ash Wendt

      By Executive Recruiter Ash Wendt — Top Marketing & Sales Executive Recruiter Ash Wendt has deep experience and unmatched expertise in sourcing extraordinary talent for C-suite roles centered on sales, marketing, operations, and finance. As a founding partner of Cowen Partners, Ash Wendt is also a pioneering thought leader frequently quoted in The Wall Street Journal and other prominent journals.

      Once your business discovers a particular process that works, you might be tempted to lock it in and continue relying on it indefinitely.

      After all, if the old adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is to be believed, you should stick with the recruiting processes that have continually given you success, right?

      Not necessarily. As countless forces shape the private equity sales landscape, the picture of the ideal executive sales leader changes.

      If you keep your executive recruiting process exactly the same, your business might stagnate — or even start to slow. 

      Here is a look at the traditional search process for private equity sales leaders. Discover how a few changes might make your next search the best one yet.

      How Sales Leaders Have Historically Been Recruited

      If you have a long-established protocol for hiring a chief revenue officer (CRO), chief growth officer (CGO), or chief commercial officer (CCO), it’s probably based on achieving one simple goal: successfully managing a sales team. In years past, that’s most of what someone needed to become a great sales executive. 

      Like that central goal, the process of evaluating potential candidates was often fairly simple. In many cases, search committees and CEOs focused on three relatively narrow criteria:

      • Direct vs. channel sales
      • End-market experience
      • Product/service sales experience

      These aren’t necessarily bad criteria to focus on. However, they give you a very limited picture of a candidate’s experience and potential. That picture is especially limited in the world of private equity — a fast-paced, high-stakes world that requires leaders to be cool-headed, agile problem solvers.

      Essentially, it’s perfectly fine to take the above criteria into account. But if you want great sales leaders, you’ll need to expand your criteria to better suit the changing private equity landscape.

      What Criteria Should You Focus on When Evaluating Candidates?

      If you’re looking for a sales executive for a business backed by private equity, you’re looking for a leader with a very specific skill set. Here are three critical factors to look for in your search.

      A Private-Equity Mindset

      Working with a business backed by private equity isn’t the same as working with a more traditional business. Any candidate you consider should have a comprehensive understanding of what it means to work with a PE-backed business. More specifically, they should possess the following knowledge and skills:

      • The capacity to handle the fast-paced nature of the work
      • The understanding that their compensation depends (at least in part) on the ROI of the investors
      • The expertise to determine what types of people they need to hire for their sales teams
      • The ability to try to meet the expectations of the Board while working within existing market dynamics
      • The skill of working in tandem with other executives and high-level leaders

      Typically, an executive who has this mindset has extensive experience working with other businesses backed by private equity. That doesn’t mean that every sales leader who has worked with similar businesses is automatically qualified, though. 

      Take the time to ensure the candidate can work successfully in this type of environment, and determine whether they’re a good fit for the culture as well.

      Powerful Leadership and Organizational Abilities

      When a sales leader (or any leader) steps into a PE-backed business, they aren’t only there to lead an existing team. Often, their goal is to help a struggling business become more profitable.

      What that looks like depends on the individual business. Maybe the company has a stellar sales team already but is in desperate need of better management. Or maybe the new executive will be tasked with hiring, training, and structuring a whole new crop of sales professionals.

      Perhaps most importantly, a great candidate has the confidence and strength to stand behind their organizational abilities. They must be able to move forward with the plan even if they encounter pushback from their subordinates. They need to have at least some degree of charisma — a great sales leader can connect with salespeople and continually motivate them to achieve results.

      A Clear, Detailed Strategy for Success

      If a sales executive is hired on at a firm that’s already quite successful, there may not be much they need to change in the go-to-market strategy. Stepping in as a new leader becomes smooth and straightforward.

      Becoming a new executive at a business backed by private equity is a whole different matter. After all, most PE firms don’t buy highly successful companies — they buy struggling companies, turn them around, and sell at a profit.

      It takes some dedication for a sales leader to develop a viable marketing strategy. First, they need to determine the target market and conduct in-depth audience research. They also need to do a deep dive into each sales channel to develop a winning strategy for each one. 

      If the business is truly struggling, candidates might even need to revisit basic considerations, like the type of product packaging to use.

      How do you know whether a given candidate has what it takes to lead your company into a new and exciting chapter?

      You can get a feel for their strategic abilities by asking about past companies they’ve worked with. You also might pose hypothetical situations that mirror the issues your company has been having. 

      Specific questions like these will give you some insight into a candidate’s strategic abilities. That’s not all, though — if you ask these questions in an interview, you’ll also be able to assess the candidate’s ability to think on their feet.

      Transform Your Search to Transform Your Business

      If you start to shift the way you’ve recruited your sales leaders, you might run into resistance. Don’t be discouraged — it’s human nature for people to want to stick with old habits (or search techniques), especially if they seem to be working just fine.

      However, if you strategically overhaul your recruitment approach, you’ll begin to see just what your company’s been missing. A simple adjustment to your recruitment criteria can usher in a new crop of sales leaders for a new era.

      B2B Sales Executive Recruiters | B2B Demand Generation Recruiters | Cowen Partners


      Our hands-on sales executive recruiters have experience working with private, public, pre-IPO, and non-profit organizations. Clients are typically $50 million in revenue to Fortune 1000’s or have assets between $500 million to $15 billion. Successful placements span the entire C-Suite – CEOChief Operating OfficerChief Financial Officer, and include vice presidentgeneral counsel, and other director-level leadership roles.

      Check out our industry-leading retained search resources to see why Cowen Partners is a top sales and marketing executive search firm in New York CityAnchorage, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, and beyond:

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