3 crucial steps to successfully hiring your first head of sales

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3 mins, 10 secs read time

Greenhouse recently participated in SaaStr Europa 2023 in London, where we hosted 3 crucial steps to successfully hiring your first head of sales – a session in collaboration with industry experts Growth by Design.

The talk was led by our very own EMEA Sales Director, Renu Jhugaroo and the founder of Growth by Design Talent, Jill Macri. In their presentation, Renu and Jill discussed the importance of following a structured hiring process to find and hire the best sales leader.

After the session, Renu and Jill were approached by numerous attendees eager to learn more about hiring for roles vital to business growth and the three-step structured hiring process. Read on for a recap of these steps.

Step one: Define the candidate success profile

Hiring the best candidate starts with clarifying what you are looking for in the hire. Many leaders fail to do this well and it often makes the difference between an excellent hire and a mishire. This step of the structured hiring process aims to mitigate the chances of that happening.

A great sales leader sets the long-term goals of your company's sales team – and this is exactly where you should start. Think about the long-term contribution they’ll make to your company and define their success profile accordingly.

Here are a few questions to guide you through:

1. What are the long term business objectives for this hire?

2. What will this person need to accomplish year one to be successful?

3. What would “exceeding expectations at 90 days” look like?

Your ideal candidate success profile should then look something like this:

Business objectives:

  • Increase sales revenue
  • Build a successful sales strategy
  • Improve sales process efficiency

In year one:

  • Achieve revenue goals
  • Has a winning team in place
  • Execute on sales strategy

First 90 days - exceeding expectations:

  • Understand the business, has a first draft of strategy
  • Understand the ICP and sales cycle
  • Respected partner for our internal stakeholders

Step two: Determine qualifications necessary to achieve success

Now let’s build on our success profile by translating those objectives into qualifications needed to achieve success in terms of experience, skills and competencies.

For example:

Experience (Degrees or career milestones):

  • Successful, relevant sales experience
  • Leadership experience

Skills (Well-defined abilities):

  • Sales skills – Negotiation, qualifying customers, persona development, pipeline strategies, etc.
  • Team building – Ability to scale a quality team and coaching/mentoring skills
  • Process – Ability to build effective processes

Competencies (Personality attributes and individual aptitudes):

  • To drive results – Adaptability, demonstrated growth mindset, curiosity, ability to learn and self-starter
  • To build relationships – Collaboration, communication and customer focus

We often see companies using experience as a proxy for the other two types of qualifications. This leads to either passing on great candidates over very specific experience or over-indexing on brand names or titles on resumes instead of actually testing skills or competencies in the interview process.

Step three: Prioritise candidate qualifications

Lastly and very importantly, stack rank that list of qualifications and get clear on tradeoffs.

The likelihood of getting one candidate that excels in everything is low. You need to decide ahead of time what’s a must-have and what's nice-to-have so you know what are the most important qualifications to screen for.

From there, each step in the interview process should clearly map to one or more of these core qualifications. Remember, you don’t want to wait till late in the process to assess for something that’s a dealbreaker and high priority. Optimizing for the most important qualification criteria will get you the best talent.

Curious to learn more about how to make confident hiring decisions by following a structured hiring process? Our guide, How to be an effective assessor of talent, will show you.

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Injy ElDeeb

Injy ElDeeb

is an International Marketing Manager at Greenhouse with a flair for storytelling. When she's not busy working up content ideas, you'll find her curled up with a good book on the beach, cooking mediterranean food, traveling the world or hanging out with friends and doggos at the park. You can connect with Injy on LinkedIn.

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