5 Tips for Hiring a Quality Chief Commercial Officer

Written by EO Executives on Apr 28, 2017


Our Commercial Practice at EO Executives, have the privilege of meeting with industry leaders and top talent on a regular basis. This gives our expert team the opportunity to stay up to date with what is going on in the market and stay engage client priorities. 

Having worked in this space for over 10 years, we have seen the many challenges that organisations have gone through to entice and retain top talent into their business. For some, the process is easier than others but in the end every business needs to implement a hiring strategy that works for them (especially in the war for talent).

One hiring trend we have seen rise in recent years is the demand for Chief Commercial/Revenue/Sales Officers. With more PE & VC firms investing heavily into UK start- ups, the demand for these roles is even more prominent. This is hardly surprising when owners and investors want to see a fast ROI and with this Chief Commercial Officers become an important part of business growth strategies.

So,we have outlined my 5 top tips for hiring a Chief Commercial Officer and the key things to look out for along the way:

1. Plan & design

One of the most common mistakes business owners or decision makers go through is trying to run a full-scale recruitment process on their own. Without a thought-out strategy, this can become difficult to manage, especially with the day to day duties of running a business. Plus the initial benefits of managing this process yourself can become a complete time consumer.

Your strategy should be that you are hiring someone based on their competency to do the role but most importantly you should believe they can achieve beyond key business initiatives, align on your business goals and will be a strong cultural match.

You should leverage through your network to get a clear indication of what ‘top talent’ looks like and what you should be bench marking against for the role. My advice would be to look for someone with a clear track record that has demonstrated significant growth from the ground up.

Another key point in the hiring process (that often gets missed) is the importance of sticking to time frames. Have a set date of when you need someone to start, agree this with shareholders/ stakeholders and partner with a firm who can work with you to execute your recruitment strategy.

2. Partner & Go to Market

Once you have a clear strategy in place you need to think about how you’re going to find and entice the talent you want. Therefore, collaborating with a search firm who aligns with your goals and understands your business will be crucial. If you are VC/PE backed your investors can sometimes look inside their own portfolio and leverage from within.

If you’re unsure on what search firm to use, select from three/four firms you are aware of, do some background research on their reputation/ success rate and if they have experience of working with fast growing companies in your sector. Ask them to talk you through recent searches they have delivered within your sector and relate to your business model.

When deciding on which search firm to collaborate with, you should look at the company’s value proposition and ask them to demonstrate how their proposition can do two things. 1: De-risk the hiring process and 2: Increase ROI. Hopefully they will align with your expectations. Ultimately, your partnering firm needs to understand the journey your business is going to embark on and why you want to make the hire. Ask them to provide a thorough break down of the current market, trends, remuneration trends and their own understanding of your business.

The final step of this stage is to confirm your partner and agree the deadlines for delivery!

3. Interview & Implement Rigour

It is integral to create a rigorous process with your search partner to meet candidate expectations and ensure they are nurtured through a journey. If a candidate doesn’t feel they have received a respectable candidate experience they are either unlikely to take the job (if offered) or choose to work with your business again.

Additionally, if candidates are successfully nurtured through a process they will want the opportunity and have the drive to work for it. Making them jump through a few hoops is healthy and will rule in/out the candidates that are fully bought into you and your business.

Break this up into three stages.

Stage 1: Cultural/informal meeting.

The first stage should be centred around your relationship with the candidate. From experience, you will quickly know if the candidate is a good cultural fit for your organisation. To entice the candidate, keep the discussion top line. Give enough away that will make them intrigued about the role but also keep your cards close. At this stage, you should be assessing whether you can work with them day to day and if your clients/team will respect them!

To ensure the candidate is a good cultural fit, EO Executives use our advanced and award winning technology to match candidates to a business on both technical competencies and behaviours (see here for more details).

Stage 2: Introduce the candidate to your team or client (this can be sensitive, my advice would be to take a view if this hire is a “new” or “replacement” hire).

Asking candidates to meet your team or clients is a beneficial way of getting additional buy-in from your colleagues. Ultimately, your clients are likely to respond well to this process as it provides them the opportunity to build rapport, which can only be perceived as a positive. Your people and clients are the bedrock to your success and involving them in this journey can be valuable.

Stage 3: The presentation.

This is a vital part of the process. If the candidate does not have the ability to present to the Board/ Team, how can you expect them to close deals with prospective clients?

Try using the following structure:

  •  Overview of self, relevant experience and skills - why should we choose you?
  •  What do you know about our business?
  •  Describe your management style.

1. What sales methods do you advocate?
2. How can you translate into fast growing business?
3. KPIs you would focus on etc.

  • What three qualities do you look for when hiring sales people and why?
  • Where do you see innovation stemming from inside our industry and how can we position ourselves to become market leaders within the industry?

Business Plan:

• Provide a slide on your first 90 days with the business
• How will you approach potential clients?
• Type of client
• Average size of client
• The profitability of a typical client
• Length of contract
• Services provided
• The sales process
• The marketing strategy
• System Requirements
• Pricing method

4. The close:

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when closing the deal is failing to provide clarity and detail to A: the candidate or B: their search partner.

Would you sell a house without providing the market or potential buyers with detailed information? Highly unlikely- right! The same rules apply here. You are making a critical business investment that could either make or break your growth!

Additionally, you should never underestimate the quality and potential ROI of a best in class candidate. Trying to get a ‘bargain’ and cut costs on your hire/offer will only impact your business in the future. My advice would be to put your best offer forward from the get go because the impact of low balling a candidate can be detrimental.

Remember, the search firm you choose to partner with should provide you with all necessary information, guidance and advise at any part of the hiring process. Leave the closing of the candidate to them; they should have your best interests at heart and if they are good it should be a done deal.

5. Aftercare:
For many businesses, the hiring process stops once the candidate has been placed and is in role. Sounds normal but the issue is whether the candidate will continue to meet expectations or be the right cultural fit for the organisation.

At EO Executives we understand the importance of ensuring a thorough process both before and after the placement has been made. Ensuring the candidate receives the most effective on-boarding and is settled into their new role is key for guaranteeing long-term success. This is why our team offer a 90 day on-boarding process and work with both the candidate and client to fast track success.

Learn more here: http://www.executivesonline.co.uk/en/executive-recruitment/

Our top tip would be to ensure you make the time and effort to thoroughly on-board your new Chief Commercial Officer. In the end, you’ll end up with a strong commercial team and overall a better business.

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