Those words might best sum up Brad Stratton’s strategy when replacing talent. The senior vice president of worldwide sales for Talend says he believes in acting swiftly when seeing a problem because the longer the wait, “it’s only going to make your life tougher.”
That’s the mentality he relied upon during his first six months with the open-source integration software company. He had to part ways with two sales leaders — the first within his first month. The staff member often conflicted with the marketing side of the business. Stratton did some research and found that the individual’s goals didn’t match the business plan of the company.
“Every interaction I have for the first two or three months on the job, I’m essentially doing a competency interview in my head,” Stratton says.
The second sales leader took a little longer to figure out. This employee worked remotely, which meant fewer interactions. But at a meeting, Stratton probed the staffer on why he was 25 percent short of forecast sales numbers. Typically, if sales leaders miss, it’s by 5 to 10 percent, Stratton says. When the employee struggled to answer, it raised some red flags. Stratton, though, displayed some caution.
Making a change to a sales leader can cause issues beyond the numbers, impacting the culture and the team. Stratton, new to Talend, wanted to make sure he had read the situation correctly. He asked others how they felt about the employee. It became clear that the sales leader’s peers liked him as a person but felt he lacked success and the skills to take the growth to the next level.
To move fast, Stratton turned to his deep network. Using these connections as a “talent bench” to tap when a position opens ensures he has quality candidates at his disposal. The simple task of keeping up with LinkedIn connections and reaching out to past colleagues from time to time gave Stratton a list of sales leaders he knew he could interview as soon as he could make the change.
For the position, he spoke to several people from his past, as well as some new candidates. To ensure the applicants were the right cultural fit, Stratton also met them off-site in an informal setting in order to get a sense of “what motivates someone,” he says. “If someone tells stories about his or her experience and success with passion, it establishes authenticity.”
Stratton also relied upon Talend’s extensive “Topgrading” hiring process for all his sales leaders. In fact, he set aside two days prior to the company’s sales kickoff to train the entire team on the methodology. It includes seven different stages, including an all-day final interview with the six top executives and a presentation related to a case study.
Through his resources and Talend’s process, Stratton was able to hire a new sales leader a month after realizing he needed to make a change. The first new hire increased results by 300 percent in the first five months on the job. And the second new hire who started recently? “I guarantee you in five months, I’m going to be very happy about it,” Stratton says. “Why didn’t I make the decision sooner?” To consistently drive over 40 percent growth, Stratton says, “You must hire well by leading from the front, so all the leaders in the organization understand that hiring the right people is the most important strategy to establishing a culture of exponential growth.”
By maintaining a bench of contacts and candidates and utilizing a robust hiring process, he was able “to move quickly,” he says, and to bring about better results for his company.
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