Talking shop with a top Sales & Marketing executive recruiter
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Gain insight from Charles Aris senior vice president Greg Harper, who recently sat down with marketing colleague Cameron Warren to discuss his Sales & Marketing recruiting efforts in the industrial space:
Cameron: Tell us about your work within the sales and marketing functions. How did this executive recruiting practice get started at Charles Aris Inc.?
Greg: When I initially joined the firm, we were primarily going to focus on operations and engineering roles. But once we started getting into the space, we realized there was ample opportunity for sales and marketing as well – and I have passion for this function.
Within the framework of sales and marketing recruitment, how did your industrial focus develop?
I have a background in industrial sales in the paints and coating space, so when I came to Charles Aris, it was really the niche that ownership and I decided I would emphasize. At the time, that focus primarily revolved around chemicals, which falls under industrials, but that focus has broadened to become more diverse over the years with manufacturing, wood products and so on.
Describe a few of the key trends you’re seeing in the career marketplace. Are there any particular skills or competencies being prioritized by a majority of clients organizations?
When I entered executive search in 2006, the engineering side really drove organizations. You had smart scientists and the creators who were making products, and they controlled the technological side of many companies. They would make a great product, send it to get built, and then once it was manufactured they would shift it to sales and marketing to go sell the product. We called that selling what you made. This process is completely reversed now: You have to make what you sell.
The organizational setup is different now as well. All functions were typically separate – you had product development, technology, engineering, and sales and marketing; none of them excelled at talking with each other. Now these functions are intertwined, which is crucial for success.
In industrials, you have upstream and downstream. Organizations need to go farther downstream these days to understand their customers’ customer, all to build a value proposition that will make sense. The best organizations are now utilizing end consumers, like you and me, to influence the middle person.
Innovation is a cornerstone of the industrial manufacturing space. What does that mean for sales and marketing leaders in the short and long term?
More than ever in industrial manufacturing, you must rapidly bring products to market. Strong internal communications between the sales and marketing, manufacturing, and technology teams must occur before products are made in any successful organization.
Integrated supply chains are the big thing, and you would think, How does that relate to sales and marketing? Well, it relates heavily because you can make a great product, but if you can’t economically source so you can price it correctly in the market where it sells, you won’t succeed.
Companies today need integrated supply chains, which ensure that any demand is identified, raw materials are bought, and that you have the product so that you can manufacture and sell that product and turn a profit. Integrated supply chains are a huge part of internal innovation.
There’s not really a short-term way to approach innovation. If you’re not innovating, regardless of company size, then you’re dying a slow death. It’s no longer about just making a product better – it’s about making it more economical and sustainable. A good example is manufacturers who are talking about implementing a zero-waste policy. Everything they’re going to use is going to be recycled and reused to prevent materials or finished products from entering landfills. This is a good example of a long-term approach to innovation.
How can hiring authorities best gauge when to partner with an executive search firm as they seek top sales and marketing talent?
If hiring authorities have exhausted their available resources or if it’s outside their areas of expertise and their normal realms of function, those are triggers to strongly consider partnering with an executive search firm. A lot of corporate HR and talent acquisition departments have the misconception that search firms exist to sideline them, which could not be further from the truth. We are here to supplement, to be an additional resource to organizations as they make their way in a complex marketplace.
So if a hiring authority has a mission-critical role that needs to be filled quickly to meet deadlines and timelines … if you have a targeted and hyperspecific search … if you’re looking for unique qualifications … you cannot wait for the right résumé to come in. You likely need someone else to proactively find, recruit and land that person.
A lot of the sales and marketing roles we assist organizations with require someone who has that technical engineering degree and / or related experience in that field, who earned her MBA degree and then moved to the commercial side of a company. That’s not an easy profile that lands in your lap; someone must search specifically for that qualified, available and interested professional. So often, a highly involved hiring authority simply does not have the time.
The overarching U.S. economy has been and is so strong, and unemployment so low, that many organizations are taking very good care of their key players. Top talents typically aren’t actively looking for a new role, and you have to truly source to identify them versus them just coming to you. Most HR and talent acquisition teams simply aren’t equipped to do that. It’s hardly their fault; they just don’t have time to make eight hours’ worth of phone calls each and every day to find and land that right-fit leader.