With a distinguished career in big league roles including CRO of DataRobot and VP Sales at AppDynamics, Parm has a deep understanding of how to build high-growth sales programs and develop best-in-class sales leaders.
At AppDynamics, Parm grew their Western region by over 270% in just 3 years, alongside building out their US major account program to 300% growth in 12 months. With over 20 years of Sales Leadership experience, he is now CRO at SHV-backed scale-up Luminary Cloud whilst continuing to support other high-potential SaaS start-ups as an investor, board member and GTM Advisor.
Parm’s extensive experience and perspective from both sides of the Atlantic have enabled him to curate a playbook for hiring A-players. At our last meeting, (whilst sharing some of the best Indian food you’ll find in the Bay Area), he provided some great insights on what it takes to recruit A-players, and what can happen if you get it wrong. Here is a CROs guide to hiring A-players.
“Everyone from CEOs to VCs end up compromising on A-player criteria when they’re under pressure. But by doing this, they’re risking their company’s growth, culture, and brand perception. There are going to be consequences if it’s done wrong, so it’s crucial to always have this at front and centre: the future of your start-up is going to be affected by your recruiting decisions.”
Why is it important to get it right?
"A-players: No compromises. This is a hugely oversimplified concept, and people compromise on A-player criteria when under pressure… but mistakes here define a company one way or another! Poor GtM hiring impacts: the team’s hiring standards, your company brand, your company culture, reduces capacity, reduces revenue, reduces growth, and the overall market opportunities.”
How do you identify an A-player?
“The tendency is, let’s go and get somebody out of our competitor that’s got domain knowledge. Here’s the problem: they might have domain knowledge, but do they actually know how to go and sell? They might be comfortable selling with a business card - they aren’t comfortable selling without the logo on there.
To ensure I’m hiring the best for my company, I use the ICCE hiring criteria.
Look for people with high IQ and EQ because they are experts in reading the room and can often build champions easier. But with character, it’s crucial to get right from the get-go because it’s much harder to change – I can’t put in you what the good Lord has taken out! So, someone with thick skin, entrepreneurial spirit, and a high tolerance for ambiguity is ideal, as they will be better at solving hard problems and closing all-important deals when things get tough.
Their coachability ties in with character, especially when you find self-aware reps! If you find someone who can seek to understand, listens more than talks, and asks the ‘why’ questions, then you’ve hit a jackpot. Not only are you after reps who have what I’ve already mentioned, but you’re targeting reps who have no problems with cross-functional collaboration, and who can expertly generate their own pipeline as well.”
How do you ensure you don't compromise?
“You need a disciplined recruitment process/structure. Stick to two weeks with no more than 5 interviews. I recommend:
Qualify out candidates using their CV/resume and look for reasons to not interview them over reasons for why you should. When you’ve got someone in the process, there are a couple of things to help guide you through:
- Use facts to gauge your decisions, not an opinion you’ve already constructed of the candidate.
- Analyse their resume/CV before the interview, not during. The last thing you want is to look unprepared to A-players.”
Why is it important to get right?
- We’ve seen founders realize the importance of hiring A-players too late at Series B, and they’ve mentioned that they could have been much further had they realized much earlier.
- Hire driven reps who can handle ambiguity in pairs. This will create healthy competition and allow you to A/B test the better of the two.
How do you identify an A-player?
- Their educational background is a great starting point – have they graduated from a Russel Group/Ivy League university with a top grade?
- Consider their qualifying ability through questioning, processing information, and preparation skills.
- Grit is crucial in sales and activities outside of work can help highlight this.
How do you ensure you don’t compromise?
A 5-stage interview process is normal in 2023. Macroeconomic conditions have meant that hiring managers have tighter budgets, so they are being more selective with whom they hire. Hence a more thorough process.
Ultimately the hires you make are going to be critical in defining your startups success. Compromising on any part of hiring can risk:
- Company growth.
- Brand perception.
- Your finances.
By implementing a structured process and utilizing the ICCE framework, the chances of any of the above being affected will be minimal. You’ll be ensuring you have the best team in place to achieve both your revenue and growth goals.
Have you employed a hiring framework/structure that has proven successful when hiring A-players? Feel free to share your advice with other founders and CROs!
Alternatively, you can discover more about hiring A-players and identifying them with our latest blogs and guides!