5 min read

My first pilot project - Finding a Head of Sales for SaaS company

I was scared of starting my first own project.

I am doing everything else, from sales to marketing to finances at TalentBee, but not customer work.

I got a chance to do a pilot project with Sitedrive and helped them to find a new head of sales. I did it for two reasons:

  1. I wanted to understand our team's day-to-day life as talent acquisition professionals.
  2. I wanted to get a better understanding of our customers.

I would recommend all CEO's to do something like this.

Here's how it went:

“The candidate quality was very high. There were more and more candidates coming in the process all the time. Our biggest trouble with TalentBee was that there were so many good candidates to choose from”, Niki Saukolin, Managing Director at Sitedrive.

Before partnering up with Talentbee, Sitedrive went through an entire recruitment process to find a Head of Sales themselves. They interviewed multiple candidates & and eventually offered the position to a great candidate, who to their disappointment choose another job opportunity instead.

Head of Sales was a key role for Sitedrive, so they couldn’t afford to fail again. This is why they decided to partner up with TalentBee.

Here’s how we worked as a team and filled the role in 40 days:

Profile definition is the key to a successful hire

It was identified quite quickly that the first challenge will be the profile definition. There was some confusion around the role – different people inside the organization prioritized different things in the recruitment need.

“I must say that we got the biggest value from the profile definition process, and that Samuli from TalentBee challenged us a lot on what we can really find from the market and what we need.” -Niki Saukolin, Managing Director at Sitedrive

This is a very typical starting point, and here’s how we figured out what kind of person we are looking for:

Step 1: We sent a Typeform to all the key stakeholders and asked them the following questions:

  • “Why are you hiring this person?”
  • “Titles aside, what will this hire be responsible for (in a sentence or two)?”
  • “Must have requirements in preferred order (1-5).”
  • “What soft skills/personality traits do you expect from this person?”
  • “In your opinion: Is this a leadership or a sales role?”
  • “To whom is your company selling to (examples of companies and titles)? What is your ideal customer profile?”
  • “How will you measure this person's success in 3 months, 6 months & 12 months? 🏆”
  • “What makes your company a great workplace, in your opinion?”

Step 2: We identified where the team agrees and where they disagree

We quite quickly noticed that the team agrees on most things, but there were mainly two questions on the table:

  1. Should we prioritize expertise in leading people/processes or experience in selling a SaaS product
  2. Are we looking for a leader or a hands-on salesperson? (Sitedrive is still at the beginning of the journey, and this is quite typically a challenge at this point)

Step 3: We created ideal candidate profile examples for the Sitedrive team

We created a total of 5 ideal candidate profiles from slightly different backgrounds and asked the Sitedrive team to put them in order.

After this, we still noticed one more confusion around the profile we needed to figure out before starting the actual talent search.

Step 4: We identified the hiring criteria

The last step of the profile definition was to define the hiring criteria

So now, when we started bringing candidates into the pipeline, we had a straightforward way of evaluating them and not making the decision based on merely gut feeling.

Creating a list of potential candidates and contacting them

Once we had understood what kind of a person Sitedrive needed, we tailored the list of potential candidates.

This list was a total of 29 names, and we asked the customer to put these candidates in 3 baskets:

  • “Let’s contact” – 15 names were picked to this basket.
  • “Not sure - Let’s discuss on our weekly call” - 12 names were picked.
  • “Not a fit” - 2 names were picked here.

In the end, we only contacted 14 people because we got so good results from the outreach. From the 14 people we contacted:

  • 7 people wanted to have a chat with us
  • 5 people answered but didn’t want to chat
  • 2 didn’t answer at all

Now you might be thinking – how to get high reply rates like these, and get people to want to chat with you. There are two main reasons for this success:

  1. The list of people was hand-picked and tailored to this case – we didn’t just spam a high volume of people with outreach messages.
  2. The outreach was made with personal videos to candidates that were only filmed to that particular person (yes, that meant making 14 videos!)

Recruitment marketing & talent lead generation

Alongside doing active outreach, we also created recruitment marketing materials for this role. We focused on three things:

  1. Job ad focusing on selling the opportunity to the potential candidates:

“Almost everyone we interviewed mentioned how good the job ad was, and how realistically it opened our situation. We got a lot of praise, for example, about being open about the salary for the role.” - Niki Saukolin, CEO at Sitedrive

2. Long-form blog content around the role & why Sitedrive is hiring for this role.

3. Paid advertising campaigns to very targeted audiences:

We also got some great results from the talent lead generation and ended up getting seven people into our talent pipeline from there!

Running the recruitment process

We kept the recruitment process quite simple:

  • Candidate meeting 1: Niki, Managing Director of Sitedrive & Anni, Head of People and Operations
  • Candidate meeting 2: Meeting their director of the board, Jussi
  • Candidate meeting 3: Meeting with the team.

And after that, the hiring decision was made & the job offer was created for the chosen candidate.

“I am so happy that we got a great sales leader, and he feels like the right person for our organization at this moment.” -Niki Saukolin, Managing Director at Sitedrive

“We decided to continue our collaboration with TalentBee with other recruitments – so that should tell how happy we were with the results and the collaboration.” -Anni Uimonen, Head of People and Operations at Sitedrive

And there are always some learnings! This is what we learned from the process:

  1. We should have buffered some interview dates already at the beginning of the process. It was challenging to play calendar bingo when it was time to book the interviews.
  2. We should have had an even clearer structure for the interviews so we could have evaluated the candidates efficiently.

After 40 days of the cooperation the new Head of Sales was hired and customer was happy 🙌 Maybe I will take another customer at some point if something super interesting comes around around sales / sales leadership roles.