Categorized | Job Hunting

Hungry Companies Chase Sales and Marketing Pros

Posted on 27 April 2009

Employers have cut costs to the bone. Now they’re recruiting senior sales and marketing executives who can help capture revenues and market share as the economy starts to pick up.

Recruiters say companies are hungry to add top sales and marketing officers who know how to differentiate products, run efficient sales organizations, build key account relationships and drive profitable growth in a difficult environment. Intense competition, multiple selling channels and more sophisticated buyers who expect help solving problems are among the tougher challenges sellers face.

Demand for senior sales and marketing talent has been building, say recruiters and consultants. Many companies are either creating new openings or jettisoning incumbents who haven’t generated results.

“Executives who have taken the expense out of sales while preserving the muscle mass have the torch to go forward,” says Gary Tubridy, senior vice president of The Alexander Group, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based sales-management-consulting firm. “But if they haven’t embraced productivity or the means of it, the organization may say it’s time for new blood.”

Among mature large companies, as many as 25% may not be satisfied with their current sales approach and considering a change at the top, says Mr. Tubridy.

Tierney Remick, managing director of recruiter Korn/Ferry International’s global consumer and retail practice, notes that chief sales and marketing officers have about two years to demonstrate their ability. “The chief marketing and chief sales executive are under a microscope,” she says, “but frankly, they should be able to show some demonstrable activity during that time period.”

‘Robust’ Demand

Searches for senior sales executives have risen significantly in the past six months at Korn/Ferry, says Ms. Remick, who calls clients’ current needs “robust.” However, demand for chief marketing officers, while also robust, was strong even during the recession, she says. One reason is that large retailers, such as The Home Depot Inc., PetSmart Inc. and Eddie Bauer Inc. that once relied on lower-level directors of marketing, have elevated the function and created chief marketing officer positions in the past year, says Ms. Remick. Korn/Ferry did the CMO searches for all three retailers.

“The understanding among retailers is that marketing needs a seat at the table [because] it’s a link to understanding who their consumers are and their needs and wants and how to create products that resonate with them.” she says.

Other recruiters agree that demand for senior sales and marketing experts has grown. Jim McSherry, managing partner of McSherry & Associates 2 in Chicago, says his firm recently received five assignments to find vice presidents of sales or marketing and is expecting four more assignments shortly. And at Cleveland-based search firm Christian & Timbers, searches for sales executives have risen 28% between July 2002 and July 2003, says Seth Harris, a partner based in Boston. Marketing assignments also have increased but by a smaller amount, he says.

Execunet, a Stamford, Conn., networking organization that circulates job listings among its members, says the sales and marketing category of its listings was among the few that showed an increase in the past few quarters. Postings for these folk climbed 3% in the second quarter of 2003 and 4% in the first quarter, versus those same periods last year, according to the organization.

Tale of Two Job Hunters

Yet two sales executives who recently conducted job searches say that sales jobs at their level are more abundant than people may realize. For instance, while seeking a new position between May and July, Atlanta sales manager Jeff Multz says he located 65 suitable openings through his personal network, contacts with recruiters and responses to his resume online. He narrowed the choices to 20 and then to six, which he seriously pursued.

“There are a lot of jobs out there for sales and marketing managers,” he says. “I didn’t see the downturn in the job market when I was looking. If you know how to sell and have results, there are a lot of jobs.”

Mr. Multz had been vice president of product sales at Firstwave Technologies Inc., a customer-relationship-management software maker, but left in May due to differences concerning the company’s direction. The next day, he began “a multi-pronged attack” to his job search. He contacted recruiters and key friends and associates in his networking circle and posted his resume online. “You have to do all three things,” he says. “Any one won’t work for you.”

He had heard about Secure Works, an Atlanta Internet-security company, from a vendor he had worked with at Firstwave. The company was looking for a vice president of business development and invited Mr. Multz to interview for the job. “But they loved me so much, they found a more suitable role,” he says. He was offered a newly created position of vice president of sales, which he started in July.

California sales executive Stuart Sollod started seeking a new challenge in January. He was then vice president of sales for a young security-tracking-products firm, but its funding had dwindled and Mr. Sollod felt he should consider new opportunities. He attended a consumer-electronics show and then wrote to the presidents of companies there that impressed him. All offered him jobs, he says. In April, he joined Amoisonic Electronics, a Chinese electronics-products firm building a foothold in North America, as its senior vice president of sales and marketing. Its U.S. arm is based in Chino, Calif.

The 64-year-old Mr. Sollod says he didn’t experience any difficulty with his job search due to his age. “Companies are interested in only one thing — building the bottom line and increasing market share,” he says. “The key is to have the experience to prove [you can do] that, a good reputation and credibility. They don’t care what you look like, and my age never came up.”

Key Job Requirements

Recruiters and consultants note that companies are searching for seasoned top sales executives who are skilled in building relationships with key accounts, driving sales through multiple channels and achieving profitable revenue growth.

Companies are aware that most of their sales come from a small and select group of customers and want to cultivate those relationships, says Mr. McSherry. In all his searches for top sales managers, this is a requirement. “Key account- and international account-development relationship-building is important,” he says.

Mr. McSherry is currently helping manufacturing and insurance companies find vice presidents of sales, who would be paid annual base salaries of between $120,000 and $150,000 with a 20% to 50% potential bonus.

Christian & Timbers’ assignments to find top sales executives are in all industries and companies of all sizes, says Mr. Harris. Key requirements in these searches include an understanding of how to sell effectively through multiple channels of distribution, including direct, indirect, partnerships and online methods. He recently helped a California software company find a senior vice president of worldwide sales who could help the company establish new channels and build sales through strategic account relationships. The new hire has about 25 years of experience and has the potential to earn between $285,000 and $400,000 annually, depending on performance.

Requirements for chief marketing officers vary depending on the type of business, says Ms. Remick. Some companies emphasize consumer insight, while others may want a combination of multi-channel experience and knowledge of consumer-buying preferences. In all cases, however, candidates must have an ability to differentiate the employer, attract and lead top talent and serve as an ambassador of the brand.

“There must be a strategic sense of how to truly understand the consumer and translate it into product development and innovative strategies,” she says.

A major retailer on the West Coast is seeking a seasoned multi-channel marketer with a services and consumer-products background who can drive profitable growth in North America and other regions, Ms. Remick says. In a search for an East Coast retailer, key requirements include strong direct-marketing capabilities and branding experience. For this company, the new executive will be expected to create strategies to transfer its brand and build sales across other product categories, primarily through the Internet.

Another Korn/Ferry client, a consumer-products company, is trying to find a CMO who can refresh and revive its brands. The executive needs to have experience in Fortune 500 companies working on mature brands. Candidates for all three jobs who have experience with overseas markets will have an edge, Ms. Remick adds.

More Performance-Based Pay

To drive performance, a greater portion of pay for top sales executives is linked to achieving goals than was typical five years ago, says Mr. Tubridy. Although pay practices vary by industry, top sales managers are receiving a median of 70% of annual compensation as salary, while about 30% is performance-based. Typically, bonuses are now tied to achieving profitable growth, rather than “growth at any cost,” he says.

This requirement means that the top sales manager must analyze what it costs to achieve revenues and decide whether to use more-expensive outside selling teams or less-expensive sales methods. “The sales executive is being held accountable not only for revenue growth but for the cost of the assets used to get that growth,” he says.

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