• Simon Boardman

Thoughtful Interviewing - Where the 7 P's Still Pay Off


Marketing and Sales Leadership roles in B2B are confusing these days. Their responsibilities vary from company to company so when you are recruiting for leadership roles you need to have a clear idea of “what” you expect from those groups and hence those who lead them. You also need to be shrewd with the job description you write. These days, most job descriptions resemble a laundry list of everything everyone can think of that "might" be described as "Marketing". Not only are these lists tortuous, but by the time you're done you've described a role only a Marvel Super Hero could fill.

At the same time, hiring continues to struggle despite our application of more technology and psychological techniques. Having worked and spoken with many C Level, Sales and Marketing Leaders the retention rates in sales, for instance, continue to hover around the 50% mark (that’s a coin flip by the way).

As we have supposedly become more deliberate about recruiting, paradoxically, we appear to have become “less” thoughtful. We’re delegating decision making to the latest techniques and technologies and adding up the scores on some fashionable psychometric test (that on closer examination, you’ll probably find was intended for a different purpose). We encourage our clients to recognize this and turn the tables. Technology and behavioral testing have their places, but they’re designed to augment thoughtful, team-oriented recruiting efforts, NOT replace them.

Don’t fall into the trap of “marketing by numbers” either. You’re wasting your time drilling candidates about their “best” Campaigns and asking about Lead percentages, pipeline value, scores, and share of voice indices, etc. We’ve become convinced that these outcomes are “all” that matter. When you’re assessing someone’s viability as a candidate to lead a team you need to know the “how” and “why” of these things, NOT the what. In other words, it’s less important to know “what” someone thinks as it is to know “why” they think that and “how” they arrived at that conclusion.

Here are some subjects to cover when having a conversation with such a candidate. Please note that we used the word “conversation”. Don’t rush it, even though you’re busy.

  1. Question - What do you think are the big dilemmas facing a modern B2B marketeer?

Purpose – You can re-word this question, as what you’re really trying to get to is how much the candidate contemplates the bigger picture rather than obsessing on email subject lines (for example). You do need people who can work in the weeds, but they need to show balance by being able to “think in the clouds”.

Examples -

  • Considering all the noise out there - how do I actually attract a prospect’s attention?

  • How do I create compulsion? Can I even create compulsion, or do I look for ""other forces"" to latch onto?

  • How do I upset the status quo and promote change in my target market

  • We’re dealing with the most diverse buying audience we've ever encountered. It spans three generations comprising boomers, Gen X and Millennials. Can I message to that or is this idea even relevant?

2. Question - If you could only do 3 things or make 3 appointments in your group what would they be?

Purpose - You’re trying to get to prioritization. Establish what the candidate thinks are the main priorities. It is unfair for you to expect them to know your specific business as well as you do, but their answers should reveal firstly that they consider prioritization important (they’re used to the reality of allocating finite resources), and second, it will reveal their preferences. You need to either agree with them or at least be open to considering their perspective.

Examples –

  • Marketing Data person

  • Marketing Technology person

  • Content Producer/Manager

  • Psychologist

3. How do you think relationships have changed (or not) in B2B?

Purpose - Again you’re really trying to establish the presence of “thoughtfulness” (or not). You’ll also be flushing out “conviction” – how convinced is the candidate of their opinion and when challenged, how strongly will they defend it? An opinion on the subject of “relationships” matter. The answer will really depend on the dynamics of your business and your market, so don’t ask this question looking for an answer that agrees with you. Ask it so you can establish the candidates view of a basic of the human condition – communication.

Examples -

  • Abilities to promote relationship are important leading the need for a field presence

  • The market and buyers have changed and old, school business relationship are yesterday’s news.

4.Question - Do you have a consistent set of tools and mechanisms you use or try to establish?

Purpose - Most professionals (in whatever field) will develop a “scheme” supported by ideas and tools. Think about how sports coaches work. Most have a basic philosophy as to how to deliver success and have a roster of techniques and types of people (players) they need to make it happen. Business professionals are no different. What you’re looking for here is if the candidate can demonstrate foundational thinking or cannot clearly articulate anything more meaningful than a list of technologies (which might be part of the solution, but maybe should not be “all” of it).

Examples –

  • Sirius Decisions models such as the “Demand Type”

  • The Demand Waterfall

  • Lead Scoring (we’re not saying this is good, bad or indifferent, it’s just an example of a model that supports the presence of foundational thinking)

5. Are you a storyteller or a data geek?

Purpose - We’ve spent that last 15 years implementing more process and technology in marketing to be more disciplined and gather more data on which to base better decisions. Marketing has been turned into a science. In the last couple of years, the idea of “story-telling” is growing as a way of making emotional connections to (perhaps) help build trust. They seem to be opposite to one another. Again, you’re looking for someone who has at least considered these approaches, maybe spotted the apparent contradictions and formed some opinion.

Examples –

  • They could take a strong view one way or the other

  • They could argue in favor of some balance or believe that “story-telling” be deployed in a certain place or way

There are many other questions one can ask as your try to discover a candidate’s fit for a leadership position. Remember that the domain of their role (marketing in this case) will only constitute part of the capability you are looking for. A leadership candidate will have to lead (duh), be a good communicator (up, down and sideways), know how to form, or at least carry, a vision while having some inspirational quality also.

Final thought from us…see how “thoughtful” they are. Check out any blogs, articles, etc. and always ask them what books they’ve read lately.


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