Qlose #9 (Doreen Pernel | Scaleway): How do you recruit and retain sales talent?

Doreen Pernel, Chief Sales Officer at Scaleway shares her methods, best practices and tips for recruiting sales talent!

Doreen Pernel
Chief Sales Officer @Scaleway

April 9, 2024




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1. The context

Can you introduce yourself?

Doreen Pernel, I've been working in the tech sector for about ten years. I worked in London, Sydney and New York for over eight years. 

Today, I'm based in Paris as Chief Sales Officer at Scaleway. I have several teams, including prospecting, Account Executive, CSM, pre-sales, Channel and Partner teams, as well as operational teams, and it's a real strength to have all these teams working together.

Why have you chosen to talk to us about Sales recruitment and retention?

These are key issues!

Sales team recruitment is a very costly issue for a company if it is poorly managed. 

A company can go a long way with a good product, but a product with the right team can go even further!

It's vital to create cohesion and a strong culture. However, it's not easy to recruit, whether in one industry or another, but in tech in particular, it's not at all easy. More and more is being asked of everyone in the ecosystem, which is one of the reasons why you also have to take the time to recruit properly. Once you've recruited and boarded a Sales person, if you have to start from scratch, half a year has already gone by.

2. Sales recruitment strategy

What are the best ways of recruiting the best Sales profiles?

The first is networking, events, having human contact, meeting people. Of course, meeting people face-to-face is an essential part of the recruitment process, but I think that the face-to-face talent-hunting stage has also become indispensable

Today, there are many Sales clubs and communities. For example, there's the Women Sales Club, which brings together a whole community of women, and there's also the LinkedIn club. There are plenty of others in the Paris region, but also in London, New York and elsewhere. And you have to use these networks and their events to recruit. 

Going to an event, introducing yourself and your company, listening to the people who come to your stand, talking to them, building relationships - that's often how you discover talent!

What advice do you have for managing several recruitments at the same time?

The first thing is to have a square recruitment plan with several degrees of priority for the most important recruitments in relation to the objectives and budget for the year. The whole company and all the parties involved need to be familiar with this plan so that they can help each other to carry it out successfully.

Secondly, it's important to communicate asynchronously with recruitment teams and to have alignment points from time to time. You need to be able to arrange meetings very quickly, look at profiles and so on. There's so much going on in such a short space of time that things can happen very quickly. The person may already be looking for a job, they may have started recruiting, they're waiting for a response, etc. This information, if known, can be used to make a decision. This information, if known, must also be prioritized and communicated.

Next, the communication plan also needs to be squarely focused on. It's vital to prepare in advance, to be able to free up time to talk to and follow-up candidates.

At Scaleway, we use Lever to be able to discuss potential recruitments, track current recruitments, read information about the person, previous exchanges, etc. We have different groups dedicated to different sales teams. We have different groups dedicated to different sales teams, so each manager has a vision and is also personally in charge of recruitment for his or her team, all with total transparency. This is a very important point: managers need to feel like recruiters, like they're recruiting their own talent. This way of working allows us to achieve quantity and quality at the same time.

What advice do you have for managing a large volume of Sales recruitment?

It's a complex situation. Generally speaking, Sales workstations can be in different verticals, so there is a potential need to create volume and specificity.

The first lever, available to everyone, is to communicate on LinkedIn, on the various social networks and recruitment platforms, and to mobilize people internally to relay the information.

In the past, I've also organized a 'speed recruiting' day. We invited our candidates, spent a day with them, and at the end of the day, we made some proposals. Of course, it's difficult to do this for all the different roles and profiles, especially technical roles where you have to prepare a technical case in advance. It's also an opportunity to showcase the company's culture and make the recruitment process less stressful.

3. Resources mobilized to recruit Sales

What resources are mobilized for Sales recruitment?

The HR team also includes a whole recruitment team and Talent Managers. At Scaleway, the Managers are also recruiters, they have their own recruitment budget, they are aware of the profiles to be recruited, by priority, by quarter, and so on.

Apart from networks and clubs, there is also an internalinternal co-option, an increasingly popular system, made attractive by the payment of a bonus under conditions specific to each company. For example, when I worked at Bloomberg, it was possible to donate your cooptation bonus to the association of your choice. It's important to reward cooptation because it's a major investment of time.

4. Identifying and selecting Sales candidates

How is recruitment filtered? When do you get involved?

For the Leaders teams, I'm the key contact from the second recruitment phase onward. 

Apart from this, there are four stages in the recruitment process, the first of which is spent with HR, getting to know the person, asking questions, etc. This is the profile filtering stage. This is called profile screening.

This is followed by a second phase with the Manager, and a third phase which consists of carrying out a practical case, a technical exercise, a simulated situation. At the end of the case study, the aim was to take the time to exchange ideas, share ideas and have more in-depth interactions.

Finally, the last stage is with me, which is really about questions of corporate culture, how the company works, the teams, the ecosystem and so on.

We can't all be everywhere, it's important that everyone has their responsibilities! 

How important are soft skills and hard skills?

50% hard skills, 50% soft skills! 

There are many things that can be learned, and then there are things that can't be learned. As Voltaire said, "Common sense isn't so common", and it's important to be able to see that in recruitment. 

That's why there are several stages in recruitment, with different values at each stage, to see what has already been acquired, what is innate in the person, and what needs to be developed, what needs to be learned. At Scaleway, we recruit imperfect profiles, and that's completely normal!

The ideal candidate is very rare. The aim is to find a profile and to work with it, to build on its knowledge, to teach it about the business sector, processes, etc. The candidate is also there to learn. The candidate is also there to learn, and our job is to identify where we need to support them.

We're here to teach them, to give them the keys to getting to know the sector very quickly. Before their previous experience, they probably didn't know much about it either. With the right amount of time and energy, anything can be learned!

As a personal example, I've worked at Meta, Bloomberg, and if you're interested, if you read, if you watch videos, there are lots of things you can do if you're self-taught.

How do you deal with diversification?

It's a value that we represent at Scaleway, whether it's inclusiveness or uniqueness, we have a desire to recruit diverse and varied talent.

We take the time to understand each candidate, we're not looking for perfect people, we're looking to see the uniqueness of each person, to have a mix. This way of recruiting allows us to be more innovative, but also more effective. 

Today, we offer products that are the first in the world to do so, and our recruitment has its share of responsibility.

We're also unique in that we have a majority-female Management Committee, of which I'm a member, which goes some way to demonstrating our desire to recruit more women in an industry that has traditionally been dominated by men.

5. Sales appraisal interviews

How do you prepare for a sales meeting, and how are sales meetings structured?

It's all a question of time, and you need to take the time to prepare for each interview, not just by going through the steps outlined above, but also by reading the CV, the various experiences of the person in question, their LinkedIn page, and so on. To get a good understanding of the profile.

It is also important to read the notes of previous employees who have met the person, to avoid asking the same questions over and over again.

What are the right and wrong questions to ask when recruiting a salesperson?

In my opinion, you should avoid the banal questions that everyone has been prepared to ask since leaving school. For example: What are your three best qualities? What are your three faults? There's no point in asking them, the candidate is used to them and ready to answer.

You have to stand out from the crowd and ask questions that candidates don't expect. Personally, I like to ask questions that touch on their personality, their personality at work. For example: What annoys you most at work?

These are questions in which people will share strong feelings, they will open up, and when we delve deeper into these questions, we see the qualities that stand out, the fundamental qualities of the person. They will show what they expect from their environment, what they can contribute. Asking a negative question brings out the positive.

Next, it's important to identify the candidate's desire to learn and their ability to learn. When you're learning, you also need to know how to receive, so generally at interview I give feedback on the person's CV. It's a way of seeing whether the person is open or closed, whether they're open to feedback, criticism and development.

6. Finalisation and salary negotiations

What position should you adapt to be the applicant's number 1 choice?

In fact, generally speaking, 90% of candidates are in the process of being recruited by other companies.

In my opinion, the human side is really very important, but so is aligning ourselves with the same values. At Scaleway, we're resolutely looking to the future, and we're committed to being a good corporate citizen. We believe in and are working to build a responsible and sovereign cloud.

We also want to nurture our staff, so a dedicated, personalized career plan is built for each employee and reviewed regularly. These are initiatives that we highlight very quickly in the recruitment process.

We also promote our community, our culture. For example, our offices, with their inspiring design, are known as "houses". Located in the heart of privileged areas of Paris and Lille, they are like collaborative spaces where hundreds of talented people work together. These are environments that make you want to come, which is also why we bring candidates to the office, to feel these little effects, to make them want to be the first choice.

How do you manage the salary negotiation stage?

With complete peace of mind! In fact, this is usually a point raised at the beginning and throughout the process, so there are no surprises. It also helps to avoid mercenary profiles.

At the final stage, every candidate is well aware of the remuneration package on offer, so we'll just mention and highlight the details and all the other benefits offered by the company. 

However, it can happen that there is a negotiation stage. In this case, we allow time for reflection between each stage of negotiation. It's important, when hesitating, to let the person reflect and mature their decision, because the aim is not to accept and then take back the offer.

Changing company has quite a big impact on a person's life, whether because of family commitments, future investments or anything else, so the negotiations are not the same. 

The situation can also have an impact: whether you have been chased by a recruiter or have applied on your own initiative, it's not the same thing.

Ultimately, it is important to take your time in negotiations and to be transparent from the outset. This avoids too many salary negotiations to leave room for other benefits and advantages.

7. Sales onboarding and training

How is onboarding structured for new sales staff? What training do new Sales staff receive when they arrive?

Firstly, everything will depend on the role of the individual and the integrated team.

We have developed a qualitative onboarding system in every sense of the word, with a dedicated knowledge level for each role, so that we can really dive in and take the time to learn the content, the products, the methodology, the internal processes, and really have a full month when each new employee develops their knowledge.

Then, little by little, each new member of staff will start to pick up the phone and make calls. It's a second month at the heart of the action, with a precise plan of attack, prospecting accounts, and so on.

Finally, the third month is all about acceleration and inclusion in the strategy, while at the same time being more involved in day-to-day action.

It's important to note that at Scaleway, throughout the year, generally on Friday afternoons, the Sales profiles attend presentations on the product, the ecosystem, innovation, artificial intelligence, etc. We educate internally on all the new features, everything that's going to happen! We educate them internally about all the latest developments, everything that's going to happen! It's important to maintain this learning mentality.

I invite you all to take a look at our open roles at Scaleway en Sales.


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