Thought Leadership
Why Startups Should Invest in a Search Firm for Go-to-Market Leadership
Published May 02, 2024

As startups assemble their teams, the sales, marketing and customer success leadership they hire can make or break their journey from concept to market relevance.

Now, you might wonder, why should cash-strapped startups turn to executive search firms instead of relying on their networks or internal resources?  The answer lies in the unique and unparalleled value that search professionals bring to the table.

“Many founders are earlier in their careers and don't have the sort of long-tail view of the best operators in the market,” says Stephanie Paris, co-head of True’s Sales, Marketing & Customer Success practice.

Reasons to partner with an executive search firm

By working with a search firm rather than going through external networks, startups gain access to a caliber of talent otherwise beyond their reach.  Clients can expect to meet the best talent in the market and see those leaders mapped out in a research-driven way.  As part of the search process, you’ll gain access to top talent that early-stage companies wouldn’t be able to tap into otherwise.

The interviews a search firm coordinates are also a great learning and networking opportunity for clients.  Get feedback on your company from top executives and learn how they would approach your GTM strategy.  Even if it’s not the right time to hire that person, the introduction could open the door to a placement for a different role somewhere down the line. 

When looking for seasoned CROs or VPs of Sales, you hope to find someone with a wealth of experience targeting different markets who aligns marketing activities with strategic goals.  A search firm can be your trusted partner to verify that your candidates can indeed deliver on those promises.  Search firms thoroughly vet candidates through leadership assessments, company data, and interview techniques to analyze candidate competencies.  They also have a global network of executives to consult and cross-reference.

Paris adds, “There's a lot of value to bringing in an objective third party.  They can verify the value a candidate created and explain the impact they had in prior companies, including whether or not they were successful.  You want to ensure that what you're hearing in the interview will bear fruit once they're actually in your company.”

Creating a trusted relationship with an executive search firm early in your company lifecycle allows search partners the ability to anticipate your company’s needs as you grow.  The search firm can go beyond the transaction of a single search and become a trusted advisor, ready to alert you to highly talented, compatible candidates from their networks.

Ben O’Reilly, co-head of the Sales, Marketing & Customer Success practice, highlights the enduring partnership between startups and search firms, evolving beyond single hires to become trusted advisors throughout the growth trajectory. 

True was brought on to conduct a North American SaaS company’s executive search when they hit $1M in revenue, placing their first VP of sales, VP of customer service, and VP of marketing.  The company is now over $30M in revenue, and True just placed its first VP of Product.

True also partnered with Databricks when they conducted their Series A fundraising and has since conducted over 30 searches for the company.  Gina Barge, Partner in the Go To Market practice stresses the importance of knowing the differences in early- and later-stage executives.

“Early-stage companies demand executives with a blend of audacity, adaptability, and strategic foresight. They’ve operated with limited resources, can pivot swiftly, and cultivate a culture of innovation to propel the company forward. While audacity and adaptability reign supreme in the nascent stages, later success demands a different breed of leadership—one versed in scaling operations and optimizing processes.  Executive recruiters understand the difference and nuances, and have guided our clients to success across asset classes, by introducing stage-appropriate executives."

The executive recruiting mission is twofold: to empower clients to dedicate their energy to nurturing their organization and perfecting their product, while simultaneously safeguarding them from the perils of poor hiring choices.

By entrusting search professionals with the task of sourcing top-tier talent, founders and investors can remain laser-focused on the strategic direction of their company and the refinement of their offerings by leveraging the expertise, extensive networks, and rigorous assessment methodologies of their search partner to ensure that every candidate presented aligns seamlessly with the client's objectives and culture.

Partnering early with an executive search firm to hire go-to-market talent
offers all of these strategic advantages for startups.  You’re making a long-term investment in an advisory relationship with search partners who are GTM experts. The most important part of a company is the people.  By building your team with the help of veteran professionals, you can avoid misalignment between talent and company, and build towards sustainable growth and success.