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March 8, 2022

Christopher Smith, CRO at Aqua, on being intentional during the hiring process

Christopher Smith, CRO at Aqua, joins me today to talk about creating a great sales team as a company that’s growing rapidly by being intentional about bringing in the right people.


Chris has been in the cyber sales industry for 30 years and has stayed within the industry for multiple reasons, one of them being how within this career, you're doing something meaningful. Now, as he’s building out his team at Aqua, a cloud native application protection platform, he shares with us his approach he’s taking to ensure he’s making great hires.


1) Know the profile of who you are going after


There are a few things that go into this:

  • Geography, Verticals
  • Velocity vs. Enterprise
  • Companies to target
  • Time on Bike (how many years they’ve been selling) 
  • Psychological for example someone with a “blue collar work ethic with a white collar tongue” 


2) Focus on the importance of the alignment to culture 


It’s becoming more and more common for people to leave their company NOT because of the money but because of cultural fit.  


So, it’s important to be honest about the company. At Aqua, they go 6 deep which means you speak to HR, Marketing, SE’s, Customer Success, a Sales Peer, and a Sales Manager. They aren’t trying to act like everything is perfect, their goal is to be very candid and show the good, the bad, and what will actually be required of them.


How do you know if someone is a good fit? Well, you don't know, but you can try your best to be transparent and ask good questions like:

  • What are your superpowers?
  • What will your email signature say in 10 years?
  • What motivates you? (if it’s just money - it’ll be short lived)


By going 6 deep into a company, it allows potential new hires to truly get a good rounded view of the company. 


3) PR the opportunity 


Make videos about your technology, or a video showing why others joined. As a sales person, you can think of it like this, what are the typical sales questions that are gonna come up? Then, give those answers in the video. Also, put together pamphlets as to why this role would be the best opportunity for a potential new hire and give that to recruiters.

4) Augment company searches with agencies 


Keep in mind when talking about agencies that, “nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity.” Jay uses this quote to justify the expenses in hiring a recruiting agency because as we all know - they’re expensive. 


5) Prepare questions 


“If you are Willing to Prepare, then you are Playing to Win” 


Jay tells us one of his favorite questions to ask people is: “Why are you not more successful than you are?” There are a few ways people like to answer: 


“I am super successful” 

  • Either they didn’t really hear the question or they assume it's a question wrapped in an insult and respond by explaining their success. In their mind, they have peaked, which isn’t someone you’d want to go after.


“I haven’t had the opportunity”

  • This one is a bit of a problem because they start explaining all of the reasons why they haven’t been successful. They have a chip on their shoulder and they’re always going to come up with reasons and excuses for bad things. 



  • Someone who says for example, “you know what, during the first half of my life, I didn't do super well, but one day I just woke up and I got it. Now, this is what I’m doing  and I could be better, but I’m working on it.” This is a person you want to hire. This person is self aware and has goals set in mind. 


6) Go the extra mile


Honestly, you're never going to find out more about someone unless you take them to dinner. You can look at things like: 

  • How do they interact with their significant other?
  • Is there respect there?’
  •  Is there mutual respect there? 
  • Are they talking over them? 


There has to be interpersonal skills if you're going to run a company and well, it's not so different from how you manage at home. There's a level of maturity that's needed and there's nothing like dinner and wine to pull that out. 


Other quick tips and tricks are to be thorough - reference LinkedIn, check references, etc. People can lie on paper but you can’t really lie on LinkedIn. 


When did they start their role? When did they leave? What's the reason for the departure? 

Use BLUE - Brilliant, leading, unique and exceptional.


Loot at things from the recruiting and customer side and see how you can make touch points and interactions brilliant, leading, unique and expectational. You know why? Well because right now, you need to go and attract the A talent. 


This mindset needs to be present with everyone in your hiring pool including to people that are decided or not that they are the right fit. Why? Well, there are a lot of people in their network that might be the right fit and with the deficit in human capital right now with all of the high growth companies, it’s so important to never cut ties. 


The interview process shouldn't be something that should be overlooked 


We hope you were able to learn something from Chris’ process on creating a great sales team as a company that’s growing rapidly by being intentional about bringing in the right people. Aqua is hiring and if you’d like to get a hold of Chris you can either do so on LinkedIn or at chris.smith@aquascc.com


Thank you for reading, and for listening! Make sure to tune into our podcast to learn more about hiring best practices.