How to Select That Optimal CRM Director

February 21, 2017CCG Retail Marketing Blog

Like seeking out a unicorn

Find tips on how to go beyond the job description bullets to uncover the right CRM Director to head your CRM effort. Finding someone who can be an effective agent-of-change and the right fit for your culture is key — but it can be like seeking out a unicorn.

By Lane Ware, Senior Vice President, Consulting and Account Services

Conduct a quick online search for “CRM Director,” and you’ll find multiple listings for the head of customer relationship management (CRM). But while this role has grown immensely over the past five years, the growing popularity of CRM and retail marketing hasn’t made it much easier to find the right person to fit the job.

Today’s retailers are searching for a true “unicorn” — the analytical strategist who is not only innately curious to keep up with all the new channels in which to target customers, but also is innovative and, frankly, fearless. Not to mention someone who can present complex analysis so that everyone within the organization “gets it.”

  • Need interim resources? Find out how CCG helped a footwear retailer not only launch its CRM initiative, but also manage the program turnkey while helping bring on internal support. Read our case study.

Go Beyond the Bullets with Your CRM Director Job Description

Certainly a detailed job description helps. And statements like those below — taken from actual recruitment ads — attempt to capture the essential requirements of the job:

  • Championing and driving-through necessary CRM changes, ensuring full buy-in from all stakeholders in the business.
  • Highly creative and organized; balancing idea generation with actionable plans to bring ideas to life.
  • Comfortable working on projects that start with a lack of structure, direction and well-defined goals — and capable of bringing clarity to assignment objectives, tasks and deliverables.

But no matter how good your description, you’ll still need to sort through more than a few non-magical candidates to find the elusive unicorn. Let me share with you some valuable lessons we learned from helping our clients with hiring and by engaging our own hiring consultant, Beth Smith of A-List Interviews.  With Beth’s help, we completely changed the way we hire — and it’s made a difference.

Create a Clear Vision for the CRM Director Position

First, you need to get a clear vision of what you’re looking for. Describe who you’re looking for in detailed terms that go beyond the typical CRM Director job description bullets. Think BIG. Think BOLD. Create your dream list for the candidate. Don’t just note the skills you need. Write down the traits you’re looking for in this position.

If you need someone who can discuss Australian rugby with your Chief Merchandiser, then put it on the list. Or if it’s someone with a statistics background to balance your CFO’s need for facts, write it down.

Once you have your clear picture of what you’re looking for in a CRM Director, go back to your job description and ensure it covers your vision. Then use your job description to create an engaging ad and let the search begin!

Look for Change Management Skills

Once a candidate has been identified, the due diligence process begins. This is where it’s critical to go beyond the typical interviews to see how this person thinks on her feet. Your head of CRM will need to effectively collaborate across departments and deal with dueling internal agendas.

We’ve found that since CRM is a fairly new marketing discipline and is growing so rapidly, the CRM Director effectively becomes an agent of change within your company. And that alone takes a unique skillset.

In addition, the CRM Director will need to present to senior management, which could include a volatile senior executive or two. You need a diplomat and a leader — all in one. And that requires a high degree of emotional intelligence — also known as emotional quotient (EQ).

Balancing IQ and EQ

Daniel Goleman, a former New York Times writer, popularized the concept of emotional intelligence nearly three decades ago and has written several books that support how a high EI/EQ can actually be a greater factor in a person’s career success than a high IQ.

Goleman characterizes EI as “the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.” But I prefer John Mayer & Peter Salovey’s definition:1 “The term Emotional Intelligence (EI) refers to the processes involved in the recognition, use, understanding, and management of one’s own and other’s emotional state to solve emotion-laden problems and to regulate behavior.”

EI is typically broken down into the following elements:

Emotional Intelligence chart
Goleman claims that an individual’s success at work is 80 percent dependent on EQ, but only 20 percent dependent on IQ. This is your opportunity to get past the paper attributes and start assessing the cultural fit and emotional quotient of the candidate.

Ask the Tough Questions of Your CRM Director Candidates

One of the ways to achieve this is by asking questions designed to unmask the candidate’s emotional intelligence, particularly since some candidates have mastered the ability of seeming emotionally intelligent by responding instantaneously with practiced, too-good-to-be-true responses to classic interview questions. For example:

Interviewer: What’s your greatest weakness?
Candidate: Well, I just care too darn much about my work.

To help you sift through the rehearsed responses and dig deeper into a candidate’s true emotional intelligence, we’ve put together the following list of tactics you can leverage. And, as you can see, there’s a lot to cover, so it’s better to conduct multiple interviews that each focus on specific objectives rather than trying to cover everything in a single long interview.

Find the best candidate

  1. Can you work with this person? Although it doesn’t seem intuitive and you may receive a frown from HR, set aside your list of requirements for your first introduction interview. Instead, concentrate on determining whether you can actually work with this person. Ask questions about past challenges and past successes.
     
    Listen for key words and phrases that show you whether the person is hanging on to resentment or feels others were responsible. Look at whether they learned from the experiences and leveraged them for future success. Delve into how they handle conflicts with colleagues, bad bosses, late deadlines. Key into repeated words as you ask these questions.
     
    It’s amazing how fast you can begin to see patterns. For example, if they repeatedly mention challenges, such as blaming others or unclear authority, with prioritization or clarification, you may not have the proactive champion you’re seeking. Or you may note a pattern of confrontation that is the hallmark of a low emotional intelligence level.
  2. Test the candidate’s skillset. If you feel this is someone you can work with, focus next on their skillset for the job. Go so far as to give them homework and ask your recruit to make a presentation. Provide a problem situation, and ask him or her to develop a range of solutions. Also request a single-page summary. Another option is to ask for a two- to four-hour time slot and have them complete the presentation or other homework at your location to truly test how they think on their feet.
  3. Conduct role play. Another tried and true technique is to conduct role play. Develop several scenarios that put the candidate into difficult situations that require them to respond. For example, if the earlier reference about a senior executive who is volatile rings true for your organization, create a scenario where you repeatedly question the results of a campaign or tactic, and then observe how the candidate responds to being argued with or shut down.
  4. Is the candidate passionate? Finally, work on gauging whether candidates have the passion you need. Ask them to tell you about their ideal job. What was their favorite job and why? What type of people do they work with best? What is their understanding of this job? Listen to the “whys.” Note where they show passion and emotion, and determine whether that fits into your culture and your role for the CRM Director. If someone wants to be an entrepreneur because of the freedom she perceives it offers, she may not be the right fit for a corporate role that has multiple layers of management.
  5. Review the candidate’s connections on LinkedIn. In today’s networked world, it’s always a good idea to check LinkedIn for connections, with the goal of finding references that the candidate didn’t provide that you may know. Asking how the recruit got along with colleagues and whether someone would work with that person again is revealing.

The Results Are Worth the Effort

Uncovering a candidate’s emotional intelligence takes work. But with the right tools, you can feel confident that your top pick for CRM Director will be a long-term hire.


How can CCG help you with your CRM resource needs? Whether you’re interested in augmenting your existing resources or are looking to take your CRM initiatives to the next level, our retail marketing experts can help. Check out our retail marketing services for all the ways we can assist you in achieving greater success. For a complimentary one-on-one discussion, call us at 800.525.0313 or email us today.


As CCG’s senior vice president, consulting & account services, Lane Ware is responsible for the agency’s account operations (P&L). She combines strategic expertise and experience in multiple industries with implementation and project-management skills. Her involvement in projects has ranged from helping design databases to implementing long-range marketing plans to refining existing strategies.


1 “Emotional Intelligence,” edited by Peter Salovey, Ph.D., Yale University, John D. Mayer, Ph.D., University of New Hampshire, Marc A. Brackett, Ph.D., Yale University; Dude Publishing, 2004, Introduction (p. i)

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