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Integrating Commercial Top Talent: The Success Factors


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In the second and third quarters of 2015 a survey has been held about the critical success factors of the integration of new commercial hires. The survey was held among 50 leaders of various B2B businesses, operating in different sectors. The respondents held the following positions: HR directors, Commercial directors and General Managers.

Two main answers were given by the respondents on the question: What are the critical success factors for integrating commercial top talent:

  • Selecting the right candidate
  • Having an on boarding program to ensure integration

We deepened these answers and tried to find which actions companies take to secure them for a successful integration. What are the qualifications for selecting top talent? And how to integrate these commercial talents in the organization?

What does “good” look like and where is still room for improvement?

Selecting the right kind of talent

Many similar answers were given to this question “What are the qualifiers to select commercial top talent?” Remarkably the respondents were unanimous whereas no answer was aberrant. All agreed, that the foremost key factor is defining the proper profile as preparation for integration. Four subjects stood out.


62% of the respondents address personality of the candidates as one of the most crucial selection criteria. Many skills can be learned and developed. Personality is given. Choosing the right personality for the organization and job specific is according to the respondents’ key.

The most popular personality characteristics organizations are looking for are:

  • Motivation (42%). Motivation for the job, the challenge but also high self-motivation
  • Pragmatic attitude (38%). While some jobs require analytical skills, being pragmatic, a can-do and hands-on mentality is highly valued
  • Drive (35%). Drive for earning money for the company, doing the best you can, serve clients in the best possible way
  • Eagerness (35%). Respondents mean with eagerness, eagerness to win and eagerness to learn.
  • Other personality characteristics that were mentioned were: self-confidence, leadership, being a team player and flexibility to adapt and change.


The second important qualifier to select talent is the ‘right’ competencies. This answer was given by 55% of the respondents. Right competencies were not so much job specific as more organization specific. Although ‘right’ is depending on the company’s current phase, strategy and objectives.

The most common answer given by respondents is technical knowledge (44%). One of the reasons for giving this answer is the high technical skills required to do business in these sectors. Candidates with the right set of technical knowledge are more fast up and running.

39% of the respondents also value the ability to build a network, both internally (due to some complex organization structures) and externally (being able to develop new clients and develop a relationship). While only 4% values bringing in their existing network.

-Knowledge of industry dynamics-

The third most important qualification criteria to select top talent is the knowledge of the respective industry and market dynamics (48%). Do candidates understand the industry they are in and do they have a clear vision on market development regarding channel partners, value chain, stakeholders, industry drivers and trends. Business acumen is highly valued in the respondents segments. This because the market they are in can be complex due to competition, stock situation and legislation amongst other.

-Fit with companies culture-

Also a qualifier to pay high attention to, according to the respondents is the candidates fit with the company’s culture (40%). Most companies look at the candidates’ norms and values (their DNA) and try to find the match with their own norms and values, to enlarge the success rate of the newcomer and retain him/ her for the future.

Some respondents mentioned that fit with the companies’ culture is not relevant at all. These respondents explain that their current strategy is to drive change. They appreciate candidates who can adapt rapidly to different cultures or are highly cultural sensitive.

On-boarding program

 A remarkable 70% of all respondents have a highly developed and designed on boarding program. These programs vary from duration (from 6 weeks till 1 year) and content. The reason for having an on-boarding program is to integrate new hires as fast as possible and to benefit from their contribution to companies objective.

56% of the companies who have an on boarding program find it important to expose newcomers by introducing them to senior management or key decision makers. Organizations expect new hires to understand companies’ culture, structure, strategy and objectives and USP much quicker in this way.

Another important pillar in the on boarding program is the technical program (36%). This program contains technical product training (product application), methods and tools (CRM, Finance) and introduction program to external parties. In some cases the newcomer gets a buddy or coach to get acquainted with the internal organization and procedures.

Some respondents (20%) were very transparent on giving feedback about their current on boarding program. There is still room for improvement. A common answer amongst this group is the change in behavior of young talent; another generation with specific needs for more freedom and responsibility. Attracting these talents also brings a hazard: young top talents like to grow and move on rapidly. If they do not have adequate growth possibilities in their perception, they might suffer from boredom after approximately 2 years. While companies require to keep new hires on a specific role for 3 till 5 years.

Balancing between attracting good talents and ultimate top talents might be the answer. Some respondents mentioned the intensive attention for the new hires during integration period and much less afterwards. The on boarding program needs to be extended, especially for young top talents to develop their strength and keep them on board.

Also the rigidity of the program has been mentioned. The program must follow the individual and not the other way around. In most programs there is no room for a personalized program.

Room for improvement

In most of the surveyed sectors, selecting talents has 4 main qualifiers:

  • Personality
  • Competencies
  • Knowledge about industry dynamics
  • Cultural fit with the organization

In our 25 years of existence as an International headhunter, we find this outcome remarkable. If we would have predicted the outcome we had ranked ‘cultural fit with the organization’ higher than the respondents did. The discrepancy may lay in the correlation between personality and cultural fit. Having the right personality for a company might automatically mean fitting in the company’s’ culture.

Another explanation for this remarkable outcome is the drive for cultural and organizational change by some companies. Drive for change requires the right personality. Cultural fit in this phase is subordinate.

To integrate and nurture new talents many companies have designed an on boarding program which contains:

  • Introduction and exposure to senior management or key decision makers
  • Get acquainted with companies methods, tools and product application (technical training)

This to help new hires to make a quick start, become successful and contribute to companies’ objective
Much has done so far in the respective sectors. Luckily there is still room for improvement. Perhaps the improvement does not lay in the on boarding program since the majority of the companies already have a designed and extensive program for newcomers. Much less is mentioned about the development plan after the on boarding period. Especially these programs are suitable for a more personalized approach and job specific focus. So, the next question:

Does a development program works to retain real top talent? And what does a good development program looks like?


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Batenborch International is an executive search agency specialized in sales, marketing and digital recruitment and interim management. With own offices in Belgium, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Morocco and the Netherlands, Batenborch International strives to be the international reference in sales, marketing and digital recruitment.


Written by
Senior Practice Manager B2B at Batenborch International.

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