Are you questioning the ability of your sales leader to take your revenue performance to the next level? Is slow revenue growth extending your time horizon to a successful exit?


In your next board meeting, they will ask what you will do differently to make the number. If replacing your sales leader is on top of the list, question #2 will be: How do you know the new one will be better?


To hire a top-performing sales leader, you have to remove legacy aspects of your recruiting strategy. Consider taking a new approach to your recruiting strategy. It’s difficult to grow revenue faster than your industry’s growth rate and faster than your competitors. Leverage the How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook to access a revenue growth methodology to hit your number quarter after quarter, and year after year.


Coach Mike Krzyzewski has won NCAA championships at Duke and gold medals in the Olympics with the U.S. Men’s Basketball team. Coach K adapts effortlessly from coaching teenage college kids to NCAA championships to coaching the top 12 NBA players to a gold medal. He doesn’t allow himself to get bogged down by the old way of doing things. Coach K states:


“Too many rules get in the way of leadership. They just put you in a box… People set rules to keep from making decisions.” 


Your next sales leader should be an evolutionary phenomenon. Forget legacy traits like industry experience, product knowledge and number of years on the job. The requirements of top sales leaders are so different today. Focus on pace of evolution, understanding of market problems and buyer-centric selling.


Here are three things to eliminate from your recruiting strategy immediately:


  1. Industry experience
  2. Product knowledge
  3. # of years in sales management


1. Industry Experience – The industry you’re selling to is changing as fast as you’re changing. New technologies are being created at warp speed. Companies that can’t evolve are dying.

If your next sales leader candidate has 15 years of software sales experience, does it really matter if he was able to sell an on premise enterprise system to a customer in 2002?


You want to hire someone who is a demonstrated student of the game; someone who is on the bleeding edge of the industry they work in today. It’s not relevant that they’ve worked in the industry for dozens of years. What you care about is their ability to evolve at the pace of the industry you’re in today.


2. Product Knowledge – Product cycles are short. has 14 scheduled releases between September and October of this year alone. Features and benefits come and go. If you are making a hiring decision on product knowledge, you’re deciding on something that will be irrelevant in less than 6 months.


How well does your candidate understand the customers and the problems they are trying to solve?


Focus your efforts on identifying candidates who can tell you what problems their customers have today and how they solve them. Great candidates can tell you:


  • What problems their market has
  • How they solve them
  • What benefits the customer will receive


The answer you hear should not have a single mention of a product feature or benefit.


3. # of Years in Sales Management – Sales management is changing rapidly. Old school management isn’t cutting it. For example, companies are using antiquated approaches like Solutions Selling rather than focusing on buyer-centric sales processes. McKinsey published a study called Solutions Selling: Is the Pain Worth the Gain? In the study, they found 75% of solutions selling implementations fail. A sales process with a 25% success rate will not achieve your revenue goals.  


Does your candidate know how to map a customer buying process in order to build a custom sales process?


The best sales leaders start with the customer first. They aren’t enamored with the sales process they learned early in their career. They seek to understand how and why your buyers purchase your product. You want someone who thinks like your buyer, not someone looking to implement a legacy selling model. Look for a leader who can map a sales process to your customer’s buying process from scratch.


Here are 6 Tips you can implement to recruit your next great Sales Leader:


  1. A major consumer of market trend information. Blogs, thought leaders, industry news, etc.
  2. Knows how to identify the market problems of your buyer
  3. Knows how to map a buying process
  4. Can create and sell using buyer personas
  5. Understands Sales Enablement and can build buyer-centric playbooks
  6. Can coach the sales team on buyer objectives before going on a sales call


Your next sales leader should be an evolutionary phenomenon. Forget legacy traits like industry experience, product knowledge and number of years on the job. The requirements of top sales leaders are so different today. Focus on pace of evolution, understanding of market problems and buyer-centric selling.


Have expectations gone up and left you wondering if you can make your number? Here is an interactive tool that will help you understand if you have a chance at success. Take the Revenue Growth Diagnostic test and rate yourself against SBI’s sales and marketing strategy to find out if:

  • Your revenue goal is realistic
  • You will earn your bonus
  • You will keep your job





Photo Source: Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski talks to his team during a timeout while during a game against the University of Virginia at Duke University, NC, Jan. 12, 2012. DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen  WikiMedia Commons




Josh Horstmann

Brings a deep level of experience and insight in helping organizations develop and execute their corporate, sales and marketing strategies.

Josh specializes in helping clients solve demanding sales and marketing challenges through aligning functional strategies within an organization. He has worked with clients in manufacturing, ecommerce, software, financial services and technology sectors.


Recently he helped transform an international services company ‘go to market’ strategy, which included assessing talent, re-organizing the sales force, increasing team productivity, reducing the cost of sale and aligning the marketing and sales strategies.


Josh continues to provide thought leadership to his clients advising them on how to build inside sales teams, develop compensation programs, share best practices on social selling, transform sales organizations, drive demand generation programs and acquire and cultivate talent. Along with this he helps organizations align functional strategies.


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