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?Talent Management Strategy to Hire A Great Sales Leader


In your next board meeting, they will ask what you will do differently to make the number in 2013. 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. In the last 10 years, you’ve removed inefficiencies from your life.


  • Downloading music on Spotify instead of shopping at the record store
  • Streaming movies on Netflix instead of renting at Blockbuster
  • Downloading books on Kindle instead of going to Barnes & Noble
  • Using OnDemand instead of watching live TV with commercials


Consider taking the same approach to your recruiting strategy.


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. This Forbes article from 2008 foreshadowed Blockbuster’s demise when comparing them to Netflix. Just four years ago, being able to order DVDs through the mail was seen as evolutionary. Blockbuster’s plan was “still in the works.”  Two years later, Netflix evolved from mail order to delivering streaming movies on demand. Blockbuster declared bankruptcy. Netflix evolved faster and won.


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 19 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. In 2010, 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 in 1995. 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 a sales rep on buyer objectives before going on a sales call


This month, Mike Krzyzewski won his second Olympic gold medal with the US 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.


“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.


There is no substitution for ‘A’ player talent.


Ryan Tognazzini

Follow @RyanTognazzini

Follow Sales Benchmark Index @MakingTheNumber