HR helps build sales leader pipeline


This post explores what HR leaders can do to develop top internal sales leaders. You could also use this information when searching for external candidates. A tool is available for download – a full syllabus of Sales leadership courseware.


Here are five steps for HR to build a sales leadership pipeline in 2013:


1. Determine necessary skills for sales leadership at your firm

There are ample sources that espouse their top leadership skills lists.  Leverage them as you can.  The below downloadable tool will give over 40 sales leadership skills to choose from.  You have to pick the skills that work best for your organization.  For example, if your company needs to be “social”, then Social Selling skills are a must. If your company uses channel partners, Channel Management is a needed skill. For complex sales, you’ll want Sales leaders to understand solution development.


Here are a few other newer skills a Sales leader will need to have:


        • Mastering Buyer Personas and Journeys
        • Managing multi-generational sales forces
        • Integrating with Marketing functions
        • Leveraging Customer Experience
        • Personal branding


 2. Create the courseware for developing sales leaders

Courseware for sales leaders should provide instruction and application.  There are many areas of knowledge sales leaders need.  Sales management topics cover a very broad base of topics to know.  There are also specific skills for top sales leadership positions (VP and above.)  You must also design how to test for desired learning outcomes.  Does each course module have a real-life test of application? For example, can a Sales Leader show increased revenue from social selling implementation? The downloadable syllabus is your starting point for customized courseware.


3. Design an onboarding program for selected candidates

Having courseware is not enough.  After design, schedule the courses at the appropriate times.  Don’t overwhelm a new Sales leader with 40+ simultaneous courses. Intersperse courseware with hands-on use of the skills.  Include frequent assessment opportunities coupled with mentoring.  Our advice: create a schedule over 6 months to introduce courseware and exercises. Work with Sales to get the initial version as good as can be.  Use a matrix for tracking purposes like this one.


The schedule is more granular (weekly checkpoints) at the start. Further on, the checkpoints move to monthly. Start with your best guess of a timeline and refine as it is used. Determine which courses are the most critical for a new Sales leader and put them in the first month. Break up courses into smaller chunks that can be consumed at different, appropriate times. Label the first 90 days as probationary.  Each period of time has some learning components within it.  Each period also should have measurable outcomes that are validated. For example, each of the first 6 weeks should have some deliverable objective. The deliverable must have real-life embedded within it.  The purpose is to determine application of the learning that preceded it.


After this onboarding program is done, create a second one.  The second program is lengthier – spreading courseware and exercises over more time.  This program will be used for developing a bench of sales leaders. Ensure you are monitoring these onboarding programs for improvement. Solicit feedback from sales leaders that are using the programs.  Continuously improve them as needed.  (By the way, Continuous Improvement is a Sales Leadership skill, too.)


4. Assess current sales personnel to identify your future leaders

With courseware and an onboarding program ready, find leadership candidates!  Ask Sales leadership who they’ve thought of as potential leaders.  But don’t just take someone’s word for it – assess every candidate! Use the downloadable syllabus for ideas of skills to assess.  Then, develop a Talent Review guide to assess all sales personnel. The Talent Review guide has A/B/C player characteristics to look for. Of course, you want A players to be leaders.  The guide also needs to contain scenario-based questions to use during assessment.  Matt Sharrers’ ebook (Promoted to VP of Sales) includes a set of sample questions.  Alternatively, have SBI do the talent assessment for you – in less time and with more effectiveness.


5. Start the leadership candidates on the onboarding program

After assessments, HR and Sales agree on the leadership candidates. Assign each candidate to a Sales leader mentor. Start them on the sales leadership onboarding program. Have the checkpoints of the onboarding be done by the Sales leader mentor.  Include checkpoints where the HR leader is involved (once a month). The HR leader will observe both the candidate and the mentor.  Then, the HR leader coaches the mentor on use of the onboarding program.  Informal assessment of the candidate’s progress is also obtained. Give HR a solo checkpoint 90 days in to gauge the candidate’s motivation. At a certain point (as outlined in the onboarding program) the candidate is “official” – a Sales Leader.


Call to Action


  1. Download the Sales Leadership Syllabus
  2. Use the download for ideas to perform the above steps
  3. Build your pipeline of future Sales Leaders
  4. Help Sales with other issues now that Sales Leadership is solved



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