How to Hire a Modern Sales Leader

Modern Sales LeaderHiring the right sales leader who can coach, mentor and take your sales team to the next level is a crucial hire, but it’s difficult to sort through all of the resumes and information to identify the right one: the modern sales leader.

This leader manages with metrics, engages with content and oftentimes even becomes a thought leader in your industry. He or she works alongside the team in the trenches, coaches the team on consistency and forges a collaborative team that wins together.

Finding this person isn’t easy, but not finding a modern sales leader for your team is detrimental.  


The Modern Sales Leader vs. the Old School Leader

While I mentioned some of the key traits you’ll find in a modern sales leader, it’s important to define the differences between these two types of sales leaders:

The Old School Sales Leader:

The old school sales leader was all about relationships and what’s closing — and that’s it. Sales were made via a Rolodex of contacts, steak dinners and stack rankings of who sold the most on an office whiteboard. CRM systems were a nuisance and managed by the finance team. The concept of being a “coach” to salespeople was totally foreign. All this leader wanted to know was what was closing, and if not enough was closing they would inject themselves into the deal to take over. The last thing sales was about was metrics and data.

The Modern Sales Leader:

The modern sales leader is hungry and competitive about crushing their sales number, but they dissect every part of the sales process, manage around metrics and fuse CRM into the sales process so deeply that it’s just part of how they do their job. They have operations people at their right hand, define and monitor sales metrics and are obsessed with monitoring real-time performance against their key sales KPIs. A salesperson’s weekly one-on-one is about reviewing what’s closing this week/month/quarter, but more time is spent on the behaviors and activities that will lead to sales results and reviewing metrics so coaching can be more objective and consistent. It’s all about building a process that can be scaled.


How Do You Find a Modern Sales Leader?

Now that we’ve established the importance of a modern sales leader in today’s tech and metrics-driven age, how exactly do you find the right candidate? Here are four practical tips to sort through the noise while beginning your search for the right sales leader.

1. Review previous work history

LinkedIn will be your best friend when identifying a modern sales leader. First of all, if this individual doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile or if it’s not complete or the information listed is very vague (ex: just provides company, title, and years worked rather than descriptions, successes, and testimonials), then that’s an immediate red flag. Their number of connections is also important. If a sales leader’s profile doesn’t show the minimum of “500+ connections” then something may be wrong as it’s a sign that they’re not adapting to the times.

Be on the lookout for experience at top-tier software companies, or companies that you look up to and respect. Look for signs of how long the individual held their previous positions and how they moved up in the organization. What responsibilities did they have? Do they explain how they achieved their goals and KPIs? Look at how long that individual tends to work at an organization. If his or her work history indicates they stayed in prior companies for just a few months or a year or two at a time and have skipped around, then consider how that would impact your team if the same happened.

2. Search for “keywords” in their profile and resume

A modern sales leader lives and dies by being an expert in their field, being metrics and KPI-driven, being a coach, and utilizing technology to do their jobs and empower their teams. Look for keywords and skill endorsements that indicate how they operate. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Metrics-driven
  • KPIs
  • Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR)
  • Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)
  • Sales operations
  • Collaborative
  • Coach/mentor
  • Analytics
  • Pipeline
  • Forecast
  • Sales stack / sales technology
  • CRM/dashboard

3. Pay attention to recommendations

If your candidate is a modern sales leader, it’s likely he or she has made a significant impact on team members. They’ve helped to guide, coach, empower and grow sales teams and to create a collaborative environment. Unlike the old school sales leader where many members of the team may have feared their manager, the modern sales leader is well liked and transparent, oftentimes leading to a very dedicated team. This often shows up as LinkedIn Recommendations under previous work history where members of the team can comment.

Look for signs such as “incredible leader, coach, helped me focus my time in the right way so I could reach my goals,” etc. Sales team member recommendations from those who worked for this leader in the past can be a great indicator.

4. See how they share content and participate in discussions

Does your candidate research his or her industry and share important information with their audience? For instance, follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn. Research any articles they’ve contributed to publications. Do they come across with authority? Do they uncover new trends, ideas and recommendations? Is their information timely and helpful? Do they follow thought leaders in the industry that are aligned with your company?

It can also be helpful to look at the groups they are associated with (LinkedIn Groups are a great place to start) and see how they approach discussions. Do they come off as knowledgeable and helpful or are their comments harsh, condescending or overtly trying to sell (versus help)? The modern sales leader will be more of an advisor, and warm in their approach, coaching others on important topics the industry is facing.

What Questions Should You Ask?

So you think you’ve found your modern sales leader? Be sure you’ve found the right one to lead your team by drilling in with some telling questions that will uncover whether your candidate is a true modern sales leader. Use these 10 questions as conversation starters throughout the interview process:

  1. What are 3 words that describe your management style?
  2. What are the most important KPIs to you? How do you manage the team to meet and exceed them?
  3. How do you ensure the team collaborates and grows together?
  4. Tell me about how you coach your sales team members one-to-one.
  5. What kind of sales technologies have you used in previous organizations? What would you do differently at our organization?
  6. How do you rally your team around the most important goals and KPIs and keep them focused?
  7. What does your ideal “sales floor” look like?
  8. What metrics do you look at daily? How do you manage to meet those?
  9. Share how you work alongside the team to help coach them on a day-to-day basis.

How did the candidate do in answering these questions? Did he or she demonstrate the traits you’re looking for in a modern sales leader? Were there any red flags, and if so, what were they? Be sure that you and several other trusted members of your executive team participate in the interview process to eliminate any halo effects. Compare the responses you received, and visit any concerns head on with the candidate to see how he or she responds when challenged.

Finding the right sales leader for your organization may take time and lots of energy, but the end result is exponentially worth any and all effort and time put into the process.

Why Modern Sales Leaders Drive with KPIs

How to Hire a Modern Sales Leader
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  1. […] 1. “We need to allow ourselves to take that time to understand people…we’re not managing a group – we’re managing humans.” – Trish Bertuzzi, President & Chief Strategist of The Bridge Group [Source]2. “Coachability is the most significant influencer of my hiring decision. As I think back to most of the rock stars we hired, their coachability was the personality trait that really stood out in their interviews. Evaluating this characteristic consumed the majority of my interview.” – Mark Roberge, Chief Revenue Officer at Hubspot [Source]3. “When a manager has the ‘sell the sale, make the close’ attitude, it is endemic of a much larger problem and it’s not with the salesperson, it’s with the manager. The role of management is to be engaged earlier in the sales development process.” – Mark Hunter, Founder of The Sales Hunter [Source]4. “One of the things you have to start doing [as a sales coach] is you have to start managing what people are doing with their day.” – Lesley Young, SVP of Commercial Sales & Operations, Box [Source]5. “So when you think about your role as a sales manager, think about how you can be more like a great personal trainer. A great personal trainer won’t just keep asking you to get on the scale and report how much you weigh. A great personal trainer will help you figure out a plan to achieving your goals.” –  Bob Marsh, CEO of LevelEleven [Source]6. “Coaching has gone to the next level. It’s stopped falling to the bottom of the list. Now there are technologies to bring it up to the top, and as modern sales leaders we need to embrace those technologies.” – Trish Bertuzzi, President & Chief Strategist of The Bridge Group [Source]7. “Any changes in the process your sales team follows should do this: help your sales reps sell more, faster. Adding sales metrics is healthy and should make sense to the reps that are using and tracking them. If they understand how the metrics help shape their behaviors and activities, they are more likely to embrace them.” – Phil Brabbs, Managing Director of Torrent Consulting [Source]8. “If we help folks see what they need to do to maximize their commission plan, I know they’re going to meet our larger financial objectives because it’s all tied together.” – Amy Appleyard, VP of Inside Sales at Staples Advantage [Source]9. “Even your brightest new hire is going to perform better with a firm understanding of their role and responsibilities, your expectations of them, and the criteria on which they’ll be measured.” – Brendan Hartt, Director of Sales Development at LevelEleven [Source]10. “[A modern sales leader] rallies troops behind the mission and leads by example — not afraid to hop on the phones.” – Steve Richard, Chief Revenue Officer at ExecVision [Source]11. “A true sales leader does whatever they can to set their reps up for success.” – Ben Sardella, Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer of Datanyze [Source]12. “[Sales] managers need to teach salespeople how to get themselves out of trouble and stay productive without too much hand-holding. They need to be efficient coaches. They need to diagnose skill deficiencies, devise customer coaching strategies and coach effectively.” – Mark Roberge, Chief Revenue Officer at Hubspot [Source]13. “Sales managers spend too much time doing nothing other than completing reports. This means their perspective is nothing more than conclusions drawn from reports. The real value of insights is when the sales manager is acting as a sales leader in the field, helping to develop their salespeople and customers. This is the impact the sales leader is paid to have.” – Mark Hunter, Founder of The Sales Hunter [Source]14. “Sales leadership dysfunction from companies, executives and managers is the main culprit why sales teams underperform.” – Mike Weinberg, Principal of The New Sales Coach [Source]15. “The most powerful thing that you can work with your sales reps on that affects them more than anything else is to have interactive, one-on-one coaching sessions.” – Lori Richardson, Founder and CEO of Score More Sales [Source]16. “If your team keeps failing to meet your expectations, have you clearly outlined how you define success? When you don’t communicate what you want, don’t be surprised when you don’t get it.” – Aaron Ross, Author and CRO of Predictable Revenue [Source]17. “Dig deep and figure out what your top sellers are doing to create their success. When you understand their results producing behavior, you can encourage more of it from your entire team! If certain things are working and proven to be effective, don’t keep it a secret!” – Colleen Francis, Owner at Engage Selling Solutions [Source]18. “Sales managers unknowingly create ‘play-it-safe’ sales cultures by not addressing the issue of failure. Here’s the real irony. If a salesperson is trying something new, such as opening a new market segment or going after a large opportunity, there is a good chance she doesn’t know everything needed to succeed.” – Colleen Stanley, President and Chief Selling Officer of SalesLeadership [Source]19. “[Sales leaders should] make a decision to be present when meeting with members of your team. Put away your smart phone, close the door and put your phone on do not disturb. Treat your salesperson like you would treat your most important customer—because he is! Make a decision where you want to be.” – Colleen Stanley, President and Chief Selling Officer of SalesLeadership [Source]20. “The modern sales leader manages with metrics, engages with content and often times even becomes a thought leader in your industry, works alongside the team in the trenches, coaches the team on consistency, and forges a collaborative team that wins together.”  – Bob Marsh, CEO of LevelEleven [Source] […]

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