With the right sales leader, your company can define and develop a powerful roadmap for success. Strategic sales leaders create meaningful and measurable plans for revenue growth and hiring—building out the sales organization, determining sales goals and milestones, and designing compensation and incentive plans to attract and retain team members. Depending on where your company is in its growth trajectory and the type of role you are seeking to fill, know what specific traits and strengths to look for in a sales leader before you look to hire.
At DANA Associates, we have more than three decades of experience in finding and evaluating high-performing sales candidates for leadership positions. We know sales. Whether hiring your first VP or director, or seeking to expand your current team, we can tap into our extensive network of qualified sales professionals to find you the ideal candidate and streamline the hiring process. Knowing what to look for in a sales leader is a great place to start.
Define What Makes a Strong Sales Leader
Assumptions are dangerous. One mistake often made is assuming that a talented new business developer and closer is a ready-made sales leader. Instead, shift the focus from solely looking at a candidate’s sales track record and discover what kind of leadership qualities they possess. Some characteristics of the best sales leaders include:
- Agility and adaptability: A strong leader can adapt or change course as needed. If one strategy is not working, they should be able to readily adjust, go back to the drawing board, and develop new ways to help your company reach its goals.
- Coach-like mindset: Great sales leaders care about their sales team and want to do whatever it takes to help them succeed. What is good for the sales team is usually good for the company overall. A true sales leader needs to be an outstanding coach, meeting one-on-one, offering concrete feedback and strategies for improvement, and helping to set personal goals.
- Empathy: Understanding the needs of others and the ability to build and develop relationships are crucial characteristics of effective leaders. Empathy is both a skill and a trait. It’s the source leaders tap to be both inspiring and motivating to team members. It is a critical core competency for hiring any sales leader.
Are leaders created or born? If fast growth is your goal, then a qualified candidate should already possess the traits of a great leader. During our comprehensive recruiting process, we conduct in-person interviews to get a holistic picture of each candidate and screen for the qualities that make someone a strong leader.
Build a Sales Team to Scale Your Startup
As the CEO of a startup, you might wonder when you should expand your sales leadership team. Should you hire someone from the beginning or wait until you are ready to ratchet up the next growth phase? Sooner may be better. When your VP or director of sales is part of the team from the get-go, you can rely on their knowledge and expertise as part of the strategy team mapping out your company’s future. Hiring a sales leader early on also sets the stage for developing a strong and cohesive sales team.
How to Hire a Sales Leader to Help Grow Your Company
Knowing what traits to look for in a sales candidate is a critical part of the equation for hiring a sales leader. But there’s more. Consider the following tips to deliver a higher return on effort in your quest to find the right candidate who will help you achieve your growth goals:
1. Examine Your Business Strategy and Growth Plans
The candidate you hire to lead your sales team should genuinely be invested in building your business. Before you start bringing in candidates or creating a description of the sales leader role, zero in on your company’s growth plan. What are your short- and long-term goals? Even if these change over time and circumstance, rapidly scaling organizations who define where they are going are better equipped to identify what type of candidate to bring on board to help strategically and tactically meet objectives.
2. Know the Right Time to Hire
Timing is everything when hiring a new leader. If you put off making this crucial hire, your sales team may lack a rudder, become overwhelmed or operate with a higher degree of uncertainty about the best ways to proceed and succeed. If a sales leader is not installed at the start, then consider hiring someone when your sales team is about to enter a new phase or before your company pivots in a new direction.
In certain circumstances, you might need to bring on a sales leader to do damage control. Maybe your sales representative turnover rate is high, or you are concerned about a lack of motivation or consistent performance from the sales team. Keep in mind how long it might take to hire the right sales leader to ensure your hiring timeline can address your issues and effectively support your business’s goals.
3. Know What Type of Sales Leadership Position You Need to Fill
Sales leaders are not uniform. You might need to hire for an executive-level sales position, such as a CRO or VP of sales, during the early stages of your business. Or, you might recruit for these positions when your company needs to make a considerable change.
Maybe it’s time for a sales manager or a player/coach who eventually will be groomed to lead a fast expanding team. We understand that you may not know what level salesperson you need. At DANA, we can help determine how to build out your sales organization and provide expert guidance and recruiting for executive-level and mid-level sales leaders. We deliver top performers and ensure the executive team and board of directors align with your company’s growth plans and goals.
4. Establish the Desired Leadership Traits and Qualities
Each leadership role requires a slightly different set of skills and personality traits. A VP focuses more on market penetration and strategy, needs to work seamlessly and collaboratively cross-functionally, and deal with the board of directors. An account executive is high touch with clients, managing the relationship and finds new leads. A sales manager is critical to supporting the success of the team and needs to be able to keep things running smoothly.
Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach to hiring, list the specific skills and traits you expect to see in a candidate for each role. When you have clearly defined the responsibilities and qualities you need in each role, you will be better able to match candidates to each position.
5. Harness the Power of Recruiters When Searching for Long-Term Sales Leaders
When you hire a person for a sales leadership role, you are doing more than making a hire. You are forging a new relationship. Finding a candidate who demonstrates interest and enthusiasm for your company that is willing to invest in its growth and long-term success is crucial. A recruiter who has experience interviewing thousands of candidates can recognize those traits and qualities that make for a good long-term fit.
6. Develop a Compelling Compensation Plan
The best talent will go where the money is. If you want to make a position attractive to high-quality candidates, it is imperative to offer a compensation package that is better than average. Compensation has many layers and goes well beyond salary and commission. After more than 35 years focused exclusively on recruiting salespeople, we have the metrics and data to help your company develop compensation packages that will resonate with sales candidates to fill your open positions.
Prepare to Onboard Successful Sales Leaders
The sooner your new hire gets up to speed on your company’s processes and plans, the sooner they will be able to help your company grow. Onboarding sales leaders can be complex, taking over a year for a leader to become a top performer, but it does not need to be.
Hiring the right candidate has proven to be one of the best ways to shorten the onboarding process. With a clearly defined role and a shared understanding of expectations, your new sales leader can jump in, swiftly galvanize the team and begin delivering on revenue goals.
Work With Us to Find the Sales Leaders Who Will Expedite Growth
Whether you are ready to launch, pivoting in a new direction, or looking for a big sales lift, you need leadership with the talent, skills and knowledge to help your company achieve its goals. We take a people-first approach that focuses on candidates as individuals. Our expert guidance and precision methodology mean we only present sales candidates that you can hire with confidence. With a 3:1 send out to hire ratio, we think our unique strategy is working hard.
To learn more and discover the DANA Difference for your company, schedule a call with us today.