5 Tips for Interviewing Sales Leadership

5 Tips for Interviewing Sales Leadership

Hiring the wrong sales leader can have an astronomical impact on a business, literally making or breaking a company’s revenue and growth trajectory. Yet, many CEOs don’t know how to hire for this critical position and ignore the yellow flags that get surfaced during the interview process.

To hire an A+ sales leader, it is essential you interview deeply against these 5 areas:

  • Recruitment and hiring: Successful revenue growth comes from the collective. It is impossible for one person to do it alone, and although you may want a hands-on leader who has deep relationships in the market, their ability to recruit, hire, and inspire a team is even more important. Salespeople are motivated by a handful of factors, but the one thing that they will stay for, and follow to the next job, is a great leader. When interviewing your next sales leader, the top question to ask them is how many people and who followed them to their latest role and what their recruiting and retention strategy has been throughout their career.
  • Sales team motivation: Designing a compelling compensation and commission plan for a sales team is one thing to motivate a sales team, but the most successful sales leaders know how to create programs, events, and experiences that excite and inspire salespeople to act and have fun in their jobs. For the most part, salespeople are gregarious and outgoing individuals. They love a great challenge and are motivated by far more than money. Great sales leaders are creative and know how to get the best out of each and every one of their team members.
  • Operational rigor: Sales can feel like an independent sport that takes tremendous discipline for elite success. The sales leader you hire is the coach that will be with the team day in and day out. If the rigor and focus are not there, the team will not succeed. When interviewing your sales leader, ask how they manage their team, how deep they are in Salesforce or their CRM, how they quantitatively measure new business and existing account success, manage the pipeline, and understand what makes up the health of a territory. Successful sales leadership is not only about being in the field, it is about deeply understanding the day-to-day activities of your individual salespeople and ensuring there is a drumbeat to how they are running their business and territory.
  • Relationship management: All CEOs want to make sure that sales leaders have the right relationships to open doors and advance the business, but nobody has every relationship, and as a company enters new markets or looks to expand their existing business, new relationships must be made. Beyond asking questions about existing connections, ask your candidates how they have broken into new accounts where there hasn’t been a relationship and how they mended difficult relationships when account errors or other challenging business situations occurred.
  • Letting people go: I was once told that if it ever becomes easy to let a person go, then you have lost your compassion and should be questioning yourself as a leader. Letting people go is hard to do, and oftentimes we see leaders let people stay in a job for too long before they take action to make change. Openly discuss firing poor performers with your candidate and listen to how and when they know it is time to make a change.

Sales leadership is one of the hardest jobs to interview for because, well, sales leaders are always selling! It is tough to understand what drives somebody’s success in the role and if they will be successful in your company. The numbers will always speak for themselves but, if you dive deep into the above five areas during your interview process, you have a much greater chance of understanding more about the leader you are hiring and have a much stronger view of if they will successfully drive growth for your company.