What would you say is the most important skill for a sales leader?
Hop on LinkedIn or do a quick Google search, and you can come up with a solid list of the most important things sales leaders need. One book will say the ability to inspire and motivate is the only way to success. Another will say the ability to tune out the noise to focus on the most important strategy and KPIs. And yet another will say sales leaders need to be able to practice what they preach. (Keep going, and you can add vision, empathy, and confidence.)
All of these skills are important for sales teams, and we’d argue that depending on the situation, timing, and market for your product, any one of them could be more valuable than another. But there’s one critical skill that will dramatically impact your ability to succeed as a sales leader no matter the market, size, or position of your company: hiring the right people.
Regardless of how focused you are on serving and supporting your team, if you make a hire that’s not a good fit, you’ve set yourself back and affected whether or not your team will hit quota. If you consistently make bad hires, your personal skills won’t matter much when it’s time for your boss to evaluate how you and your career are measuring up to goals and KPIs.
So, before you pick up any other books on the keys to sales leadership success, let’s figure out how to make the right sales hires. After you get that right, you can start developing the important skills that will take your team to the next level.
Hiring the Right People Benefits the Entire Team
Bad sales hires cost more than just the quota - though they can risk as much as 70% of your quota. But getting the hire wrong means you’re dealing with the extra time it takes to ramp up new talent, develop training plans, analyze calls and provide feedback, develop performance improvement plans, and impact overall morale and your ability to focus on the entire team.
On the flip side, like the anecdote that a rising tide lifts all boats, hiring good talent will help your entire team improve. It elevates the educational experience for everyone on the team as they train together, watching and emulating the new hire’s best skills.
And then these new hires can give back to your team, ramping faster and moving into bringing revenue into the company sooner. They foster the ability to hone rapid skill acquisition and can glean invaluable insights from client engagements.
Not enough to convince you? Here are some additional benefits (for both your career and your team) to getting a sales hire right:
Clear Understanding of Job Requirements
When you have a hiring process that accurately identifies candidates who will succeed in your role, the candidates also benefit. They gain clarity on the essential skills and traits necessary for the role, far beyond what a generic job description normally provides. This helps the candidate know what to expect coming into the interview process as well.
Innovation and Adaptability
The right hire often brings fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the table. Their adaptability to market changes and willingness to experiment can help the team stay ahead of industry trends and adapt quickly to shifting market dynamics.
Making the right hire reduces the likelihood of turnover. When employees are well-suited to their roles and the team dynamics, they’re more likely to stay committed to the company. This helps both your team and your career. You’re reducing the cost of recruiting and interviewing a new hire while maintaining team stability. This helps everyone on your team hone the right skills needed for success, elevating everyone’s career trajectory.
Alignment on Culture
Approaching the hiring process in the right way can ensure the new candidate will be eager, willing, and genuinely excited to take on a new role. The right hire will be more likely to align their ambitions with the company’s objectives, ensuring a strong foundation for success.
Support and Alignment for Success
When you can consistently ensure that you’re making the right hires, it’s much easier to establish a supportive environment that will enable the new hire’s success. You’ll understand what they need to get going and they’ll understand what they need to do to succeed, so you can give them the necessary resources and backing to excel in their responsibilities.
As you continue to make the right hires, you’ll find that exceptional salespeople reflect positively on the company and your career. Their success contributes to the company’s reputation and your ability to lead successful teams, attracting more top talent and potential clients due to the perception of expertise and reliability.
Realistic Expectations and Consistent Communication
Collaboratively setting practical expectations fosters an environment where both parties understand what's achievable and how to progress effectively.
Encouraging Constructive Disagreement for Progress
Cultivating an atmosphere that welcomes healthy debate and diverse viewpoints ensures your team members can grow together. Challenging each other constructively leads to innovative solutions and continual progress.
Over time, what might seem like marginal 10% gains in candidate skills and onboarding speed will transform into a monumental advantage for a team working together for several years.
People Trump Tools and Infrastructure in Sales Success
You might be able to achieve success by posting a generic job listing, going with your gut during the interview process, and making sure you have a huge budget for developing a killer onboarding process and technology stack. But that success will be inconsistent and won’t be repeatable when your team needs to scale rapidly or adapt to a lot of turnover.
No matter what framework you’ve established to help your sales teams succeed, the linchpin will always be the people. So getting the right people in place should definitely be a priority over many of these other processes. Even a team equipped with all the right resources will fall short of reaching their potential if the individuals are misaligned on the company’s goals and the critical skills needed to achieve them.
Conversely, a team filled with individuals who have the perfect and unique skills needed to succeed in your particular market possesses an inherent potential for greatness. Even when your hiring and team infrastructure requires fine-tuning—whether it’s optimizing onboarding procedures, refining training modules, honing sales methodologies, enhancing technological tools, or strategizing territories—these teams remain poised for high-reaching success.
Ultimately, it’s having both the right infrastructure to support your team combined with the right people that will really help you succeed. So now the only question that remains is how to get the right people in place. Once you have that solid foundation of talent fit for your business and industry, you can begin building out the infrastructure to optimize their skills and enhance your reputation as a stellar sales leader.
How To Hire the Right People
So, how do you become great at hiring? There are two keys: train the skills and make hiring predictive.
Train the skills
Approach becoming good at hiring the same way you would coach sales reps to prepare to connect with a prospect. Reps that don’t plan ahead and do their research on what the prospect needs and how your product solves for that need won’t get very far.
In the same way, doing the research on your job opening before you start interviewing will take you a long way through the hiring process. Think about what skills the new hire needs to succeed, and focus on why they need those skills first. Then get into thinking about how much that will be worth to your company and who could be a good fit.
Often in a sales management role, there will be competing priorities that feel more urgent and important. But across a few years, taking the time to really map out what you need from the hiring process and understanding how candidates will succeed will have a much more far-reaching impact. Developing your hiring skills will be critical to helping move your entire team forward.
Make hiring predictive
As you develop a hiring process, interview questions, and candidate scorecards around the critical skills candidates will need to succeed in this role, your hiring process becomes much better at signaling which candidates will succeed in your role.
A lot of the time, we develop gut instincts, rules of thumb, or shortcuts in the hiring process that make it difficult to identify success continually. Getting a hire right with no forethought or planning is more of a coincidence and takes away your opportunity to be more predictive about hiring.
The good news is that you can make it predictive. As you take time to train your skills in hiring, planning, and preparing for success in the hiring process, you can develop standard operating procedures that will ensure success you can plan on. As you iterate and improve the process with each hire, you’ll get better at knowing how candidates will perform before they ever send their first email.
Becoming adept at interviewing will be an ongoing journey for you and your team, one that will require diligence, practice, and iterative improvements. But like any other skill you focus on developing as a sales leader, it will reap dividends for your team and your career.