How to choose the right leader for your sales team

By January 18, 2019Feature
How to find a leader

In order to excel, your sales team needs direction and motivation – two things that only come from a really efficient and effective leader: the sales manager. A strong and confident leader can change the entire operation and the results of a sales team, so it’s a priority that you fill this position with the right person.

Former GE boss and legendary businessman Jack Welch says the things that define a powerful leader are the ability to energise a workforce through positivity, having the edge (being able to make the tough calls), executing on strategy and having passion for the job at hand.

On top of these general leadership qualities, your sales managers need to engage your sales team on a personal level to help them connect their personal goals to organisational goals, drive them to perform, and reward them for doing so. They also need to take ownership of their own goals, and be able to present all this to their fellow leadership team.

So you can see it’s not an easy role to fill, and yet your whole organisation relies on it greatly. When it’s time to hire a new sales manager for your team, there are a few options. You can upskill someone from the current team, hire internally from outside the team, or bring in new talent. Here are a few things to consider along the way.

First thing’s first, here’s what not to do

A common mistake organisations make is to promote top sales executives to managerial roles when one becomes available. This isn’t always the most effective move and as a result, you often lose your best performing sales executive and, most of the time, end up with a lousy performing sales manager back for it.

Remember, they may be better suited – and consequently happier and more successful – staying in a senior sales role. That’s not to say this is never the right thing to do, but it’s something we see a lot that backfires, so be cautious.

Staying internal

When a leading role does become available, take a step back and look at the strengths of all your existing executives.

Do any of them have the skills and interest to become a sales leader? Would you be better letting your sales staff sell and getting in fresh personnel? Do any of them stand out as having the potential to manage people?

Good leaders can help identify problems, create an environment of independence and accountability, identify stress and fatigue, and create processes that encourage optimal performance. They should also be able to identify when a staff member is lacking confidence or requires motivation.

If you do identify an existing staff member who seems well-suited for this role, you can give them the opportunity to upskill and provide them with the necessary support.

Bringing in a leadership coach or providing external support for this person will help them to overcome hurdles and training issues to make sure they’re successful in the role.

Hiring externally

When you are recruiting for the sales manager position, remember to hire for the capabilities of the position. You need someone who can leverage the skills and talents on their team, someone who can keep their team accountable.

It’s often easier to find the right person externally to keep the team accountable, as opposed to promoting an existing staff member where conflict can occur with them trying to keep the rest of the team they were recently a part of, accountable.

Data and insights are king when it comes to hiring the people who will ultimately be at the forefront of your revenue, your company’s values and your profitability.

Psychometric testing can identify talent, their traits and their best fit within your team. It can also throw up red flags – warning you of deeper issues before you make the expensive mistake of hiring them.

It’s a no-brainer and remember, your company’s values and reputation are at stake.

Once they’re on board

When a new sales manager starts, it’s a good idea for them to carry out an audit on their team so they know who they’re going to be working with, what their strengths are, and what part of the team needs most of their attention.

Auditing the sales team should not be a one off activity, it should be an annual process to ensure your team members have the right skills, are in the right positions, and have the support they need to perform at their consistent best.


Ready to put this into action? Download our free ebook: The CEO’s guide to building better sales team