sales leadership

The Top 5 Things You Should Look For in Sales Leadership Candidates

Does your sales manager have what it takes to lead?

As companies grow and expand, hiring sales leadership roles can become an overwhelming task.  

You must find the right sales leader. One who can create an effective team around him or her…but that’s easier said than done (especially in today’s hiring atmosphere).

Maybe you are looking for someone to lead the entire sales department. 

Or perhaps you need to find someone to take over for a retiring sales manager. 

Regardless of the type of sales leader you’re seeking, you should be on the lookout for the following five traits when hiring sales leadership candidates…

They’ve already successfully done what you need them to do. 

Do you need someone who can build a sales team from scratch?

Perhaps you need a sales manager who can turn around a distracted team with low numbers?

Maybe your goal is to break into a new territory with heavy competition…

Once you determine what you need from your sales team, you can search for people to help manage them so you can achieve it. 

This is a critical, and often overlooked aspect of sales leadership hiring. Businesses fail to evaluate their needs and assume anyone with sales and leadership skills will be able to help them accomplish all their sales and leadership goals.

The fact is, you need to look beyond the basics to find someone with the additional skill set to support your team specifically where they need it.  

They’ve got the DNA to manage people properly. 

Managing others is a skill not everyone has. Kind of like the Sales DNA some sales reps are born with, some people are hardwired to succeed as sales managers…

Great managers treat their team members well. They respect them, listen to them, help them grow, and motivate them. They don’t just tell their team members what to do…they share the tools to help their team meet their numbers and goals.

A mistake we often see (and help our clients eliminate with our data-driven hiring approach), is hiring someone for a sales leadership position that has a high need for approval.

This often leads to a lack of accountability – and an ensuing lack of sales follow through…it’s more important for them to be liked by their team than it is to properly manage them to get results.

Above all, a great manager instinctually does what they can to make sure everyone on the team feels respected and valued. They seek out ways to help each team member individually and can customize their approach to meet the unique needs of each team member.

Need the skillset to manage a sales team.

Managing a department or team requires the sales manager to perform a lot of varied roles. To be successful, they must be good at all of them…a tall order for sure!

While they may not be an expert at all of the following, they should have a basic grasp of the duties required to effectively:

  • Recruit new team members. There will often be turnover in your sales team. Make sure your sales manager is adept at the recruitment process and knows how to hire the best sales team candidates so there is little to no turnover. 
  • Train new hires effectively. Now that you hired a new sales rep, make sure your sales manager knows how to train them! This is a key area we consistently see new sales managers fail at…make sure your candidate can successfully execute this vital role.
  • Manage their team successfully. This includes both day-to-day and larger, long-range tasks. This is the main part of their job, and they should excel at it.
  • Coach their team properly. Coaching is not management, and you need a sales manager who can tell them apart! It’s about helping sales team members see what they did wrong and supporting them as they find ways to improve.
  • They should also be prepared to act as a liaison with other departments such as HR, legal, and the C-suite. It can be tough being the go-between for such a varied group of people – make sure whoever you hire is up to the task.

Be motivated and motivating.

When you’re in a sales leadership position, it’s your job to keep the sales team going!

You need a candidate who knows how to motivate themselves (and others) and is eager to encourage their team to succeed.

Motivation comes in many forms. Some people are motivated by money. Some by the opportunity to be their own boss. Some are motivated by the pat on the back. And some are just motivated by seeing other people succeed.

It’s important to understand your specific types of motivation, and those of your team. 

What motivates you is different from what motivates someone else. Since motivation plays a huge role in determining how well your sales team performs and produces results, it is vital that your sales leadership understand how to motivate their team. 

The best sales leaders understand the unique types of motivation that exist for different people. They are willing to work with their team members on creative and individualized plans to inspire and incentivize them.

You need someone with the power and energy to consistently support your team. 

Let’s be honest: sales is a numbers game, and that means that you get told “no” a lot, no matter how great you are at selling.

The ideal candidate for your sales management position is someone who can help your sales team navigate those challenges with grit, determination, and a good attitude.

Must have a sales background, but be willing to not be in the spotlight.

Ah…this is the trickiest part! 

You want to be certain whomever you hire for a sales leadership position is good at sales and has a strong background in selling, but you also have to ensure they’re willing to walk away from that once they become your sales manager. (We go in-depth about why in this article).

Your sales manager should not be directly involved with selling. Period.

Their job is to focus on supporting and developing your sales team. They must be willing to walk away from the adrenaline of the sales process in favor of supporting the team members who are directly involved in the process.

It’s a hard thing for many top-performing salespeople (who are often the first pick to get promoted into sales leadership roles) to do. But if they’re going to be effective at their managerial position, they must.


Leadership is about knowing when to lead, how to lead, and how to motivate your team…sales leadership is no exception. While every good sales rep has the opportunity to rise to the top, not everyone who’s good at sales also has the skillset for leadership. 

Sales leaders have many different responsibilities and demands, and they must be experts in all of them. They must be able to provide support to the sales team and be responsible for sales results and performance.

Are you looking for sales leadership candidates? Want to find top sales leaders with experience in managing teams and meeting your unique needs? Because of the challenges inherent in finding the best sales managers, it’s important you get help and support… 

Click here to schedule your free 30-minute sales leadership hiring analysis and discover how our data-driven approach to sales leadership hiring can have a significant impact on your business’s revenue.

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