I recently talked with a CEO of a mid-sized software company looking to hire a new sales VP. The conversation quickly turned to strategies for assessing sales management candidates and the need the CEO had to better understand the skills and expertise of the entire sales team. He validated a lot of what I'm seeing in other organizations — the skills of his sales team are shifting (i.e., salespeople need to sell differently).

To summarize the conversation, he wasn’t sure if the sales managers he had in the sales organization were the right people to help the sales organization achieve the vision set forth by senior leadership as they moved to a more consultative selling motion. Additionally, he wasn’t sure what "type of sales VP" he wanted to bring in to replace the other sales VP he just let go. He was really concerned with making sure the new sales VP would execute toward the end state vision for success.

When it comes to identifying, selecting, and hiring sales managers, you have a lot to think through. Correctly addressing the challenges of individual and team performance become more difficult when there are a lot of legacy systems and traditional ways of thinking about the sales function and how that function is supposed to executed (i.e., "here's how we used to do it!" or "the role of sales management 10 years ago was . . . ." While many executives want to transform the sales channel, your job can help make sure each sales manager is well supported in their efforts. For example, while sales leaders often look to hire for sales management skill, your work can complement these hiring practices by "up-skilling" existing sales management team members in the most effective way.

No matter the sales management source (i.e., hiring to fill a management position or developing managers from within), you can also help sales leaders think through the questions that need to be answered. For example: "What's the role of the sales management team in helping salespeople get even better at what they do?" (Hint: believe it or not, this isn't exactly an easy question for many sales leaders to answer!)

Here are some other questions that are often left unanswered:

  • Do we have the right people in the right positions to achieve our sales goals for the upcoming year?
  • What is our strategy for filling our empty sales management positions?
  • How do we identify and select sales managers for the different types of sales channels we have?
  • We need our sales managers to "do something differently." But what, exactly?
  • How important is sales coaching to our success? Do we want to make sure sales coaching is part of the management job?
  • How will the managers retool our sales team? By a) replacing low performers and/or b) up-skilling our existing team? Or both?
  • How do we know if we can trust our sales management team to execute on our new vision?
  • Since we need to sell differently in the coming year, how do we help our sales managers and salespeople get on the same page? 

Sales enablement professionals who help their sales leadership team think through and address these questions as a team can really add value. More importantly, helping the sales leadership team build consensus across the organization can help position you as an integral resource for the long-term advantage of the sales team.

What about you? Do you have any comments/thoughts to share?