Sales LeadershipMany times on the Sales Leaders Blog we have suggested that sales leader effectiveness is the proper mix of process and people.  If you have determined that your current sales leader does not have the skills and or drive to get the job done, leaving them in place too long can have a negative impact on the sales team and the rest of your organization.

Assuming your sales process is reasonably effective and you have strong alignment between the sales and marketing team, how do you find a chief sales officer that will outlast the current average tenure of 18 months?  While it is important to identify a handful of highly qualified candidates it’s even more important to focus on several key questions during the actual face-to-face interview process.

Consider these provocative interview questions during your next CSO search.

Do you believe in having sales reps do cold calls?

This may sound like a trick question but it should cause the applicant to inquire regarding the status of your internal lead generation activities. If your candidate says that all leads should be generated through rep cold calls then he or she is likely very old school and may not embrace best practice lead generation methodologies. While cold calling is not dead in all industries, best in class companies use a variety of techniques to provide their selling teams with highly qualified leads.

What is the ideal relationship between sales and marketing?

It’s not just about brand and brochures anymore, and the ideal candidate will understand the critical role the marketing team plays in helping their sales team succeed.  It’s true that sales reps are responsible for building strong pipelines but savvy sales leaders know that getting a steady stream of warm prospects in the hands of their reps is the best way to build a qualified pipeline quickly.

They should ask about the current relationship between the groups and should have some concrete ideas on ways to help foster better relationships in the near and long term.  Collaboration between the teams is more than just attending joint meetings, there should be common definitions of what qualified leads look like and also response time commitments from sales once a warm lead has been passed.

What is the best way to align compensation plans between the sales and marketing teams?

If marketing and sales have a common goal of turning qualified leads into qualified opportunities and ultimately into closed business, it only makes sense to have both organizations incentive goals closely aligned.  The sales leader candidate should ask how the organizations goals are currently aligned and be prepared to offer suggestions on how more closely aligned compensation can drive the needed behaviors to increase new business bookings.  Strong sales leaders know that variable compensation is what pushes high performing sales people to go the extra mile to finish a deal, without a strong marketing team backing them up the task is sometimes impossible.

Hiring a sales leader is often one of the most challenging efforts for a CEO; it takes quite a lot of effort to screen out the poorly qualified candidates and find the winners worth interviewing.  Engage your executive leadership as part of the process and don’t be afraid to ask what may feel to be unconventional questions, it’s time to close your revolving sales door.