You are CEO or President of your company and you find yourself needing to hire a new Chief Sales Officer.  Maybe it’s because you have grown to the point where you can no longer manage sales along with your other responsibilities, or maybe you are replacing your current sales leader.  Either way, do you know what you are looking for in your ideal sales leader candidate?

How Did Your Sales Leader Candidate End Up in Sales?

It’s a far more interesting question than it might seem on the surface.   3FORWARD conducted an unscientific survey on the formal educational backgrounds of 100 sales leaders running B2B selling organizations.   We looked at our own LinkedIn group, Sales Readiness, as well as a couple other LinkedIn groups to balance it out.   Within those groups we examined the college degrees for anyone in a sales leadership role.   We found lots of the business degrees you would expect, like marketing, business administration, and even finance and economics.  We found a few degrees you wouldn’t expect like psychology, anthropology and physics.  Guess what?!

Not one Sales Leader had a degree in sales management! Even among those listing an MBA, none indicated a sales focus or specialization. (Yes, those degrees exist.  Many premier business schools offer graduate programs in sales management; several also offer undergrad level sales management tracks.)  So what’s a CEO looking to hire their next sales leader to use as a starting benchmark for candidates if so few have university level credentials backing up their career decision?

CEOs, ask these questions during your sales leader interviews.

  • How and why did you first get into sales?
  • When did you transition into sales management?
  • Where did you develop and formalize your sales leadership credentials?
  • And how do you maintain current best-practices expertise in your position?

The sales management profession has long been considered one based more on art and feel than time-tested management standards and formal credentials.   Traits and characteristics such as a warm personality, openness and approachability, even personal appearance and athleticism seemed to count as much as management and leadership credentials.   The sales and sales management role has changed so much in the last five years however, that those old sales manager stereotypes matter less than ever.

Experience You Want to See in a Sales Leader

Sales success today requires a much more systematic, process driven approach than ever before and chief sales officers must reflect that change in their skills and experience.  Sales leaders must ensure their sales team, their selling process and all the ways they engage with prospects is built for today’s Google-driven buying process.  (A recent study shows B2B buyers have covered 60% of the buying process on their own before they ever need to hear from a sales rep). Sales leaders need to be aligned with their marketing counterpart on lead creation and also versed in their company’s SEO and content marketing initiatives.   They need to be data and metrics savvy and still fully capable of engaging with their field reps and best prospects and customers at a personal level.

These are the experiences and qualities you need to find in your next sales leader.  Accepting anything less will likely mean another stretch of disappointing sales results.