Chelsey Canavan is the marketing manager at Treeline, Inc., recruitment firm to hire salespeople. At Treeline, she creates content to build and connect the sales community. We asked Chelsey to speak with us about the key skills and traits that companies are looking for when hiring salespeople and sales managers today.
Why is Treeline better than other sales recruiting sites?
Treeline was created with the belief that sales recruiting should be done better. Each company’s search for the right salesperson for their team is unique, and so their sales recruiting solution should be, too.
People are the foundation of Treeline. We understand that companies hire people and not paper; that’s why we have a laser-focused approach for each search. We invest the time with each company and sales candidate to make sure we are providing value to both sides.
We have created our own proprietary sales hiring technology to give hiring managers more insight into the sales hiring process while reducing the overall time and cost to hire. We take the guesswork out of the process, thereby enabling companies to hire top sales performers the first time.
Every day, our goal is to do the right thing for our candidates, clients, and our own team members. Our sales recruiting technology combined with our deep expertise enables us to build an ongoing, genuine, and honest partnership with our client companies. We will continue to innovate and provide the best possible sales recruiting solutions to our candidates and clients.
What specific skills are today’s employers looking for when trying to fill out their sales teams?
Every company is looking for the top sales performer—the salesperson who has exceeded quotas, sold a particular service/product, worked in a specific industry, sold to a certain audience, and is within the right compensation range. Employers are looking for the perfect resume, which can, unfortunately, set them up for failure. Remember, people hire people.
Sales success and experience are very important factors, but they aren’t everything. We often ask our clients about their current top sales performers and their backgrounds. More often than not, their top performers do not check all the boxes of the “perfect candidate” that they tell us they are looking for.
It all depends on the company and the sales role they are looking to fill. If it’s a technical sell, then the right person must have technology experience. If it’s an outside sales role, the right candidate must be able to travel and present. If it’s a sales management position, they must have great leadership capabilities.
However, across all roles and levels, employers are looking for the intangibles. Companies are searching for candidates who are coachable, entrepreneurial, collaborative, resilient, hard-working, positive, enthusiastic, adaptable, and passionate. At Treeline, we call it “grit,” which is the ability and determination to persevere, endure, struggle, fail, get back up, and hit long-term goals. It’s what separates the all-stars from the contenders. Companies are looking for really strong sales professionals who share the same corporate values.
Under what circumstances might an established company prefer to hire a salesperson whose strength is getting repeat business instead of someone whose strength is finding new clients?
It all depends on what the company is trying to accomplish. If account management is a big part of their business model, then they need someone who can retain, cross-sell, and upsell existing customers.
Customer success and account management are paramount and equally as important as capturing new business. Sales is about adding value and building relationships, especially now when companies have so many competitors who claim to do it better, faster, and cheaper. Account managers have an important role when it comes to maintaining customers and growing a renewal revenue stream.
Companies need a strong salesperson who can ensure customer success, especially if they have a SaaS-based subscription model that requires customers to continuously renew. Under these circumstances, a company may prefer a salesperson who strives to retain and upsell their existing client base.
For a company who is looking to hire a sales manager, what types of skills or credentials are largely irrelevant or are red flags?
Companies who are looking for sales leadership at the management level are looking for a hands-on, in-the-trenches, client-facing leader. They want sales managers who will train their teams by “doing.” Companies need someone who knows how to perform the role and is able to ramp up a sales team.
Managing a sales team is hard. It’s not about how great you can hunt and close new business. It’s about your ability to coach your sales team to get them there. Finding an established sales leader who understands the importance of mentoring and motivating a sales team, creating business plans that jive with your organization, and who can hire, fire, and promote is key.
The red flags for sales management candidates are “ivory tower” leaders, meaning they are more comfortable in their office building strategy as opposed to being with their team learning and trying to execute strategy. Overconfident sales leaders that brag about their ability to fire or reprimand without fully understanding business objectives or culture may not be the right fit. Look for the ability to build sustainable sales models that grow and support sales. You want to ask about their management approach. If a candidate does not have strong communication or leadership skills, they will most likely fail to connect with the sales team. A strong sales manager must be able to empower team members and take responsibility for their sales team.
How can sales managers help newly-hired salespeople find sales prospects in order to help them start earning revenue for their company more quickly?
Sales managers should provide micro-focused direction around success metrics and train on how to find net new business. They should define specific prospects and teach the sales methodology around blueprinting and identifying decision makers. There need to be metrics and KPIs in place to set new hires up for success. New sales reps need to understand who to target when prospecting, how they get their leads, and how they make their money.
Sales managers need to engage with marketing to build an inbound sales strategy, and also teach and train new hires on social selling techniques to prospect for new business. They need to provide strategy around utilizing the CRM system to find and connect with leads. They should give new sales hires a formula of success to follow and have a process and playbook in place as they get started. Managers should provide a goal for new hires to work towards each day, week, and month, and then work backwards.
In short, sales managers must support and coach a new sales rep throughout every stage of the sales cycle until they can successfully follow the process on their own. Even then, sales managers should be constantly involved in all of the deals.
If a job-seeking salesperson were to say to you: “When I get hired, I don’t want to have to learn a new sales platform. I’m happy with the way I do things,” how might you respond?
If a sales candidate is unwilling to learn a new sales platform, it is a red flag. Technology may not be perfect, but it is meant to support, streamline, and automate monotonous tasks. The world is always changing and this reluctance infers resistance to openness and innovation.
The unwillingness or stubbornness to learn is setting a salesperson up for failure. The ability to self-educate and learn new technologies and methodologies is a competitive advantage. If this sales candidate is looking for a new sales role, no matter the reason, they are ultimately looking for change. Going to a new company means that they will do things a bit differently.
Even though this statement raises other uncertainties about this sales candidate, the best way to address it is to further qualify what they are looking for in a new sales opportunity. The unwillingness to learn a new sales platform will limit their ability to search for a new job and potentially hurt them as a candidate.
To what extent is a background in marketing valuable for a job seeker who is looking for a sales position?
First and foremost, a background in marketing is a valuable asset to have as a job seeker because you have the expertise to market yourself. In a job search, you need to know how to advocate and promote yourself, as you are your own brand.
Even though marketing experience isn’t completely transferable to a sales role, it is still great knowledge that a job seeker should leverage when applying to sales roles. My advice is to tailor your resume to the sales jobs you are applying for and highlight how your marketing experience correlates with the sales role. In other words, speak the sales language and tie your efforts to revenue.
As a marketing professional, you have experience working with the sales team. You understand buyer personas, the sales and marketing funnel, and how to target your audience. This is beneficial knowledge to have when moving into a sales role, where you will understand how marketing and sales partner up to achieve the same goals.
In the future, what skills and traits must salespeople learn and master in order to succeed in sales?
Resiliency is a skill that all salespeople need to possess. Sales isn’t for everyone, but those who embrace and overcome challenges are the most successful. In sales, you will experience a lot more “nos” than “yeses” and your ability to overcome adversity will be one of your greatest assets. After all, sales is one of the only industries where you directly reap the benefits of your hard work. The more you put in, the more you get out.
Aside from resiliency, accountability, coachability, and adaptability, salespeople need to master social selling. We live in a social selling environment where most conversations are taking place across several different social platforms. Salespeople need to know how to tap into these networks and reach customers. But although we live in a tech-savvy world where technical skills are advantageous and even commonplace, salespeople still need to be relationship-driven. They must know how to connect with their customers on a human level across a variety of different media. With more information at our fingertips, customers expect a lot more. Salespeople need to do their research and add value to potential buyers.
One last thing: great salespeople can’t be afraid to pick up the phone. Whether or not you argue that the cold call is dead, a phone call is where salespeople can really connect with potential clients, build a relationship, and ultimately close a deal.
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