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Sales Leadership Talent Imperative

There are only two ways to acquire the talent you need in any role, including a sales role. The first way is to buy the talent you need, paying more for their knowledge, their competency, and their experience. The second way to acquire the talent is to develop it yourself, something that may cost less money but demands more of your time, effort, and energy.

The reason so many revenue growth leaders are disappointed when they hire a salesperson for their experience, only to watch them fail, is because they rely too heavily on experience alone. While there is nothing wrong with buying talent, experience isn’t often enough to ensure a salesperson’s success in a new role.


Far too many salespeople have never been trained, coached, or developed, so you can’t assume that a jam-packed resume proves that they already have the competencies they need to succeed in B2B sales. Odds are they’ve received no real development or other professional investment, and all of the experience was gained by figuring things out on their own.

One of the worst mistakes you can make as a sales leader or manager is to hire a person because you believe it will make your job easier. Every role will benefit from a development plan that increases the sales force’s competencies in their chosen field, regardless of how long any given rep has been selling.

Not Effectively Led

You also can’t assume that the experienced salesperson you hire will have experienced good leadership or the accountability necessary to be successful in sales. Because salespeople are provided more autonomy than most other roles in business, they also need better leadership. Leaders who believe they can buy talent often do so because they mistakenly believe that all people are motivated by money, a belief that causes them to abdicate their responsibility to lead them. I learned that lesson the hard way!

Worse still is the idea that the promise of money can replace the need to create and sustain a culture of accountability. No matter how talented your new recruit is, you must still hold them accountable and impose the disciplines necessary for them to succeed in sales, things like creating new opportunities by prospecting and planning to use their time to good effect.

Recently, I asked a sales leader to share with me what motivated one of their salespeople and any information they had about that salesperson’s upbringing. The leader was unable to answer either question, knowing very little about them personally. If you want your sales force to produce the best results, you need to care about them and their success. A great leader will see something in their employees that they cannot yet see themselves, raising the standard and causing each individual to become something more than they are now.

Not All Credit Transfers

Not all sales roles require the same approach, the same conversations, or the same skills to meet the same challenges, simply because not every client needs the same kind of help.

A salesperson who is exceptionally effective in a transactional sale may have skills and competencies that don’t port over to a more strategic, long decision-cycle sale, one with real negative consequences for a client who makes a poor decision. The approach that works in one sale might cause a different type of sale to crash and burn.

Different types of sales can also call for different sales conversations. More complex challenges tend to require more strategic conversations: conversations that require the salesperson to provide insights that cause the client to recognize the true nature of their challenge, a well as the new potential decision that they lacked before they engaged with the salesperson. A simpler sale may find salespeople with clients who are experienced, recognize their challenge, and don’t need anything more than a better partner with a better solution.

Because different sales conversations require different skills, time in a sales role may not be as important as other factors, like the candidate’s character traits, their competencies, their attitude, and dozens of other factors worth exploring.

The Value of Building Your Own

Not only is building the talent you need a more reliable method in general, but it lets you foreground the skills needed to serve your prospective clients, creating and winning opportunities because decision-makers and decision-shapers come to prefer to buy from them. Even a salesperson with years in their role will benefit from continuous development.

In every human endeavor, you will find individuals and teams who continually develop over time to master their craft. The craft that is professional sales is no different. In an age of constant, accelerating, disruptive change, the most important thing for those who want success is to learn, unlearn, and learn again.

Here’s the bottom line: building your talent ensures that you field a team of value creators who can do the work necessary to help your prospective clients through an increasingly valuable sales conversation, the single tool you have to work with to create the results you need. A better salesperson that provides a better sales conversation will put up better results than one who lacks the character traits and skills necessary to win the client’s business.

There is no better approach to improving your sales results than developing your sales force. Leaders who complain about disappointing hires would do better to build the sales talent they need instead.

  • When buying talent, don’t overvalue experience. Dig deeper.

  • Start building talent by identifying the competencies necessary to create value for your prospective clients.

  • Ensure that your team can create and win deals through continuous development, including training and coaching.

Some of our relevant and related insights for you and your team are below:

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