How to hire the best sales leader | A Founders & CEO Guide


So, how do you hire the best sales leader? During the hiring process, you need to look for three traits: a high-performing seller, unwavering determination to hit the revenue targets, and a cultivator of sales culture that will command the respect of the entire sales team. Using selective questioning and sales leadership rubrics can help you determine these traits in a potential sales lead candidate.

To achieve your company’s vision, you require leadership from a top sales director. Understand the significance of who you choose for this position.

Key insights in this guide include:


The sales leader is the spearhead of a company’s bottom line generating predictable and repeatable revenue growth to ensure the company’s growth.

Essentially, the sales leader is the person securing sales channels and driving the direction, the sales strategy, and the attitude approach to selling successfully.

However, the difference between a great sales leader and a good sales leader is someone who takes all of that and inculcates the business ideals and vision with the sales know-how to leverage innovative sales processes.

Startup sales in an early-stage or new company are usually led by the founder or founding team. There may be very little sales direction or lacking a fully established sales team.

In established companies, the sales leader carefully builds out sales teams or teams. They may also assign sales managers to lead the day-to-day operations of each department, overseen by the sales leader.

During the hiring process, you need to look for three traits: a high-performing seller, unwavering determination to hit the revenue targets, and a cultivator of sales culture that will command the respect of the entire sales team.


Hiring the wrong sales leader can be detrimental to your sales teams and the overall profitability of the business.

For example, a founder in a fast-growing new startup requires a sales strategy full of sales exploration, experimentation, and flexibility. Their first sales leader is a senior sales leader with a proven track record from a previous company. This leader has impressive past experiences in established companies, extensive market knowledge, and sales execution.

However, the new Head of Sales couldn’t find success in the startup’s high-growth environment. The mismatch in the startup’s business model and the leader’s leadership skills could prevent the startup from attracting new business and meeting revenue targets.

sales team and sales leader in a sales meeting

Best case scenario; the founder identifies this mismatch early and course corrects in the next stage with a new hire. Worst case scenario; the startup closes its doors.

Take another example, as the CEO of an established technology company, you hire a new VP of sales who has an aggressive leadership style. Your sales organization always meets revenue targets, but your staff turnover rate is through the roof, and you begin to lose great salespeople and talent to competitors.

While your sales organization may be consistently meeting targets, the damage to the business, culture, and reputation was enduring.

In the best-case scenario, the founder steps in to correct the imbalance of culture and of course corrects the VP of sales. Worst case scenario; the startup loses their best sellers and cannot compete with the competition.

Download Our Sales Leader Hiring Rubric

Systematically assess your sales leader against measurable sales leader traits and expectations. Ensure your organization’s growth.

For sales leadership roles, hiring the right person matters because a great leader will:

  • provides clear direction and a strong grasp of the business
  • execute sale processes that prioritize customers experience
  • instill core business objectives, values, and mission
  • deepen existing customer relationships and relationships with potential clients
  • build a sales playbook; a path to predictable sales growth
  • build a sales hiring profile that can be replicated and scaled
  • increase salespeople tenure and lower turnover, especially sales talent
  • prioritize sales recruiting, development, and retention of team members
  • increase employee (sales managers, sales reps, and staff members) motivation
  • increase revenue numbers
  • increase growth across sales reps and sales managers


sales leader speak with prospect and sales team

Sales Talent

Sales leadership requires sales talent; in other words, the candidate must have had success as a salesperson in the past.

They need to know when to jump on a deal and close it versus when they should let their team experiences failure as a learning opportunity. Only high-performing sales experience gives you this.

With that in mind, successful salespeople do not typically need to possess the key skills associated with team orientation – crucial to sales leadership. In fact, their ability to take ownership over a goal is what makes them good sales representatives.

Often as they become more successful in their career, those selfish tendencies, which made them successful, are reinforced and allow them to hit bigger numbers. Those results garner the attention of the organization, and everyone inherently believes that the best person to lead the sales team is the best salesperson.

At face value, that may be a decent idea for several reasons.

First, if your salespeople mirror your sales director, you would want that to be the most successful and accomplished person.

Second, if you have a high-producing salesperson, they’re typically looking for career growth, and if you don’t give them a path to leadership, they’ll go outside the organization to find it.

For these reasons, conventional logic tells us to promote the most skilled person to lead the team. However, conventional logic can steer a founder or CEO in the wrong direction.

The reality of the situation is you are pulling your highest producing asset off the field. And, just because they can sell doesn’t mean they can lead.

Do not promote a high performer out of a sales role simply for the sake of a promotion.

You effectively place them in a brand new role that they have not displayed any proficiency in, and what made them successful as a salesperson could make them poor as a sales leader.

Remember, this is all assuming this person knows how to sell. You need to validate that through an interview process.

Let me make one thing very clear: You can miss the targets on your own without a sales leader. The sales leader is effectively an insurance policy that ensures the targets will be hit without a founder or CEO involvement.

Strategic decision making to meet business goals

You employ a sales director as a buffer from everyone else who believes you have overly ambitious goals.

A great sales leader is in the trenches with you, holding the fervent belief that your goals are realistic but actively strategizing to achieve those goals. It’s an unwavering commitment to the goal ​​–– “there’s always a way” mentality.

Far too many business owners hire sales leaders that produce data and reports that explain why they are missing targets and why the quarterly and annual projections will be missed.

Let me make one thing very clear: You can miss the targets on your own without a sales leader. The sales leader is effectively an insurance policy that ensures the targets will be hit without a founder or CEO involvement.

You need to make it abundantly clear that they need to be solutions-focused and results-driven, not effort-driven. This requires strategic thinking and creative thinking alike.

Cultivating Sales culture and respect of the sales team

A strong sales lead adapts their coaching and guidance to suit each salesperson and a new hire on the sales team.

If a salesperson or sales rep feels they get limited value from the sales leader, they will not utilize the sales leader to their fullest potential because they won’t feel confident in the leader’s abilities and training.

This also leads back to whether sales lead can sell or not. You need to be certain this person can garner the respect of the team by showcasing their ability to sell and create a culture of winning and high achievement.

The sales leader will need to hold everyone accountable to elite standards, so they must be capable of achieving those standards as well.

When the leader isn’t beholden to any particular rep, they can push the boundaries and push the reps to achieve more. This also creates the need to have crucial conversations while also implementing the forcing functions that keep the team in line without constant hand-holding.

The leader must prioritize sales hiring to build and scale a team of the right people and retain highly accountable, professional salespeople while consistently weeding out unimproved low performers.


Great sales leaders display proficiency in many leadership and selling traits, but I combine them into three essential sales lead activities; they are:

  1. Sales Talent
  2. Strategic & Creative thinking
  3. Sales Culture Development

Sales Talent

First and foremost, they have to be able to sell. You cannot hire a sales leader that isn’t the highest producing salesperson on the team.

The sales team won’t take the sales leader seriously, and they won’t be able to hold the team accountable, nor will they understand the nuance of sales. The sales team will take them seriously, and the leader won’t be beholden to any individual sales rep.

You cannot have a situation where the leader needs the rep more than the rep needs the sales leader. That would create a power imbalance that will offset the sales team’s culture.

Now, you may be thinking, “didn’t you just tell me not to promote my best salesperson?”

Not quite. I said, don’t promote your best salesperson simply because they’re the best. Being the best salesperson on the team is a qualification but not a deciding factor.

Typically, sales leaders or directors of sales come in from outside the organizations and aren’t promoted from within. Now, that’s not to say that sales leadership positions shouldn’t be held by salespeople.

During the interview, some questions to ask:

  • How have you used unconventional approaches to increase revenue at other companies?
  • How do you propose making my/our business more profitable?
  • What was your best and worst sales decision within the last 12 months, and what did you base that on?
  • How do you determine the best sales process to meet targets?
  • How do you adjust their sales methodology? When do you know how to pivot a sales strategy?
  • While selling capabilities is essential, there are other factors you should look towards in finding the right sales leader.

Strategic & Creative Thinking

As a founder or CEO, you must systematically determine whether your next VP of sales will find a window when a door is closed. And if that window is locked, they will find another path.

You must clearly communicate this expectation to them before hiring them, and you need to test their ability to produce creative solutions when all else fails.

You only want people on my team that believe failure is not an option. I have found this to be one of the biggest reasons why certain sales leaders are successful while others fail. It has little to do with the solution, little to do with marketing, and even less to do with the current economy.

If you have categorically determined that this person has the willingness to achieve the desired result at all costs, that is the only way you stand a chance of hitting your ambitious targets.

sales hiring and sales team

During the interview, some questions to ask:

  • How have you utilized unconventional approaches or sales funnels to increase revenue at other companies?
  • How do you propose making my business more profitable?
  • How would you incorporate our other departments like marketing, operations, and customer success teams in your sales efforts?

Sales Culture Development

Great sales leaders value sales culture and actively incorporate culture building as they build out sales teams, sales managers, and individuals.

They have an uncanny sense of the entire team’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as individuals. However, they also recognize the diversity of selling styles by which salespeople can achieve success.

The sales hiring process is their responsibility, and they use sales hiring to recruit and retain top talent and to recruit positions to fill gaps.

Therefore, sales leaders are also like coaches and find ways to develop team members, helping them reach their fullest potential.

During the interview, some questions to ask:

  • How would you describe your leadership style?
  • How do you build a sales culture? How would you describe an ideal sales culture? Please share examples of strategies you’ve used.
  • What does your sales recruiting or sales hiring process look like?
  • How have you built high-performing sales teams in the past?
  • How do you know when to step into a situation versus allowing the team to experience failure? Please share some examples.


The importance of attracting the best sales leader cannot be understated, but in today’s evolving talent market, it can be challenging without guidance.

The Rose Garden Sales Leader Hiring Rubric categorically unroots the best for the job from the best available. You don’t want the best available because good enough isn’t good enough.

I systematically guide you through a rubric of grading your potential hire on all the key components of success and then some.

You can’t afford to leave anything up to chance. To evaluate your potential sales leads, and ensure your organization’s growth, download the hiring rubric now.

Download Our Sales Leader Hiring Rubric

Systematically assess your sales leader against measurable sales leader traits and expectations. Ensure your organization’s growth.

About the author:

Ali Mirza is the Founder & CEO of Rose Garden, a national sales consulting organization, and featured in Forbes, Inc, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Business Rockstars, and The Wall Street Journal.

Ali is a highly sought-after public speaker presenting at multiple national conferences on innovative ways to accomplish transformational growth on your sales team.

Rose Garden provides unparalleled support and guidance to growth-minded founders via sales strategy differentiation, world-class sales culture creation, and exclusive playbooks, processes, and scripts to position them for limitless growth.

Related Posts:

Are you ready?
We only work with the most determined and passionate leaders. If you want to close more deals, multiply your revenue, and scale your business, we’re ready to take action.

Step 1 of 8

1. ➛ Are you aware 73% of Founder led sales teams turnover four sales leaders before finding a competent one?