ATD: New Requirements to Look for When Hiring a Sales Director





April 16, 2015

by Mark Donnolo, Managing Partner, SalesGlobe

While education, industry certifications, and market knowledge are important benchmarks when in pursuit of an effective sales director, these candidate qualifications aren’t the shining stars they used to be.

The world of sales, what it means to be competitive, and overall purchasing habits are changing because customers and clients have access to more information at a faster rate. As a result, hiring managers are now placing more focus on new skills and experience criteria used to determine whether or not a candidate would make a good fit for this critical role.

Creativity as a Necessary Soft Skill

Creativity breeds fresh ideas, but the stigma that sales professionals lack creativity is limiting and even crippling for those seeking employment within the sales industry. Some will let themselves be steered away from sales director positions due to common myths, such as “you have to be born creative” or “innovation only comes from eureka moments.”

But in reality, businesses are challenging current methods to develop better ideas. This means that those who can draw on creative processes instead of thinking solely in terms of mechanics (combining right and left-brain thinking) make solid fits for this role as they can create both strategic and creative ideas.

Industry-Specific Sales Experience

Sales experience is a no brainer when it comes to evaluating a candidate, but industry-specificexperience is what is valued so highly. When a client raises a question, industry-specific experience allows the sales professional to dig deeper into the question by asking “why” to find pain points and specific solutions. Their inquisitiveness and expertise could uncover financial challenges, market or user insight, product application, resources, and what the client is really trying to accomplish. They are then able to provide more informed guidance and solve the bigger picture issues.

Here’s a story that serves as an example of both. A major beer distributor paid for its sales representatives to become certified cicerones, which is the equivalent of a wine sommelier. The sales reps, whose jobs had previously focused on selling (and in some cases delivering) as many cases of beer as possible into the back room refrigerators of grocery and convenience stores, could now spend more time talking to their customers about what types of beer their end-customer (store customers) wanted to buy. The reps became true advisors to their retailers and end consumers about craft beer and food pairings.

Just as job seekers tailor their resumes with newly learned skills and earned qualifications, it’s important for hiring managers and business leaders alike to stay current on the qualifications that lead to a successful sales director hire.