Hiring a Sales Ops Leader? Here’s What You Need to Know

Business has been good. Bookings are up and you’ve been adding headcount like crazy, but your sales team has hit some growing pains. Leads are getting lost, there’s confusion about who is responsible for which accounts, and the onboarding process has become a mess.

As the VP of Sales, you decide it’s time to bring order to the chaos, so you get approval to hire a Director of Sales Operations to eliminate those challenges. The problem is, you’ve never hired for Sales Ops before.

What questions do you ask candidates? What are the characteristics that set top performers ahead of the rest of the field? Here’s the CliffsNotes version for how to go about hiring the right leader for your Sales Ops team.


The Right Person for the Job

The one thing you need to figure out when you’re hiring for Sales Operations is can this person help my team sell more efficiently?

Increasing sales efficiency goes way beyond understanding the theory of process and sales management. It requires empathy for the challenges that frontline sales reps face on a daily basis and the ability to marshal and direct resources from every department to solve them.

You need someone who appreciates process, but sees it as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Put another way, Sales Operations leaders have to always keep the “why” in mind as well as the “how.” It’s difficult to make that distinction when developing and maintaining the process is the focus of much of your day-to-day work. The right person will be able to balance big picture and strategic thinking with their tactical and process-heavy daily responsibilities, as opposed to letting one become a distraction from the other.  

As you consider candidates for the position, your focus shouldn’t be on their technical chops, but rather on their ability to analyze business problems holistically and work with all the parties involved to resolve problems.

To make sure your new hire is someone with that skillset, look for clues in resumes, and ask behavioral-based  questions in the interview to see if they approach problem-solving in an analytical and holistic way.

Clues in the Resume

At the end of the day, sorting through Sales Operations resumes isn’t so different from picking out the resumes of high-performing sales reps. You’re looking for results.

Just as you should look for concrete sales performance numbers when you hire sales reps, top performing Sales Operations pros will be able to point to concrete improvements in overall team sales performance that were a direct result of their efforts.

For example, a candidate whose resume shows that she implemented a new CRM system and successfully shortened lead follow-up time, decreased sales cycles, and increased win rates should receive much more attention than those who simply “have an extensive background in CRM implementation and administration.”

That’s not to say individuals who don’t have concrete results in their resume don’t have the requisite skills to make a big impact at your company, but you need to vet those candidates much more closely in the interview.

Make sure they have the analytical ability to identify the needs of your sales team and the managerial skills to implement solutions and see them through to completion.


Asking the Right Questions

A good way to determine whether or not candidates can keep the 10,000 foot view in mind is to ask them point blank: “What’s the goal of a Sales Operations team?”

Candidates’ answers will be very telling of their mindset. Those that follow the tact that Sales Operations exists purely to support the sales team might make great administrators and analysts, but they’re not the ones you want leading your Sales Operations efforts.

The candidates who break down all the things that are wrong with your sales strategy and then tell you that their job is to equip, train, and guide your sales reps are the ones who are going to do the best job leading the Sales Operations team.

Leave it to your managers and admins to vet candidates on their technical background — your focus should be on asking questions that reveal their ability to project manage and resolve disputes between different areas of the business and ultimately streamline the sales team’s ability to win deals.

As Patrick Seidell, VP of Sales Operations & Enablement at Black Box, wrote in a piece for SBI, “Gone are the days when all you need are number crunchers. Data has to be put in context and bring insights to leadership.” To ensure you make the right hire to lead your team’s Sales Operations efforts, frame your hiring plan around the right skillsets, and avoid investing too much effort vetting candidates based on their tactical or technical skills alone. For a more indepth look at hiring a standout Sales Operations team, read the rest of Seidell’s post and the accompanying hiring guide.

The crux to building a high-performance sales team is hiring individuals with the ability to see your business holistically and marshal resources from every department to resolve the challenges your sales team faces.