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ATD Blog

Why Hiring the Best Sellers May Be a Losing Strategy

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

We have 25 open sales positions. Let’s find the top performers in the market and hire them. Their ramp-up time will be quick and their success will translate to our company.

There’s logic behind this thinking. Hire historically top-performing sellers from other organizations, pay them handsomely, and turn them loose in your pipeline. I wish I could say it’s that easy, but often I see this strategy fail—and cost sales organizations a lot of time and money along the way.

Think about the super team phenomenon you see elsewhere, especially in sports. Teams attempt to assemble a group of superstars, the assumption being that bringing the top talent together will guarantee success. The result is often the opposite. Not only do many super teams fall short, but they also fall into an inexplicable fit of bad form and dysfunction.

I see it happen on sales teams too. Sales leaders assume that the superstar sellers they woo will automatically replicate elite numbers, only to be disappointed. Fortunately for the sales world, the data shows exactly why even the strongest historical sellers underperform: They lack strong coaching and support.

The Key to Shortening a New Seller’s Time to Performance? Effective Managers.

Hiring new sellers and shortening the time to performance is a key focus of sales leaders and enablement teams. This is particularly true with the increased velocity at which sellers have changed jobs since the Great Resignation began. While this may fluctuate with economic cycles, it’s likely to remain an evergreen challenge.

Our primary question is, how do we get new sellers up to speed, be they total newbies or seasoned performers?

Sales managers play a major role. Based on our analysis, we know that managers play a major role in newer sellers becoming top performers within acceptable timeframes. The Top-Performing Sales Manager research found that sellers with less than five years of experience are 240 percent more likely to become top performers when they have an effective manager. Within the tech industry, that number jumps to 400 percent.


What Makes a Sales Manager Effective?

Even with the best tools at hand, and elite sellers on the roster, sales managers can struggle to hit the mark. Our research reveals three main ingredients of effective sales management—a model for top-performing sales managers:

The study found that top-performing sellers are 51 percent more likely to receive ongoing coaching. That data point supports the notion that managers need to maintain a consistent and effective rhythm of interactions with their teams if they want to foster the best performance.

What’s more, the research indicates that top performers excel in 10 specific roles. These roles are all statistically validated as the 10 critical areas in which top-performing sales managers excel versus other managers.

Essential capabilities related to coaching include:

  • Motivation: This is the number 1 skill of top-performing sales managers.
  • Focus and action planning: Top-performing managers are 41 percent more likely to help sellers build meaningful goals and action plans.
  • Execution and productivity: Top-performing managers are 71 percent more likely to effectively motivate sellers for high production and performance.
  • Advising and facilitating: Top-performing managers are 52 percent more likely to coach sellers to lead great sales conversations.
  • Development: The foremost barometer of sales manager effectiveness is how they help sellers to build sales skills.

Essential capabilities related to management include:

  • Pipeline and forecasting: Top-performing managers are 52 percent more likely to excel at planning and analyzing how sellers should handle their pipelines.
  • Meeting leadership: Top-performing managers are 42 percent more likely to excel at leading valuable team meetings.
  • Territory planning: Top-performing managers are 52 percent more likely to excel at helping sellers manage their territories.
  • Talent management: Top-performing managers are 42 percent more likely to hire sellers who become top performers.
  • Performance management: Top-performing sellers are 83 percent more likely to rate their managers as effective in helping them realize strong performance.

The best managers excel at communicating, which is critical for both their management and coaching roles. For example, leading conversations in high-value coaching meetings enables sellers to do their best work, solve problems, and close sales. And top-performing sellers and sales teams are 40 percent more likely to have managers who are skilled in these areas.


It’s clear that sellers need to view their managers as effective—if sellers are to heed their managers’ guidance and input. In fact, leading valuable coaching is the key driver of sales manager effectiveness according to sellers.

We also find that this skill—leading coaching conversations—along with other sales manager skills studied, positively correlates with motivating seller performance.

A Few Final Questions

While there’s no guaranteed way to ensure new sellers become top performers, there is a data-backed formula. It starts with sales managers who know how to be consistent, excel in 10 core roles, and interact meaningfully with their sellers.

Even the best sellers need and want strong coaching and support. Otherwise, they do what members of other super teams do: mail it in or, worse, leave the team altogether. To prevent this outcome, ask a few important questions:

  • In which areas of your sales organization are you hiring the most?
  • How much time and effort are invested in the managers of these sales teams?
  • What more could be done to help those managers be more effective?

Use your answers to inform your sales management and coaching strategy—and build your true super team.

About the Author

As chief marketing officer at RAIN Group, Erica Schultz leads strategy and execution for all aspects of marketing, lead generation, thought leadership development, and branding. She is a key member of the leadership team and successfully started a new sales training company that grew to be a recognized world leader within five years, winning awards such as Top Sales Training Company (by Selling Power Magazine and Training Industry).

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