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Salesforce’s Trailblazing Approach to Hiring Top Sales Talent


Now, as much as ever, sales organizations compete for talent. Hiring and doing it well are critical to the success of any business. For Salesforce, selling is core to what it does. As one of the fastest-growing companies in the world, based on a direct-sales model, the cloud-computing leader is continually focused on building and bettering its sales team.

Here Salesforce’s sales leaders share their secrets to hiring and retaining the best in selling.

Stick to a process.

Mike Wolff, Senior Vice President of Commercial Sales at Salesforce, has hired more than 1,000 account executives in his career. “And not just your average AE, but people who went on to become extremely successful in our organization,” he said.

How has he accomplished this? It’s all about outlining a process — and sticking with it for every single candidate. From initial screens to chronological interviews and candidate presentations, learn about Wolff’s strategy to hire account executives who can help you reach your goals.

Ask the right questions.

There’s only so much you can discern from a resume. But even when you get that one-to-one interview, it’s still hard to cover everything in an hour or less — especially on an emotional intelligence level.

“The secret to long-term compatibility requires us to harmonize the tactical and emotional elements of the relationship with the right environment,” said David Priemer, former Vice President of Commercial Sales at Salesforce, and now with Influitive. “The good news is, in recent years, many clever interviewing strategies and technologies have emerged meant to improve our chances of identifying A-players and striking that delicate balance.”

Ever thought to ask “What’s your superpower?” or “How do you avoid ‘just checking in’ syndrome?” Luckily, Priemer has shared an invaluable, go-to list of the top 10 sales interview questions to gauge emotional intelligence.

Hire for what you CAN’T teach...

“In my near decade at Salesforce, I’ve worked for, managed, and hired many a salesperson,” said Dan Ross, Senior Vice President of Commercial Sales, Salesforce. “Some of our best software reps had never sold software before joining us. In fact, some of our best closers had never closed a deal before working here. This may sound unbelievable, but believe it. What these individuals may have lacked in traditional sales experience, they more than compensated for with core qualities.”

What are these traits? Curiosity, drive, resiliency, and integrity, to start. Discover Ross’ “7 Sales Skills That CAN’T Be Taught” — and why you should look for these qualities in hiring and building a robust team.

…then teach them what you CAN.

According to Ross, it’s also important to evaluate what can be taught to potential new hires, even if a specific skill isn’t apparent in the interview or on their resume.

“You see, the interview process is not only about determining if the candidate is a good fit,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity for our leadership team to build a strategy for how to coach the employee based on the skills we know how to teach.

“If candidates lack the unteachable qualities, they won’t be successful and we have to consider a different role for them. If they have the unteachable qualities, that’s great news, because everything else — from closing deals to business and sales acumen — they can absolutely learn.”

Whether it’s pipeline or time management, Ross further details the 7 skills that you can help sales reps to develop on the job.

Plan for what you will need.

Successful territory planning must bring a myriad of factors together. One of those is, of course, how you cover each territory. According to Adam Gilberd, Senior Vice President of Commercial Sales at Salesforce, the 25% to 30% growth rate of the company requires the same distribution capacity and salespeople added every year.

“That means we have to create room for all those new people and have their territories ready, so that when they are hired, there is somewhere for them to move into,” Gilberd said. “Before the year even starts, we look ahead and cut up all of the territories we are going to need for the entirety of the year, even if we don’t need them on day one. To cover the new territories, our existing account executives, or AEs, are assigned their main patch plus a little bit more. We know that as we hire new salespeople, the new patches will to be assigned to them.”

And hiring is just the beginning. Gilberd also shares how to reduce AE ramp time in his “Top 8 Tips for Planning Sales Territories.”

Don’t be afraid to experiment.

It’s one thing to hire for a clear-cut role. But what if you’re embarking on an entirely new project or way of selling? Anne DelSanto, Executive Vice President of Solution Engineering and Solution Sales at Salesforce, discovered the answer when she approached transformational (instead of transactional) selling for the first time.

“I knew I needed to hire differently to sell in this new way,” DelSanto said. “Of course I wanted sales architects and engineers with technical depth. I also wanted visionaries and dreamers. I started to mix in people with an eye for the user experience, MBAs who were more business-focused, and even McKinsey alums.

“I told them, ‘It’s as if I have a pitcher of clear water and you are a drop of blue dye,’” she said. “‘But I know it only takes a drop for the whole pitcher to turn light blue.’ And that’s what started happening.”

DelSanto shares even more in her piece “How to Build Your Team Around Transformation, Not Only Transactions.”  

Focus on people development.

The truth is, you don’t want just to be hiring all of the time. Retention is key and ultimately will impact your business.

“A key part of sales leadership is ensuring that employees feel they’re highly valued, can be successful in their roles, and can grow their careers,”  said Brian Millham, President of Sales for North America and Marketing Cloud, Salesforce. “This is true regardless of where in a company you work. For sales leaders, it’s easy to get very focused on the near term — what’s happening this month, this quarter — without thinking about the long term, which is all about development of your people.  

“Just as customer success can drive great outcomes for your company, so can the success of each individual in your sales organization,” he continued. “This is one of the things I enjoy most as a sales leader. It’s how you build loyalty and longevity into your team, and ultimately scale your business.”

Millham details more of his experience and learnings in “My Top 3 Lessons From Leading Sales at Salesforce.”

Build success into the culture.

“High-performing teams are the game changer,” said Damilola Erinle, Area Vice President for U.K. and Ireland, Salesforce. “Unfortunately, very few organizations take a step back and look at how to build them. Focusing on market growth is one thing; discovering and delivering amazing performance from employees across the board is quite another.”

But what does it take to create and nurture a high-performing team to success? Learn how in Erinle’s article “How to Grow Your Business with a High-Performance Sales Team Culture.

For sales leaders, it’s easy to get very focused on the near term — what’s happening this month, this quarter — without thinking about the long term, which is all about development of your people.”

Brian Millham | President of Sales for North America and Marketing Cloud, Salesforce

Learn More

The 7 Sales Skills That CAN’T Be Taught By Dan Ross,
Sr AVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce
Why It’s Now or Never for Social Selling with LinkedIn’s Mike Derezin Interviewed by Laura Fagan,
Product Marketer, Sales Cloud, Salesforce
Making the Tricky Transition from Sales Peer to Sales Manager By Keith Rosen,
Author of "Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions"



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