This article is part of High Alpha’s Spotlight series where we regularly sit down with leaders from the High Alpha network to get an inside look into their careers and gather the advice these incredible leaders have to offer.
Over the last 15+ years as a sales professional, Angi’s SVP of Sales & Training Tiffany Bierschank has developed the ultimate framework for hiring and developing sales leadership.
Before Angi, Tiffany worked her way up to the International Sales Director at ServiceMagic working in their London and France offices. But it wasn’t until her Director of Sales Training role at HomeAdvisor (now called Angi) that she discovered her passion for leadership development.
As a member of the High Alpha Navigators network, our team had the opportunity to sit down with Tiffany to unpack her hiring philosophy, what she looks for in recruiting sales leaders, and the importance of leadership development.
Tiffany is a wizard in creating powerful metaphors to sum up actionable ways to recruit a talented sales team. Below, we’ll dig deeper into her philosophy behind hiring “generals” and “soldiers” along with the unique skill sets each requires and how they work together so your sales team can scale and grow.
Whether you’re eyeing a sales leadership role or you’re looking to add one to your team, you won’t want to miss the tactical ins and outs Tiffany shares in this interview.
Let’s start with a bit about you. Tell us about your background and how you went from sales rep to sales leader.
I started as a sales and marketing consultant at ServiceMagic. After quickly becoming a top sales consultant in the company, I was then promoted to the Senior Sales Manager role. This is when I noticed that there was a huge opportunity for sales leadership development.
I transitioned to ServiceMagic Europe where I moved from the Senior Sales Manager role to the International Sales Director. I shared best practices with managers and consultants while traveling between countries. But, what made me passionate about leadership development was my early time at Angi. That is when I saw a gap in leadership development and a massive opportunity to help out more of our leaders.
At Angi, I’ve traveled to different offices all across the country to develop and train people in the sales org. I met so many people with great leadership potential and so many of them had so much opportunity they were yet to unlock.
To help them grow, I started leadership development classes to actively build on our leadership roles. I wrote out the core competencies of leadership that weaved into everything I had done as a sales leader so that I could share that with others. To this day I am still obsessed with leadership development.
What is your philosophy for hiring and developing sales teams and what do you look for in sales leadership?
I like to think of sales teams as a combination of “generals” and “soldiers”. This plays heavily into my hiring philosophy.
Soldiers (or sales reps) are taught and trained through drills, they are the people who have roleplayed over and over and know exactly what to do and when. They are phenomenal in tough situations and can juggle multiple tasks. These soldiers are more focused on solving day-to-day problems than looking down the road for long-term strategies. They lean more on their Generals (or sales leaders) for big picture goals and solutions. So with hiring a sales force, we needed to make sure we had the right training for our Generals.
Good generals (aka sales leadership) know the entire battle. They think into the future. They have an understanding of what is happening at a higher level and use their experience to steer their team.
When I train generals (e.g., sales directors, managers, VPs), I start with some of the most fundamental qualities they will need as a Leader. I use four pillars as a baseline for generals. When I think of a leader, I think of someone who excels in these four things:
Both team and individual accountability are so important. Every time I interview someone I ask them their definition of accountability. Do they truly understand accountability, do they portray it, and can they hold others accountable?
My big push on accountability is how my presence or what I’m doing affects everyone around me. I want to show up and level other people’s games up.
If you cannot motivate your team or motivate yourself, you have a problem. Ask yourself: does this person understand how to balance motivation within themselves and their team?
Coaching is about understanding how well people can effectively communicate and how well people can reach the hearts of others. When you think about someone who does a job similar to you, who does it well? When they join a project you are on, what happens to that level of work? That person shows up and your game is raised. When Steph Curry plays against LeBron he is playing at his peak. Coaching is about raising that game and bringing people up to do their absolute best work.
Your perception of someone paints how you treat them. You can never unknow something about someone. If you can’t control your temper in a meeting, how will that affect how people think of you? That is why emotional intelligence is so important within the context of professionalism.
What characteristics do you look for when interviewing “soldiers”?
To make a great sales team, you can’t have only generals, you need soldiers too. To find great sales reps, I look for three things in candidates. They have to be hungry, humble, and honest.
I can teach anyone anything if they are prepared to work hard. They have to be hungry, too. You have to swallow your ego and seek advice and coaching if you want to improve. When you mess up, you need to be the type of person who is honest and takes responsibility.
How do you avoid a mishire?
When interviewing, I’m looking for work ethic. You need to identify early if they won’t work hard. It comes down to skill versus will. Like I mentioned before, I’m confident that I can teach anyone a skill if they are prepared to work hard.
Make sure you establish from the beginning how important it is to work hard, what the outcomes are, and show them that you care. Nothing good comes easy, so when you have a team surrounding you that is ready to work hard and learn from others, success comes much easier.
If you’d like to connect with Tiffany Bierschank, you can find her on LinkedIn here. You can also learn more about our Navigators program here.