The Extinction of Old School Sales Leaders

When I first got started in sales recruiting 20 years ago, the playbook looked a lot different. 

I heard stories from candidates who bragged about examples of their “persistence” when closing their deals, with examples that made me question their sanity. Buying a last-minute plane ticket to follow a prospect onto their flight so they could keep selling to them. Waiting around in parking lots for the client to come out to their car so they could keep selling to them. And one who bragged about “coincidentally” showing up at the family resort their prospect was staying at so they could keep selling to them. 

The accepted method of sales was generally trying to closing deals through a brute force combination of persuasion and intimidation. These sales people were driven to desperation tactics by their managers, who would routinely berate, yell at, and threaten their sales teams, creating an environment of fear by enforcing a policy of letting the bottom performers go every quarter. 

These old school sales managers are largely extinct, though pockets of them still pop up from time to time. 

In their place, we’ve seen the rise of a new style of sales leader — those who embrace new technology and use the data to drive decisions, who are open to innovation, who drive success through patient coaching and hands-on mentoring, and who are willing to dive into the complexities that affect buying decisions for their clients. These leaders are able to balance the tactical with the strategic — they can jump into the trenches to help close deals and mentor their sales teams, while remaining focused on delivering strategic, long-term revenue growth. 

The transition away from emotional persuasion to data-driven decisions has been reflected by the changes in technology available. The modern salesperson has been using analytics and crunching data far more than flexing their muscles in the boardroom. The old school sales techniques are giving way to a (thankfully) more modern approach. 

Here are the key differences between the thinking of the old school sales leaders who push a process and the new school of sales leaders who focus on results: 


They break down silos between sales and marketing.

Old School: “Marketing isn’t providing enough quality leads and they are a waste of time, it’s us against them and we have the bigger budgets and drive more revenue so we win every time.”

New School: “We need to embrace marketing as the driver behind our success and the starting point of everything we do in terms of messaging and our approach to customers.”


They embrace data driven methodologies. 

Old School: “Throw the reports in the trash and forget about the analytics, this is a game where people buy from people and you’ve just got to know what motivates them.”

New School: “This is a complex buying audience that is better informed than ever. We need to be prepared to engage with them or they won’t listen to us.”


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They understand the limits of competition-based cultures. 

Old School: “Let me announce the quarterly sales targets. First prize is a Cadillac, second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.

New School: “I am here to provide guidance and support and empower you with the tools you need to develop consistent success so you can win those bonuses and trips you deserve.”


The know that every client is different, and care about long term success. 

Old School: “Get the deal closed no matter what, if we have to discount to get it in before the End of Quarter then let’s beat the competition on price and then hand it off to delivery. Next!” 

New School: “We need to challenge the customer’s thinking and find ways to demonstrate how our solution provides the best value. We are in this for the long-term and need to build trust.”


They look for ways to get results, not just to follow an existing process.

Old School: “Where are we at in the process? My spreadsheet says we haven’t sent the proposal yet, have we verified they have a budget to spend? Let’s do this step by step.”

New School: “Let’s get creative here, we know this client is exposed to substantial risk if they keep the status quo, how do we best demonstrate that? How can we then help them to make this happen even if they need to spend outside of their allocated quarterly budget?”


The new school sales manager doesn’t tell their teams what to do, they challenge them to solve problems themselves. They create collaborative environments which reward innovation and take pride in the success of their team rather than taking over deals to drive their numbers upwards.

Most importantly for our clients, these new school managers create successful, productive teams that others want to be a part of. Nothing spreads faster than stories of success and with the right sales leader and the right recruiting partner to source them for you, your company could build that sales team that everyone wants to work for!

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