A sales manager is a critical hire to any selling organization. At Sales Result, we encounter sales managers all the time, and it’s rare we meet one that isn’t in need of leadership coaching or additional tools and training to guide their team.
The issues we find with sales managers are generally due to two things: either they rose through the ranks of their organization and never received any formal coaching, or they are an experienced manager who hasn't receive proper onboarding at their latest company. Then there are occasionally the sales managers who were a bad hire in the first place, and for whatever reason haven’t been replaced.
Hiring mistakes happen – we’ve all made them. It can be especially difficult when it comes to hiring a sales manager because at their core they are a SALES PERSON... you can expect them to be great at selling themselves! The problem with this is it adds a complexity to the hiring process; someone who looks perfect on paper and in interviews may not live up to their stated potential once they’re out on the sales floor.
In our internal hiring experiences as well as hiring for our clients, we’ve learned some things about securing an amazing sales manager. While it's not rocket science, it does require a process, some tools, and attention to detail. Read on for our tips on filling this key role.
Tip #1: Don't rush it.
A sales management hire is an investment for your company and it will take time to find the right person. Do the pre-work by meeting internally with key stakeholders for an honest conversation about the expectations of this role, what the new manager will be responsible for, how they will be measured, etc.
As part of this, identify what a sales manager’s daily grind will look like, and determine “must-have” traits and qualifications versus “nice-to-haves”. Make sure all this information is conveyed to your hiring manager or recruiter before getting started to ensure they meet the expectations of you and the other stakeholders.
Repeat the “don’t rush it” mantra throughout the hiring experience – keep looking until you’ve found someone who meets your "must-haves", following each step in your hiring process (more on that below), and recognize this may require some compromise (also more to come) along the way.
Tip #2: Be fair with compensation.
This is a valuable position and your sales manager should be paid accordingly to what they will provide to your organization. As in pretty much everything else, you get what you pay for, and this is not the position to scrimp on.
Do the research of a sales manager in your industry/region, and build a competitive package of base, bonus, and benefits. If you have a low budget for a base salary, make up for it in bonus opportunities and benefits.
Tip #3: Write an enticing job description.
This is a two-way street – you are selling, too! Attract the most qualified candidates by using the job description not only to outline the job responsibilities, but also paint a picture of your company and culture. Share what makes your company unique and why it’s great to work there. Exude the culture of the company and share the value of the product you sell. When it comes to responsibilities and qualifications, be detailed – this goes back to what “a day in the life” looks like.
Tip #4: Define a the hiring process.
Just like any other operational process, hiring should be streamlined and simple for the greatest results. Before opening the job, determine your internal process for hiring and onboarding. Determine who’s involved, their responsibilities, if you'll be doing hiring process reports, numbers of calls and interviews with a candidate, homework assignment (more to come), hiring timeline, and an onboarding plan. Then strictly follow the process; we’ve seen great candidates fall through the cracks due to a lack of process on the hiring end.
Tip #5: Make a templated questions list.
Develop a list of 15-20 questions to ask each candidate and note their answers in the interviews. These questions should draw out important characteristics of a sales manager, assess their capabilities, and uncover "must-have" and "nice-to-have" characteristics they possess. Using some templated questions also serves as a helpful comparison tool when reviewing candidates side-by-side.
Tip #6: Assign homework.
A great way to gain a multi-faceted view of a candidate and assess their skill set is to give a homework assignment, generally during or following the first interview. Some ideas below:
In an in-person interview, have the candidate sell you either something that they used to sell, or your own. Following your sales process - perhaps a faux phone call or sales presentation - have them make a pitch. This will provide insights on their ability to think on their feet, and their actual sales know-how.
For a take-home assignment, have the candidate write a 90-day sales plan. By this point in the interview process, they should have a good understanding of your company and the position. Based on this, how will they make positive change right away? What will be their top priorities? This assignment will allow you to see how well the understand the role and responsibilities, as well as their thought process and strategic thinking capabilities.
Tip #7: Be open to compromise.
It’s unlikely that you’ll find a candidate that meets all of your "must-have" and "nice-to-have" qualifications, wows in the interview, gets a perfect 10 on their assignment, and will settle for a budget-friendly compensation package. If you find this person, hire them on the spot!
Compromise is where hiring can take a turn for the worst. As you go through the hiring process, be willing to resasses. If you aren't finding someone that meets all your "must-haves" and fits in your salary range, something may need to be tweaked. If you find this to be the case, have an open dialogue with your key stakeholders.. Let them know if you can’t find someone who hits every mark, or if you have found someone a little different who may be a great fit. By doing so, you lessen the risk of endlessly searching for a candidate that doesn’t exist, or missing the hiring deadline and making a rushed hire that fails down the road.
Hiring is tricky. With hundreds of hiring services available touting the simplicity of finding a candidate, it can be easy to forget some of these important details. Regardless of if you are hiring in-house or working with a recruiter, these tips apply. Use them to develop a process that enables you to find a great sales manager.
Once you make the hire, remember that even the best sales managers need support. In the first 90 days, provide an onboarding plan to ramp them up to speed quickly and effectively. Keep an eye out and maintain open communication; if you identify any areas of weakness, consider leadership coaching. Make sure they are able to enable their sales team with the tools and training needed to get the results they are expected to perform on.
Make your next sales manager hire your best hire! If you're looking for hiring guidance, leadership coaching or sales team enablement, contact Sales Result today.