How to Find and Hire Great Sales Managers
On this episode, Kim Rody asks: How do you find great sales managers? In this video, we discuss key considerations before hiring a sales manager. Then we also go over important sales management skills to look for to find the best person for the job.
It begins by thinking through, what are the areas of responsibility that sales manager is going to have within your specific organization? Once you determine what those areas of responsibility are, you can really think about the skills, experience, and personal qualities you're looking for in your sales manager.
Another consideration is how much time and how much resources you should invest in that person's personal development because that may really influence whether you decide to promote from within or hire someone who already has experience. So, if we think about the first point I mentioned about the areas of responsibility, these are broadly defined.
We do a good job of analyzing each of these in our new book “The High-Impact Sales Manager, ” and those areas are recruitment and selection of star performers, managing sales team performance, managing the sales pipeline, coaching sales reps, and leading and motivating the team.
Recruiting and selecting star salespeople is critical. If you have the right people on your team, it's going to be a lot easier to manage and lead that team. So, think about the sales manager role that you're hiring for.
How much hiring is going to need to take place? Are they going to build a whole team from scratch or maybe just do a couple of replacement hires? Also, will all the responsibility be shouldered by the sales manager (regarding both sourcing the candidates, interviewing, and hiring them)?
That’s often the case in a small organization while a lot of that work is done by HR in larger organizations. In either case, interviewing is going to be a critical skill to discovering whether the candidates they're interviewing possess the sales qualities you're looking for.
Generally, managers who have been in sales before are good at asking questions. Hopefully, they're very good at actively listening so that the interviews are going in depth to discover whether the candidates possess the personal qualities.
They should be good at developing rapport; people want to come and work for people they think they will relate well to. So, those are some of the qualities you look for people to recruit and hire great salespeople.
Another area that's critical, ties to the name of the position— managing sales team performance. Ultimately, the manager is responsible for the performance of that sales team, and you want there someone who's really got very good analytical and communication skills. They're going to need to communicate areas of responsibility clearly and hold people accountable. They're going to need to be able to understand what the underlying behaviors that are going to move sales forward are.
For example, it's not just enough to say we're going to achieve X amount in sales—that's a result. What are the key behaviors regarding prospecting proposals and the work that needs to get done to achieve those results? You want someone there who’s going to be very good at communicating, analyzing, and providing input to their team.
Managing the sales pipeline could be a very important skill in organizations that have complex sales, where the manager's responsible for forecasting or assisting reps on complex deals. In other organizations where the sale is more transactional maybe not as important. Skills that you'd want for managing the sales pipeline would be good analytical skills; and someone who has a good background in sales that could help the salespeople put together strategies to advance opportunities.
The fourth area is sales coaching—the most important skill. We foud in research we've done and research that others have done that managers who’re good at sales coaching and spend about 20% to 40% of their time coaching have the highest performing sales teams.
Sales coaching gets to someone who’s willing to work with others, help other people self-discover the areas they need to improve in and can coach without telling. In other words, it's all about helping the salespeople self-discover and then working with them to put together personalized coaching plans.
The fifth area is motivating and leading your team. If you think about the number one cause of turnover in sales organizations is typical because the sales reps don't necessarily have a great experience working with their manager. So, you want someone who really cares about the sales team, who's able to communicate a vision, and really understand what's going to motivate everyone.
By thinking about these five qualities, you will have some context regarding making your overall hiring decision. When hiring someone from within, think about if they have the qualities that you’re looking for.
For example, Is this someone who's been a star sales performer? In that case, you should think about, will they really be able to make the transition, are they going to be able to move from kind of being center stage themselves to working behind the scenes to help others?
We've often found that even kind of average salespeople can make great sales managers if they have the qualities you're looking for, but again, if you hire someone from within, you're going to have to have some patience and some training to help them develop these key skills.
If you decide to go outside of your organization, you might hire a more experienced sales manager. They may possess many of the skills you're looking for. You certainly want to interview in depth to really make sure they have the skills you're looking for. You also should understand that there will be a transition period where they're going to have to learn about your business, your industry, and develop credibility with the sales team.
Whether you decide to promote from within or hire externally, we always recommend looking at both forms of candidates. At a minimum, interviewing at least three people instead of locking in on one candidate that's convenient within your organization you’ll give some validity to the overall process.
You may also discover there are certain skills that your candidate didn't possess. In any event, even if you hire the person you thought that you were going to hire, they're going to feel better about having to go through that process, and that's going to bode well both for them as a sales manager in the future and for your sales organization.
SRG Insights is a Q&A video series where we answer your questions on the topics of sales, sales management, sales coaching, and sales training. Featuring sales experts with over 25 years of sales and sales management experience.
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About Norman Behar
Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.