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How to Hire the Right Sales Manager

By Norman Behar

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One of the most significant impediments to sales growth is hiring the right sales manager. Unfortunately, companies struggle with identifying the right people to manage and lead their sales teams. For companies with exceptionally high growth rates, the challenge is even more pronounced. Sales headcount growth drives the need to hire even more frontline managers.

 As an example, a company that expects to hire an additional 50 sales professionals will need to hire or promote five or more managers. While it’s convenient to promote from the sales ranks, this has its own challenges since many of these managers have no prior sales management experience.

The transition from sales professional to sales manager is especially tricky because the skill sets required to be successful are very different. While sales professionals are predominantly motivated by their personal success, sales managers need to achieve success through their teams. As a result, new sales managers need to learn and develop skills that allow them to hire, manage, coach, and lead their teams. This, of course, takes time and only works if you hire or promote someone motivated to learn, as opposed to someone who simply wants to “tell” their sales team how to sell.

Hiring for experienced sales managers is another option. It may not be so easy, however, to source this type of talent in a tight labor market. It is especially important to consider whether the candidates who you are considering possess the skills to be successful in your sales organization. In many cases, you may find that the applicants have cycled through numerous other sales management jobs with very little tangible success.

Ultimately, most companies will end up with a combination of newly promoted and experienced sales managers leading their sales teams. Their success, however, will be less a function of their experience and more a result of the personal qualities they bring to the position. From a hiring perspective, that means identifying sales manager candidates who possess the following five attributes that align with achieving success through their sales team.

  1. Good role model
  2. Positive and optimistic
  3. Sincere and honest personality
  4. High level of integrity
  5. Responsive

Managers who possess these qualities are more likely to engage with their sales teams, which has a direct impact on reducing sales rep turnover rates. According to a Gallup study on U.S. workplace engagement, “managers account for up to 70% of the variance in engagement”, and “one in two (U.S. Adults) had left their job to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career.”

Additionally, sales managers who possess the above listed five attributes are likely to be much more effective sales coaches who can influence and empower their sales teams. In fact, based on research we conducted with Selling Power, Sales Coaching was identified as the #1 Hallmark for sales managers with the highest producing sales teams.

Keep in mind that hiring the right sales manager is only a starting point. Once they are hired, we still need to invest in their development so they can learn the critical skills necessary to drive sales performance. This includes learning how to (i) identify and hire the right sales talent, (ii) manage sales performance, (iii) prepare accurate forecasts, (iv) provide ongoing coaching, and (iv) lead and motivate their sales teams.

Learn how to transition star sales reps into high-performing sales managers

About Norman Behar

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.

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