3 years ago
January 5, 2015

How to Hire Your First Sales Manager

Hands-on founders and entrepreneurs will often find when hiring the first sales manager that this is the hardest role of all to fill.

Rhys Metler

Hiring the first sales manager is a turning point for a founder or entrepreneur; filling management positions indicates that a company has grown to the point where leadership and direction responsibilities must be shared. Hands-on founders and entrepreneurs will often find when hiring the first sales manager that this is the hardest role of all to fill; since sales are so crucial to the success of the company, much is riding on that decision. Here is what your growing company needs to know to hire its first sales manager.

Decide on the Compensation Structure Early

Constructing a compensation plan for a company’s first sales manager is not easy; early sales managers are often expected to sell as well as manage, and the compensation should reflect this fairly. However, you do not want to structure compensation so that the sales manager is encouraged to focus too heavily in either area to the detriment of the other. Your growing company’s personnel budget will also be a deciding factor. Shape the compensation plan for your first sales manager by:

  • Researching the standard sales manager compensation at companies similar to yours in size, stage, and industry
  • Comparing compensation rates for your local area to see how competitive your offer might be
  • Considering supplementary compensation, such as stock, time off, and other measures if your budget won’t allow the full salary you would prefer to offer

It’s In the Details: Write a Thorough Job Description

Early stage companies often require each employee, including management, to fulfill multiple roles. If this is not clear from the beginning of the hiring process for your first sales manager, you might be asking for personnel headaches later on down the road. Sit down with your leadership team and craft a thorough job description for your first sales manager that includes:

  • Who the sales manager will report to
  • What his or her primary and secondary responsibilities will be
  • What the metrics for success in the position will be
  • Language that covers the possibility of other responsibilities being assigned

Once you have arrived at these parameters, choose the most important to go into your published job description. Your more thorough job description can be shared during the interview and offer phase.

Screen and Interview Candidates Aggressively

Even in established companies, it can take months or years for a sales department to recover from a sales manager hiring mistake. With so much contingent on the success of your first sales manager, it is far better to take time with the search and hiring process to ensure that you make the right choice for your first sales manager. Follow best hiring practices to:

  • Rigorously skills test applicants so you are sure they are bringing the skills you need to the table
  • Follow up with references and confirm that candidates have the experience and qualifications required
  • Ensure a cultural fit with thorough, leading interview questions that address each candidate’s interest in the position and your company

Throughout the interview period, you should be asking questions and searching candidates’ responses to uncover how self-directed and self-motivated each candidate is. If a candidate cannot self motivate and explain how he or she continually improves, he or she is unlikely to be able to motivate and coach your sales team to sell themselves and your offerings.

Remember also that sales managers are unlikely to be searching for a position using the same channels as typical sales candidates; recruiters are the channel that experienced sales managers and top sales performers ready to enter a sales management role turn to most frequently when entering upon the next stage in their careers. A sales recruiter can also save your company on hiring costs, especially if the cost of making a hiring mistake is factored in. Contact a reputable sales recruiter with experience filling management positions to see how you can make it easier to hire your first sales manager.

Rhys Metler

Rhys is a tenacious, top performing Senior Sales Recruiter with 11+ years of focused experience in the Digital Media, Mobile, Software, Technology and B2B verticals. He has a successful track record of headhunting top performing sales candidates for some of the most exciting brands in North America. He is a Certified Recruitment Specialist (CRS) and has expert experience in prospecting new business, client retention/renewals and managing top performing sales and recruitment teams. Rhys enjoys spending quality time with his wife, son, and two daughters, BBQing on a hot summer day, tropical vacations and cottaging.