Mailbag: How Do I Hire a Great Sales Manager

Mark writes, “Can you write on the ‘How-to’s’ of hiring great sales managers, setting expectations, compensation packages, and key places to find this unicorn?”

How to Hire Great Sales Managers

Hiring well is an art form. If hiring is easy, you’re doing it wrong. If hiring is fast, you’re doing it wrong. If hiring isn’t the most difficult part of your job, I am certain that you’re doing it wrong.

Here is what I know.

You are not hiring a super-salesperson or a super-closer, even though they will from time to time need to help sell. You also aren’t hiring someone that you don’t have to train, develop and coach, so you better want to work closely with them.

You are hiring someone to lead and take care of your sales force. And you are hiring someone that can help your team create value for your clients. That is who they have to be.

You are hiring someone that has demonstrable leadership skills. You are hiring someone who is a student of the game. You are hiring someone who is sincerely interested in helping others achieve results. You are hiring someone that cares about people, but who will also hold them accountable for results. They must be a great coach; they have to get the very best performance out of each member of their team.

Note: I want to know how they coach people. I also want to know what they believe their highest priorities are as a manager. Oh, and I want to know about their meeting rhythm (who do they believe they serve?).

How to Set Expectations

Don’t set expectations alone. Work very closely with your sales manager to help them decide what their goals are, what they are going to be accountable for producing, and how they will be judged. If you want them to make the number you have in mind, it has to become their number even more than it is your number.

I would say this to a sales manager, so I’ll write it for you here. Your sales manager’s number is made up of all of the individual quotas of the team she manages. That means your big number is made up of all of your sales manager’s numbers. You have to do everything in your power to help them reach their number in order for you to reach yours. I once heard an Army General explain how he achieved his goals in an out-of-control corner of Iraq. He said, “I asked my people what they needed, and then I moved Heaven and Earth to get it for them.”

Note: If they tell you they can blow out the number you come up with, worry. Scratch that. Just get up from the table and run like Hell. If they tell you they can get you the number you have in mind if you pony up the investment necessary to producing that result, you’ve found your sales manager.

Compensation Packages

I wouldn’t dream of answering this question without a lot more information. So here are some vagaries.

Personally, I like a salary large enough to acquire the talent you need and a bonus structure that is made up of some financial goals with a variable component that can be awarded for demonstrating a certain set of values and behaviors. As an example, a good leader should be building the next generation of leaders. So maybe there is some variable compensation based on their ability to grow new leaders within the sales team.

So, salary + bonus for reaching goals + variable component.


How do you identify and hire great sales managers?

What are the skills that lead to success when managing a sales team?

What is the best way to set and establish a sales manager’s goals?

How you should compensate a sales manager?

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