Top 3 Mistakes Companies Make When Hiring Sales Managers

Companies hire sales managers all the time and while some of those decisions are good ones, a lot more of them are ill advised.  Today I’ll share the biggest mistakes that companies make when hiring sales managers.

  1. They promote their best salesperson – I won’t get into whether the salesperson that manages the most revenue is really the best salesperson but this move is always bad.  First, they lose their best salesperson.  Then, they expect this new manager to transfer his/her skills to the rest of the sales force but that rarely happens.  The new manager knows how to sell, but not how to manage salespeople and to make matters worse, he is too friendly with those who now report to him, making it difficult to hold his salespeople accountable.
  2. They move another manager into the position – In this scenario, rather than promoting a salesperson, they take a marketing manager, HR manager, operations manager, even a technical manager, and put him in charge of sales.  Other managers have never had to deal with the external influences and internal demons that prevent salespeople from reaching their goals.  In most other departments, managers simply set expectations and their people do the work.  In the sales department, even salespeople with good intentions run into rejection, competition, and resistance, and that’s only after they conquer their fears and discomforts. In addition, experienced salespeople will find that their new sales manager, who hasn’t sold before, lacks credibility.
  3. They hire someone from the industry – In most cases, those who have succeeded are looking to move up into a position of more responsibility while those who have struggled make the lateral move from one company to another.  They often come with baggage and while they seem to fit, most of the time they don’t provide the big change for the better that the company expected.

Ultimately, the sales manager must have prior success coaching, motivating and leading a sales force.  They must be effective holding people accountable and know how to select salespeople who will succeed.  This last skill is a challenge, even for experienced sales managers and those who lack experience will likely have all kinds of problems with hiring and turnover.

So, what if you hired one of these three sales managers prior to reading this great piece of advice?  All is not lost.  You may be able to develop managers one and three; and you can always return manager number two to his original role.  You can have your sales force evaluated which includes a look at the impact that your sales manager is having (for better or for worse), identifies the issues that must be addressed, whether or not the sales manager can be developed, and what the development should consist of.

(c) 2008 Dave Kurlan