Hiring a skilled sales manager is critical to ensuring that your sales team lives up to its true potential.
Often, businesses prefer to hire for this role internally, because this helps them make sure that their future sales leader will already have learned the ropes and built relationships across the company. At the same time, hiring externally can bring a fresh perspective on the risks and growth opportunities that your sales department faces.
An effective sales manager needs to have a successful track record in sales and managing others. Otherwise said, not every qualified sales representative can lead your sales team; to do this, they also need several key leadership skills. Among these are empathy, people management, time management and an ability to see the big picture.
Irrespective of whether you hire internally or externally, you need to make sure you’re able to evaluate all candidates’ skills accurately and without bias.
Skills tests (like the ones you’ll find in our test library) will enable you to build an efficient and objective hiring process, in which you can truly see candidates for their skills and what they can bring to the table, rather than for their past experience or diplomas.
In this article, we’ll discuss the skills you need to look for in your next sales manager and explain how you can evaluate them to build a seamless and efficient hiring process and reduce potential bias.
We’ll also talk about average salaries, interview questions you can ask, and where to find the best sales managers for hire.
A sales manager leads, supervises, coaches, and supports a team of sales representatives, enabling them to perform at their best and hit their sales quotas consistently and sustainably.
To be successful in this, a sales leader needs to be:
Intimately familiar with many different sales processes, techniques, and negotiation tactics. They need to have not just plenty of hands-on sales experience, but a stellar track record of successful deals. Only then would they be able to train junior sales reps, pinpoint specific weaknesses in their approach, and provide actionable improvement strategies.
Willing to invest in empowering other team members and helping them develop their skills. Instead of focusing exclusively on their immediate responsibilities and goals, expert sales managers invest in the future of their team.
Open to finding the right approach that resonates with every sales agent. While some reps would relish an energizing pep talk, others look for a more empathetic leader – so, the right sales manager is someone who is capable of adapting to their team members’ needs.
Additionally, many sales managers collaborate heavily with marketing and customer support to exchange information, gain a deeper understanding into customers’ needs, and streamline sales and post-sales business processes.
In particular, sales managers prepare detailed reports on their operations to help marketing teams deliver a more powerful message by sharing unique sales conversations and hidden insights.
Now that we've covered the basics of what sales managers do, let's take a look at the core skills you want to see in your future sales leader.
Successful sales leaders should know the way around your industry and the software systems you’re using. When assessing applicants, you can use skills tests to determine whether they have the right hard skills. During interviews, you can ask detailed questions about their technical competencies and skills.
Consider the following core hard skills that any sales manager should have – and look for managers who have the actual track record to prove them.
A sales manager should have extensive experience with using various approaches to developing both high-level sales strategies and specific sales processes that work well for your product and, most importantly, for your target audience.
Look for someone who is proficient in different sales frameworks, such as the challenger sales model, solution selling, or SPIN selling. SPIN stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, Need/Payoff and is a sales strategy that focuses on the customer’s buying process rather than on a business’ sales funnel.
Your sales reps will achieve much more if you help them grow into trusted advisors for your leads rather than just salespeople.
This requires a mentality shift, though – from simply selling a solution to building meaningful relationships with potential customers – and only a skilled leader will know how to assist your team in this transformation. It also means that they need to be very well-versed in your specific industry and competitive landscape.
When you hire externally, candidates don’t need to have deep knowledge of your company's offerings specifically – that’s something they can learn on the job – but if they have substantial experience in your niche, this will be a major advantage for your entire sales team.
Sales is a numbers game.
Your future sales manager should excel at leveraging the latest AI-powered solutions to gain insights into performance and potential opportunities for growth. Effective goal-setting and forecasting will motivate your team to reach for the stars.
Don't settle for a sales manager who's been taking major decisions by relying on gut feelings. Look for a person who's capable of building data-driven strategies and is constantly looking for new ways (and new technological solutions) to analyze and improve results.
Essentially, a strong sales leader is a person who's capable of seeing the world through the salesperson's eyes, while also leveraging data-driven insights to plan for the future.
When considering candidates, make sure that you take a deep look into their soft skills. Their personality traits and the specific ways they approach work will play a key role in whether they can effectively lead your sales team or department.
Plus, sometimes their soft skills will be critical in converting key accounts and retaining important customers who are on the fence.
Look for a sales manager who's empathetic toward everyone around them, both coworkers and external partners. A natural leader is good at identifying bottlenecks and pain points, and then coming up with solutions that take into account others’ needs.
Active listening is indispensable to a successful sales manager, too: They need to see the lay of the land rather than push through their own agenda.
Seek to find out how candidates manage their schedules and juggle a multitude of responsibilities.
A sales manager should be an expert in quickly delegating tasks to junior employees, while also avoiding micromanagement. They’re usually so busy that working solo simply won't cut it. Ask specific questions about the ways they prioritize tasks, block out time for deep work, and assign tasks to other team members.
Your future sales manager should be able to successfully lead, inspire, and coach new arrivals and existing team members.
Good leadership also means that when aiming to boost your team’s performance and address specific bottlenecks, your candidates must be able to identify the low-hanging fruit and start from there. This will produce quick results, which helps boost team morale and efficiency.
A successful sales manager will look into the ways the best sales reps are structuring their sales conversations and give specific examples to others. Giving top performers social recognition inspires them to perform even better and motivates others to model strategies that work.
Hiring a manager is never an easy task, but there are ways to simplify your hiring process.
One of the best ways to do that is by using pre-employment assessments – and even replacing resume screening with them. This way, you’ll be able to quickly and objectively evaluate the skills of your next sales manager without letting unconscious biases creep in.
If you use TestGorilla, you can combine up to five skills tests to identify high-potential candidates. Simply head on to our test library to pick out the tests that best fit the role you’re hiring for – or check our recommendations below:
Account executive for B2B sales: Run this 10-minute test to find the candidates who can manage complex B2B sales processes to make sure they have sufficient hands-on sales experience to lead a team. See how effective your potential hire is in creating presentations, preparing proposals and closing deals, and also whether they have a high level of emotional intelligence and a creative approach to sales.
Communication: This test enables you to see whether your candidates are good at active listening, summarizing information, and asking for clarifications if needed. Good results on this test prove that they are well-versed with business etiquette and able to pay close attention to verbal and non-verbal cues. Strong communication skills enable leaders to quickly resolve conflicts and align goals across the team they are entrusted with.
Culture add: Finding a sales manager that's in sync with your values will do wonders for the performance of your sales team. To administer this test, you’ll first need to fill out a survey that will help you define your company’s culture. Then, the platform will help you identify candidates who are aligned with your values and beliefs.
Leadership and people management: Find out whether candidates are skilled leaders with the help of this test. Can they use both influence and guidance to help others grow? This test will enable you to figure this out.
Software tools like Salesforce CRM or HubSpot CRM: If your team is already using a customer relationship management (CRM) platform like Salesforce or HubSpot, it’s best to hire someone who’s already proficient in it and knows how to make the most of it to analyze results and make informed decisions. Experience with specific software is not an absolute must, however – the best managers will not only be willing to learn, they’ll be very efficient at it.
Assessing candidates can be very easy with pre-employment skills tests: You simply need to build your assessment, invite applicants to take it, and then analyze results (which our platform calculates automatically).
Once you identify your top talent, invite them to an interview to gain a deeper understanding of their expertise, abilities, and experience.
For this, we advise you to use structured interviews, where you ask all applicants the same questions in the same order. To minimize bias, you should compare apples to apples and not rely on personal preferences.
In sales, both soft skills and core competencies are essential, so make sure you evaluate both during interviews.
Here are some sample interview questions you can ask:
Can you describe a time when you had to manage a conflict within your team? How did you handle it?
You notice that the performance of your best salesperson is declining. What do you do?
How do you handle negative feedback related to your team's performance?
How do you uplift your team's morale during slow sales periods?
What are your strategies for encouraging continuous growth and development?
How do you prioritize and delegate tasks during busy times?
Your manager has set unrealistic sales targets for your team. What do you do?
Tell me about a time when you had to work closely with other departments, like marketing or customer service, to achieve a common goal.
What sales frameworks are you most familiar with? How did you use them in your last role?
How do you use data and analytics to improve sales performance?
What's your approach to pipeline management?
How familiar are you with digital sales channels and tools, like email campaigns, social selling, or webinars?
What's your approach to customer retention?
How do you structure a sales team's schedule for maximum efficiency and coverage?
How do you onboard and train new sales representatives?
If you need more ideas, check out our selection of the best sales manager interview questions to ask applicants.
Many companies prefer to hire their sales managers internally. In this way, they know that the candidate knows the ins and outs of their business.
You can follow this path and offer this new position to one of your best-performing sales agents – but you also need to make sure they have the right skillset to be a leader, too. Another option to consider is lateral hiring, which means sourcing candidates from other departments.
Organizational skills, delegation, leadership, and the management of key accounts – the latter requiring different skills than simply selling a product or a service – are among the core markers of a successful sales manager. Even when hiring internally, we advise you to use skills tests to evaluate applicants and give everyone a fair chance.
If you decide to hire your sales manager externally, here are some of the channels you can use to source candidates:
Job platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, Monster, or WellFound (ex-AngelList Talent)
Recruitment agencies specialized in sales or executive roles
Referrals from employees or your larger professional network
Professional associations like the National Association of Sales Professionals (NASP) or the Sales Management Association
Beyond simply posting a job ad, you can also use LinkedIn to directly reach out to passive candidates in your industry.
According to Salary.com, the median yearly salary of a sales manager in the US is around $130,000, typically ranging between $110,00 and $150,000. The actual salary you should consider offering will depend on factors such as:
Their experience in your specific niche
Additional skills and qualifications
Their sales and management track record
The type, size, and location of your company
Position: Sales Manager in [niche or industry]
Location: [City, state or remote]
[Your company name] is a leading [type of company, f.e. "B2B software company"] known for its [type of product or service, f.e. "enterprise resource planning platform for small to mid-sized companies"]. We're looking for a skilled sales manager to inspire and motivate our sales team and drive our growth.
You'll be responsible for leading and mentoring our sales team, driving revenue growth, and forging strong relationships with key clients. The ideal candidate has a proven track record in [B2B/B2C] sales, excellent leadership skills, and a deep understanding of [your industry].
In this role, you will:
Lead, mentor, and inspire a high-performing sales team to meet and exceed targets
Create effective sales strategies to drive revenue growth
Build and maintain strong, long-lasting relationships with key clients
Prepare sales reports and forecasts to inform strategic decisions
Monitor market trends, competitor products, and customer needs and adapt sales strategies accordingly
Make sure the team has sufficient product knowledge and is using the most suitable sales techniques
Work closely with the marketing, product, and customer support teams to improve customer satisfaction
For this role, we're looking for a sales manager who has:
Excellent understanding of different sales frameworks and tactics [for B2B/B2C sales]
Proven experience in [your niche, f.e. B2B software] sales with at least [X years] in a managerial role
A proven track record of achieving sales targets and driving sales growth in a B2B environment
Experience with CRM software, preferably [specific sales software you're using]
Excellent leadership, communication, and negotiation skills
The ability to analyze data and sales statistics and translate results into better solutions
A competitive base salary within the range of [range], plus performance-based bonuses
An excellent benefits package including [specific benefits]
Opportunities for professional growth in a dynamic industry
Collaborative and inclusive company culture
[List other benefits]
How to apply
Sounds like you? Don't hesitate to get in touch! To apply, please [describe your application process here; mention pre-employment tests to show applicants you value their skills above all else]
A sales manager should have extensive experience in your niche, insights into your specific product or service, and preferably at least some industry connections. So, hiring internally is a logical choice in many cases.
However, you shouldn’t just rely on gut feelings for such an important role – the costs of a bad hire can be astronomical, not to mention the impact it could have on your sales team’s morale and performance.
Irrespective of whether you’re hiring internally or externally, pre-employment testing enables you to bring more structure into your sales manager recruitment process and eliminate bias.
Sign up for a free live demo to see how TestGorilla can help you hire a skilled sales leader, the easy way.
To address its increased recruitment needs and influx of applicants for roles that include customer support and leadership, Dyninno Group implemented TestGorilla. See how the Dyninno Group of companies improved candidate screening and recruitment productivity by 400%.
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