Sales Manager Hiring: A Lack of Discipline

It is widely assumed that sales managers play an important role in the success or failure of selling organizations, but to our knowledge, no empirical research has ever verified that assumption. We wanted to know with certainty if a disciplined approach to hiring and developing sales managers makes a difference in company performance, and if so, to what degree.

To this end, Sales Performance International (SPI) recently commissioned a study by the Sales Management Association (SMA) on sales management hiring and development practices. In early 2016, the SMA, with support from SPI, surveyed 152 companies, representing a total population of 16,900 sales managers and 168,000 sales professionals.

Surprisingly Few Use an Orderly Process for Sales Manager Hiring

Hiring is not a single task or decision – it is a continuum of activities. Our research study examined the steps for a good hiring decision of a sales manager, including development of hiring profiles, attracting target candidates, and evaluating selection criteria. We learned that the success or failure of firms’ efforts in initial hiring activities have cause-and-effect results in subsequent steps.

For example, less than one-third (32 percent) of organizations reported that they were effective in developing sales manager candidate profiles, leading to just 22 percent reporting their effectiveness in attracting the best candidates, which in turn leads to only 19 percent being effective in onboarding newly hired sales managers.

Sales Manager Hiring Practices: Firms Reporting Effective Ability


Sadly, haphazard hiring procedures appear to be the general rule when hiring sales managers. Many firms (59 percent) do not use objective data when hiring sales manages. Instead, they use subjective evaluations – in fact, 40 percent of firms rely heavily on subjective data for sales manager hiring decisions. Only 30 percent use a defined competency model (a picture of “what good looks like”) as a point of comparison against potential sales manager candidates.


While almost all firms (96 percent) include internal promotions to staff sales manager positions (at least in part), only 31 percent report having a well defined process for identifying promotable salespeople, and only 34 percent use assessment tools to evaluate internal sales management candidates. In most organizations, the principal criteria for promotion is a salesperson’s individual performance alone – although a useful data point in hiring decisions, it is insufficient for determining a candidate’s suitability for managing others, and therefore leads too often to unsatisfactory results.

As we reported in our previous blog post, sales manager hiring effectiveness makes a huge difference in sales team performance. And yet, the research shows that the degree of discipline applied to these decisions is in general, woefully inadequate. This represents a significant opportunity for many firms to develop a significant competitive advantage by improving their sales manager hiring process.

For a complimentary copy of all the findings from this important research, click here.

If your organization wants to hire or develop consistently top-performing sales managers, we can help – contact us for a complimentary consultation at +1 (704) 227-6500, or by email to

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