How to Hire an Outstanding Sales Director

Many of our clients are growing very quickly, and when it comes to growth, growing sales play a major role in engaging stakeholders and raising the profile of your startup.  It’s no wonder that hiring a Sales Director is a key strategic hire within the first 18 months of funding.   Here’s a quick run down of what I look for when I’m selecting a shortlist of Sales Directors for our Members. 

1. Job Stability

As the founder of a company myself, and as someone who has trained and hired salespeople, I can tell you that when a salesperson is making a great impact on my bottom line, I am going to move Heaven and Earth to keep them well compensated and working at my company.  If a candidate has changed roles every 11-18 months or more, I begin to get a little concerned about his or her ability to make an impact, or to persevere when there is a seasonal or natural decline in sales.  There are two exceptions to this rule.  First, the candidate may have a steep career progression curve - like one of our candidates who was able to progress from Sales Coordinator to Sales Director in less than 4 years.  Second,  the candidate may have been hand picked from a client to go into in-house sales.  These are the types of exceptions that a good headhunter (like us!) will be able to point out on a resume you may have overlooked. 

2.  Motivation 

I think it is fair to say that if someone goes into sales as a career choice, then they are the type of person who is naturally self motivated.  The real question to ask is, “What motivates them?”  For your company to thrive, you need people whose motivations are in line with the overall mission and culture of your startup.  Many recruiters fall into the trap of thinking that sales people should be motivated by money.  But if money is a candidate’s  only motivator, you will have a hard time keeping their loyalty if a higher paying offer comes through, and it often does.  Look for people who are motivated to solve problems; people who are motivated by praise and esteem; and people who want to be a part of a company that is gaining marketshare.  It’s difficult to get to a person to divulge their key motivation in the first or second interview.  (Many people are not aware of their own real motivation.) Good headhunters (like us!) know how to suggest win- win comparisons to determine if someone is a fit for our clients.  An example is, “Would you rather be the first sales person at a growing company or the head of sales at an established firm.”  Hiring based upon these unspoken indicators can lead to a longer and more successful placement. 

3.  Background

At JumpSmart, we never consider our candidates age, race, socio-economic upbringing or any other protected class when we submit them to opportunities.  However, there is one key indicator that someone will be a good sales person, and that has something to do with their personal history or background.  I personally look for Underdogs.  People who have had some of the cards stacked against them and have pushed through difficulty in order to succeed.  When I was hiring recruiters at a global firm- I looked for former athletes who had to make it from the second string team to the starting line-up.  Or I look for someone who went to their second choice college and made it to the grad school of their dreams.  These are the people who will persevere and push your company’s sales to the next level. 

Contact Us or Become a Member for expert assistance hiring a Director of Sales.