5 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Sales Manager

By Matt Heinz

Want better interview questions for hiring your next sales manager? Here are five questions hiring managers should ask more often, along with some of the answers you’ll want to hear from qualified candidates.

Question 1: Is cold calling dead?

Some interviewees may get defensive or think this is a trick question. The answer, of course, is no. When all else fails (market conditions, marketing leads, etc.), picking up the phone is the one thing sales reps will always be able to control. But how they cold call – who they call, with what message and offer, at what frequency and cadence – is extremely important. Cold calling must be customer-centric and value driven to succeed in today’s buyer-centric world.

Question 2: Should reps get warm leads or build their own pipelines?

Similar question to the first, but a different angle. The correct answer is yes, reps should get warm leads, but this is not because they’re lazy or can’t successfully build their own business from the ground up. Lead-driven sales are typically more cost effective than having expensive sales reps make cold calls. Yes, leads are expensive up-front, but the eventual cost per acquisition and overall lifetime value and margin for the business on those new customers is usually much better when reps are making more efficient use of their time with warm leads.

Question 3: What’s the ideal relationship between sales and marketing, and how do you operationalize that?

Collaboration between sales and marketing is more than just inviting the marketing team to your sales meetings. The ideal relationship starts with a shared idea of what success looks like and common definitions of leads, qualified leads, lead stages, and short-term opportunities. It’s working together on the same pipeline and ensuring that success is measured and compensation is dispensed based on overall pipeline performance. Marketing needs to be held accountable for qualified opportunities and closed business. When that alignment takes place, the daily and weekly operational requirements easily fall into place.

Question 4: Should sales reps be paid commission?

Yes. Today, more companies pay their reps a salary, but the best reps still want the variability of compensation because they want the upside. They will happily risk the occasional bad month or quarter to earn a C-level paycheck when they hit it out of the park.

Question 5: Why don’t you want to make more money as an individual contributor?

The right answer here comes down to how many commission checks the candidates want. Sales managers will still have a portion of their compensation come as a performance bonus or commission based on the team’s performance. The best sales managers know they can make much more money as a manager in these conditions, not by just driving higher sales themselves, but by improving the team’s performance and consistently driving higher sales. Sales managers still want their money, but they know the upside is actually higher as a manager with a good comp plan.