How to Hire a Sales Director: A 5-Step Guide 

How to Hire a Sales Director: A 5-Step Guide 

One of the unique aspects of hiring a sales director is that the stakes are high and there is not much room for error. The successful candidate should be “the total package” and possess everything from superior customer relations skills to an in-depth understanding of the sales process. They must also be highly motivated, have the ability to motivate others, and be comfortable presenting to and negotiating with C-level executives.

Although there is a lot at stake when hiring a sales director, you can minimize the risk by knowing what qualities to look for as you screen and interview prospects. Adopting a methodical approach to identifying and evaluating candidates will give you the confidence and framework for making the best possible choice for your organization. 

Smiling cafe worker with apron using a laptop in a cozy kitchen setting.

What Is a Sales Director?

A good director of sales is a highly organized, focused team leader who plays a central role in developing and implementing marketing strategy. They are also actively involved in recruiting, coaching, and working with sales reps to overcome obstacles and generate maximum business volume. Sales directors are expected to be the driving force behind business development and company growth. 

Addressing the question of how to hire a director of sales begins with an inventory of crucial skills, personality traits, and knowledge.

Required Hard Skills 

  • Computer and software proficiency: In addition to being talented in the areas of planning, organizing, and providing leadership, sales directors need to have a high comfort level with customer relationship management tools, market research data, and applying sales performance metrics.
  • Market analysis and sales forecasting: These valuable abilities help sales directors excel at their jobs by helping them understand current market conditions.
  • Sales strategy development and implementation: When you consider the changing nature of marketplace conditions, competitive factors, and customer preferences, sales directors need to be adaptable, knowledgeable, and ready to pivot when conditions call for it.  

The skills needed to manage a sales team are typically acquired through years of direct experience, undergraduate and graduate business degrees, and online sales courses. Although organizations are advised to look for sales directors with five to ten years of relevant experience, that’s only part of the picture. As business consultant Ryan Miller points out, “in and of itself, (experience) is merely an indicator of a person’s ability to survive in a role, not their ability to perform exceptionally and sell effectively.” 

Other highly desirable qualities range from exceptional “people skills” to the ability to set and achieve ambitious sales goals.

Required Soft Skills 

  • Communication: Possessing the ability to clearly communicate goals, marketing strategies, and process improvement advice to both staff and company executives is a vital attribute for a successful sales director. Other strengths worth considering include presentation skills, persuasiveness, and a high degree of emotional intelligence.
  • Realistic optimism: Sales directors must have a positive attitude to motivate themselves and inspire their sales team to reach their potential. An optimistic mindset is also instrumental in identifying opportunities, solving problems, and persevering in the face of obstacles and setbacks.
  • Organization: Superior candidates have the ability to effectively plan a sales campaign, identify short and long-term priorities, and delegate responsibility. 
  • Relationship-building: Sales directors not only need to be liked and respected by their sales staff, but they also need to be adept at negotiating with vendors, winning over clients, and establishing rapport with colleagues. 
  • Leadership: Having the ability to train, manage, and coach members of a sales team is a core requirement of any director of sales. Other essential leadership qualities include a passion for driving sales growth and dedication as a mentor.

Additional soft skills to consider in the hiring process include creativity, adaptability, problem solving ability, and conflict management skills. To be optimally productive in their jobs, sales directors need to possess a variety of qualities and soft skills, all of which are taught by KnowledgeCity’s online courses.

How to Hire a Director of Sales: A 5-Step Guide

    1. Identify the qualities, characteristics, and capabilities that you desire and need in a sales director. By creating a detailed job description and profile of the ideal candidate, you’ll be in a stronger position to ask the right interview questions and identify the best applicant for the job. Besides asking candidates to discuss their past successes in achieving sales targets and managing staff, you’ll also want to gauge their ability to solve problems, leverage opportunities, and fit in with your company culture. 
    2. Consider having your candidates complete cognitive and behavior assessments. These psychological assessments can help shed light on learning abilities, personality traits, and performance potential. It’s one of several strategies for learning a candidate’s strengths, weaknesses, and potential stumbling blocks.
    3. Choose interview questions that reveal leadership abilities, conflict resolution skills, and team building background. Open-ended questions can focus on key topics like the quality of a candidate’s recent working relationships and examples of when they led a team to success. The Predictive Index, a company that measures behavior tendencies in the workplace, also recommends asking questions like “What are some ways you’ve used metrics or data to drive toward goals?” and “When was a time you had to hold others accountable to a team’s goals?”
    4. Create a compelling job listing that will attract seasoned sales directors looking for professional challenges. The way the job listing is formatted and worded can make a big difference in the quantity and quality of applicants. Concisely written “bullet points” focusing on required skills, experience, and responsibilities do the best job of grabbing attention and engaging prospective applicants. Being clear and specific also helps save time by narrowing the field of applicants. When experience and educational requirements are clearly spelled out, it helps filter out the less qualified applicants.
    5. Cast a wide, but focused net. While job listings and social media postings can pull in qualified prospects, The Predictive Index says executive recruiters and personal recommendations are the two best sources for connecting with qualified sales directors. As you become familiar with the nuances of how to hire a sales director, you’ll see that networking, referrals, and working with recruiters tend to yield the most promising results. Learn more about using referrals, networking techniques, and social media as sources of talent acquisition by checking out KnowledgeCity’s Talent Sourcing Resources.

Although it is highly desirable to hire a sales director with the training, experience, and education to “hit the ground running,” it’s also mutually beneficial to provide ongoing management training and career development opportunities. For helpful tips on implementing personal development plans, analyzing organizational effectiveness, and using data and technology in HR, download our free guide to strategic human resources. 

We also invite you to request trial access to KnowledgeCity’s 25,000+ online training videos. In addition to relevant courses about choosing the best candidate, we also offer lessons in effectively evaluating candidates, a crucial aspect of hiring qualified directors of sales for your organization. At KnowledgeCity, we’re dedicated to helping you build the most effective teams for your business.

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