How to overcome the challenges of hiring a Sales Director

Senior sales and sales director roles are by far the toughest to fill, according to our recent research among HR and recruitment heads.

Almost a third (29%) of the 127 directors involved in our study identified sales director as the most difficult senior position to fill. This was followed by director-level marketing and digital roles which were only nominated by 19% and 18% respectively.

Recruiting a sales director or senior sales manager can be a significant challenge and risk to a company. It’s all too easy to employ someone ineffective, or that just doesn’t fit into the company culture. Someone who, on paper and at interview, seems to be the perfect person, but who turns out to be a bit of a nightmare once you’ve employed them. They don’t meet sales targets and can’t manage or motivate sales teams. But because they talk a good talk – and you want them to work out – it takes you a while to admit that they’re not as good as you hoped. By then they’ve set back your business plans back months if not years!

As the head of Norrie Johnston Recruitment’s sales service, Phil Hagen helps companies find senior level sales leaders and business development directors and with over 25 years of employing and managing senior sales people, he has interviewed hundreds of sales management candidates.

Therefore, we thought we would share Phil’s top 5 tips:

  • Take a close look at someone’s personal track record. Have they demonstrated that they personally can sell? This could be in the past but it’s important.
  • Explore their team metrics – does their current team have a high churn rate and how do they develop people? This indicates their ability to motivate and have a high performing team.
  • Use a behavioural assessment to identify and understand the natural character traits of the candidates. This is key to ensuring their natural operational style matches with your requirements. Remember, salespeople are professionals at presenting themselves, so you may not see the real person.
  • How long do they stay in a job? Rapid career changes indicate someone who can’t deliver once in a role.
  • Consider industry background. Firstly decide is it important to have someone from the same sector? Also when looking at a candidate’s sales track record, consider the markets they’ve operated in – it’s easy to be a sales star in an industry that’s booming.

We hope you found these tips useful. If you are currently looking to fill a senior sales role or having performance issues with your sales team – do give Phil a call on: 0203 026 5334 or email