When's the Right Time to Hire a Sales Manager?
For founders whose first love is sales, hiring a sales manager is like hiring their own replacement. No wonder so many CEOs hold on to the job. However, not dedicating someone else to sales can hurt a company, too. Here, several sales-savvy CEOs give their reasons for hiring a sales director -- or waiting.
WEK Enterprises, in Buena Park, Calif.; $11-million maker of cotton apparel; 21 outside sales reps.
Hired sales manager? No, but after six years without one, plans to do so pronto. Reason: Until recently, president Bob Evans felt hiring an "outsider" might interfere with rapport among (and plans of) the three partners. Plus, very fast growth made it hard to define job and ideal candidate. "Now I know what I'm looking for. I can set guidelines."
Datastream Systems, in Greenville, S.C.; $4.3-million software developer; 14 in-house salespeople.
Hired sales manager? Yes, about a year after company founded. Reason: Not happy with first-year loss, and four techie founders had no experience selling software. "I wish I'd hired a sales manager even sooner," says CEO Larry Blackwell.
HR Strategies in Grosse Pointe, Mich.; $10-million human-resources consultancy; CEO, 10 senior consultants close sales.
Hired sales manager? Yes, eight years after start-up, and two years after sales began climbing. Reason: Senior consultants needed help qualifying leads. Also, needed pro to create company image and to spot joint selling opportunities. "The sales manager brings in the business we couldn't get any other way," says CEO David Jones.
Ergodyne, in St. Paul, Minn.; $29-million designer of ergonomic products; 23 in-house salespeople, hundreds of outside reps.
Hired sales manager? Yes, nine years after start-up. Reason: CEO Tom Votel was too busy pulling off a turnaround to make key hires. "We had this roll-up-your-sleeves-and-survive mentality," he says. Hired sales VP "in the nick of time" -- after sales doubled to $12 million in 1991.
Evergreen Environmental, in Crestwood, Ky.; $4.4-million environmental-engineering firm; 3 in-house salespeople, one outside rep.
Hired sales manager? No, and after seven years in business, no plans to hire. Reason: Founder/CEO Jerry McCandless is it. "CEOs need to be out there networking with other CEOs," he says. "We share the same problems, and that establishes credibility." McCandless is on the road now more than ever.
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Timing the Hiring
Many fast-growing companies hired their first sales director within five years of start-up, an Inc. survey found. But 40% of the companies polled had not filled the position. Of the 423 that had, here's when they did so:
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Years in business when sales director hired
One or less 12%
One to three 29%
Four to five 27%
Six to eight 20%
Nine or more 12%
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Source: 1992 Inc. survey of 708 companies with five-year growth of 400% or more, most with annual sales of less than $25 million.
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