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This is the time of the year when circuit board company managers are making changes. They are evaluating their sales team, making sure that everyone is a keeper, and that the entire team is firing on all eight cylinders.
Because of some of the major consolidations that have taken place this past year, especially one company in particular, this is also good time to be looking for direct sales people. And because so many companies are merging, there are going to be some great sales managers looking for work. Yes, folks, there are going to be some good ones out there looking, and they’re yours for the picking.
But it’s not that simple. Hiring a sales manager is probably the most important decision you can make for the health and welfare of your company, especially with sales (or lack of sales) being the Number 1 problem most U.S. board shops face today.
So, here are a couple of ideas to keep in mind to make sure you hire the best sales manager possible.
The first step is creating a solid job description. Here is the job description that I have developed over many years of finding and hiring great sales managers. Note that it also includes some key personal characteristics to look for in the candidates you interview to ensure that you hire the right one.
Position: U.S. National Sales Manager
Reports To: President or director of the company
Purpose: The purpose of the U.S. National Sales Manager is to direct the development and implementation of programs and activities that result in the company’s ability to meet or exceed their sales goals, and to assure the company’s growth both in the near and the far future.
Scope of Work: The scope of responsibilities for the Sales Manager includes, but is not limited to, forecasting, market intelligence, customer relations, customer service, pricing, advertising and sales force management, setting the strategic direction, niche development, handling all marketing communications and sales collaterals.
- Direct the development and implementation of an annual sales plan that is consistent with the overall goals of the business
- Direct the collection and dissemination of information relating to industry trends, competitors, and customer expectations so that the company is effectively prepared to respond to changing market conditions.
- Direct the development and ensure the effective implementation of systems and personnel to respond to inquiries, orders and complaints from customers in a timely manner.
- Direct the development of pricing strategies for products that are consistent with the stated goals of the company (including gross margin goals).
- Direct the development and implementation of an advertising and marketing plan for the organization.
- Manage the selection, development and performance of outside sales agents as well as independent sales reps, inside salespeople, and customer service people. Make sure that the salespeople meet or exceed their sales forecasts.
- Ensure strong financial relationships between the company and their customers by managing the implementation of the company’s credit policy.
- Ensure compliance of the company’s quality control procedures and policies.
- Ensure the development and implementation of the company’s strategic direction. Also be responsible for ensuring the development and implementation of programs to assist in the achievement of organizational goals such as customer and employee satisfaction, increased good production, on-time shipments, costs reductions and reduced cycle times.
- Participate in the preparation of the annual operating budget and capital expense plan for all sales operations. Also be responsible for ensuring performance within the established budget and contribute towards the attainment of the targeted gross margin.
- Actively pursue and participate in external activities that develop and maintain state-of-the-art thinking and planning capabilities within assigned areas of responsibility.
- Be the Number 1 customer advocate in the company.
- Be the “public image” of the company.
- Do whatever it takes to make the company successful.
Additional information: Characteristics of a great national sales manager
Here are my ideas for selecting the right national sales manager. It is very important we get the right person from the beginning in order to save a lot of time and money, someone with a proven track record who is results-driven:
The right candidate should:
- Be from the printed circuit board industry (nice, but not mandatory).
- Have experience selling printed circuit board services or related products or services.
- Be a proven winner.
- Have been part of a company that has had phenomenal growth.
- Be very creative.
- Be very high energy.
- Be a people person.
- Have great strength of character.
- Have good connections in the industry.
- Be a strategic thinker.
- Be a risk-taker.
- Be willing to risk failure.
- Be able to stand up for what he/she believes.
- Be passionate.
- Be in it for the long haul.
- Be able to understand and appreciate your company.
- Be able to see the potential of your company and the products you sell.
- Be confident
Now, once you find someone who fits this description, you have to make sure you have the real thing. This means spending the proper amount of time getting to know the candidate through the interview process. Always remember that salespeople are, after all, salespeople. They are always selling, and they are trained to sell, so many of them will be able to put on a great performance when it comes to the interview. Even the bums can do a pretty convincing job.
This is what I suggest. Have three separate interviews conducted by three separate people in your organization. Make sure you include someone for operations; ops people don’t like salespeople by nature. Then have an interview with someone from engineering; they are wary of salespeople by nature. Of course you should conduct a thorough interview.
Then get together, compare notes, and see if you can reach a consensus on one sales candidate. If you all agree that you have the right person, pull the trigger. If this is the most important position you are going to fill this year, and of course it is, then you can afford to take the time to do it right. It’s only common sense.