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"I had a very good experience with Aaron Wallis. My dedicated recruiter, Hannah, was the friendliest and most supportive recruiter I have ever worked with. The company itself is offering great content for all things related to the hiring process. I'd definitely recommend!"

Johanna Ostermeier

Interviewing Sales Managers

Hiring a good sales manager is vital to any organisation that’s serious about building and growing its sales income. However, it’s often a misunderstood position.

Being the best sales representative does not necessarily mean they will progress to being a successful sales manager. The skillsets required are different, and if you get this wrong, you will not only be left with a second-rate sales manager, but it will also cost you a star sales performer that is now absent from the field.

Competencies, characteristics and traits to look for

While several key competencies and characteristics will dovetail in any management position, like having empathy, showing gravitas, adaptability and listening skills, sales managers must possess some additional bespoke qualities.

Look for an ability to forecast, not just when it comes to sales numbers and budgets, but also in terms of predicting changes in the market and having strategies in place to cope with any eventuality. While salespeople will have the inherent skills required to sell, their manager must be able to train and mentor them to inspire growth.

Thomas International, a leading provider of occupational psychometrics, recently claimed that Sales Managers achieved 25% more sales when they had higher than average Emotional Intelligence (Thomas, 2019). Emotional intelligence is, broadly, the ability to recognise the emotions of others and comprehend and control your feelings. 

Salespeople are a special breed, and Emotional Intelligence is critical to successful sales management. Salespeople, by nature, will be confident, but there can be a potent mix of egos in any sales team. The successful sales manager must possess the emotional intelligence to get the best from all sales team members, knowing when to motivate, support, deal with egos, encourage or discourage competition, and constructively criticise while still coaching to optimum performance.

While we know that savvy candidates can make their CV look impressive, it’s only by asking probing interview questions that you can get an accurate picture of an individual’s capability for sales management.

Great Questions for Sales Manager Interviews

Here is a collection of crucial questions that will help hiring managers identify standout candidates.

Five questions to evaluate traits

  1. What personal qualities do you possess that makes you a successful sales manager?
  2. How would you motivate a struggling salesperson in your team?
  3. How would you create a positive yet competitive atmosphere within your team here?
  4. Would you prefer to be out there selling rather than being stuck in the office devising strategies?
  5. Define managing and leading, and what is most important?

Five questions to examine their past success

  1. How did your sales team perform against targets in the last financial year?
  2. What made you successful as a salesperson yourself, and how will your experiences in sales help how you manage your team here?
  3. Can you tell us about a time you created a successful strategy and how you implemented it?
  4. How do you go about goal-setting and ensuring your team reaches its target?
  5. What was the most significant learning curve that you overcame to become a successful sales manager?

Five questions to scrutinise cultural fit

  1. What do you think are the necessary skills and attributes for success in a Sales Management role?
  2. What do you think it takes to be a good leader?
  3. What does a good manager need to do within this organisation?
  4. What do you find rewarding about motivating and mentoring people?
  5. What are your values, and how do you feel these underpin your continuing success? (see value-based interview questions)

For further information, see interviewing for cultural fit

Polishing your hiring process

With an abundance of talent in the sales sector, your recruitment process must be as efficient as possible to ensure you get the best candidates on board. If you don’t, one of your competitors surely will.

  • Identify needs – be sure there is an absolute need for the position or existing business processes and structures can shift to accommodate it.
  • Consider internal applicants – are there suitable candidates already working for you? Can they move as part of ongoing development? Make staff aware of the opportunity.
  • Select a recruitment firm or a headhunter – look for experts in their field like Aaron Wallis sales recruitment. Choose an agency carefully and partner with them. If you commit to them, they will commit to you and target both active and passive job seekers.
  • Job descriptions and profiles – be definitive about the sought role and characteristics, experience and skills of the person expected to fill it. Be clear about salary expectations and precisely what you are looking for so that you do not miss it when they are sitting in front of you. See the importance of person specification
  • Put together the package – include all benefits like the car, pension, holiday, commission and bonus details and flexible working. Do some basic research by searching, as if you were the target candidate on a major job board and ask yourself whether it is competitive enough to attract the best Sales Manager?
  • Be assured with your interview process – where, when, and who will participate, how you make your final decision and how you inform rejected candidates.
  • Have an effective onboarding process – it’s one thing getting the right person through the door, but what’s the process to ensure that they settle down quickly and blossom in your company.


Hiring the best sales manager must be your priority in any sales-led company. If your sales team is motivated, firing on all cylinders, meeting or smashing targets, then your business will grow.

Get the sales manager recruitment process wrong, and you could impact a team that directly affects both your top and bottom line. Using sales recruitment specialists like Aaron Wallis will help ensure you get the right person for the Sales Manager vacancy.

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About the author

Rob Scott

Rob is the Managing Director of Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, a national recruitment agency specialising in sourcing sales and marketing staff for businesses across a broad range of commercial sectors. Before setting up Aaron Wallis, Rob spent ten years at a specialist Sales and Marketing recruitment division of a £0.5BN recruitment group, leaving in 2007 as Marketing & Sales Director to establish Aaron Wallis.
With over 24 years of experience in sales recruitment, Rob is a History graduate with an MBA (Merit) and a PgCert in Management Practice.  In 2007, 2009 and 2013 Rob conducted the most extensive surveys of sales professionals in the UK and is a trusted authority in the sales industry. From guiding employers through the recruitment process to helping candidates find their dream job, Rob's advice has been quoted in leading publications such as Business Insider and The Independent, as well as OnRec, which host The Online Recruitment Awards every year.

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Thanks for all your help during the recruitment process. I have been extremely impressed with Aaron Wallis especially when compared to other agencies we have dealt with. I really felt you grasped the type of person we required and found strong candidates.

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Giles Phillips is a rare find in the minefield of sales recruitment; an honest and thoughtful recruiter who considers the needs of both the client AND the candidate to create perfect role matches. I look forward to working with him again in the future.

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We were impressed not only by the quality of candidates you found for us but also the level of information, preparation and qualification you put into the process. You continually kept us informed of each person’s feelings about the process, which is very important but often overlooked. I am looking forward to working with your company again in the future.

Commercial Director, Incentive Facilities Management

Aaron Wallis has continuously provided us with suitable candidates that have been proactively sourced. Having used countless recruitment companies, Aaron Wallis are the only company that I can count on to deliver.

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Giles is highly professional and was a pleasure to work with. He achieves excellent results through his personable skills and tenacity. I have no hesitation in recommending Giles to anyone who considers employing his services.

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I just wanted to thank you for your help with our recruitment process which went very smoothly and has – we hope – found us just the person for the job!

Managing Director, Citrefine International Ltd

Since joining DSGi, Rob has been a supplier of permanent staff and has performed to an extremely high standard, successfully filling 98% of roles he has worked on. If anyone is looking for a good sales and marketing based consultancy with an informal yet professional approach, I would recommend Rob.

Senior Recruitment Consultant, DSG International

I have used Aaron Wallis to fill a number of our Sales Development Manager roles and I have found them to provide a very professional service. I will use their services again in future recruitment campaigns.

HR Business Partner, Greene King

In an industry where people over promise and under deliver, Rob and his teams have consistently provided a high-quality service. It is great to deal with someone that has an excellent understanding of UK industry, and a passion for sales.

Sales Manager, TR Fasteners

I have always found Rob to be very knowledgeable about our industry sector, and it is refreshing to see after all of these years that Rob continues to quickly and accurately understand my requirements.

HR and General Manager, THK

I found Aaron Wallis to be very professional and efficient, taking time to understand the role and the type of candidate we were looking for. The candidates they put forward met our criteria and were of a high standard. The service they provided was exemplary and I would have no hesitation in recommending them, and will certainly consider using them again in the future.

HR Assistant, Fischer Connectors Ltd

Rob is a true recruitment professional that goes the extra mile that I have never experienced from any other recruitment agency before. If you need sales people call Rob or someone in his team, as they really are experts in sales recruitment.

Sales Director, Inside Business

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The Recruitment agent I used, Simon, was extremely helpful and really went the extra mile to ensure all of my questions were answered, and that I felt as comfortable and prepared as possible. Very professional company and would definitely recommend to others. Thank you Aaron Wallis!

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Excellent service, very professional and friendly, would and have, recommended Aaron Wallis.

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A great recruitment company to work with. Excellent experience with Aaron Wallis through the entire recruitment process. The team was really professional and extremely helpful. Darren was a pleasure to work with. He was friendly, supportive and gave me great advice. Thank you very much!

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Aaron Wallis (and in particular Rob Scott) have been fantastic throughout the recruitment process, and even a few months down the line, still continues to care. Rob clearly cares about each individual and has a wealth of knowledge and expertise, which shows in the work he does. Each candidate is not just a number, and the support received from Aaron Wallis has helped me get a career which I truly enjoy.

M. White, Candidate 

Less than two weeks after joining Aaron Wallis I was offered my new job. I got a £10,000 rise in my basic salary, car allowance, a laptop and many other perks, which will help to further my career. I definitely would not have found my dream job without the help of Aaron Wallis.

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I've had a really good experience working with Giles Phillips at Aaron Wallis. From initial contact to the finer details of securing the job, he has been very professional and a pleasure to work with.

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S. Bartlett, Candidate

Very good advice and support was given during the course of the interviewing process. Potential job seekers would be well advised to use this company whilst looking for their new career.

R. Speakman, Candidate

Aaron Wallis is an outstanding recruitment agency specialising in high calibre sales positions. I was working directly with Darren Dewrance who went above and beyond my expectations in sourcing me my perfect role. I was kept in regular communication with Darren and he worked extremely hard to secure my dream job. Highly recommended and Thanks Darren for all your expertise and hard work.

R. Sealy, Candidate

Aaron Wallis have provided me with an excellent service, Giles went out of his way to help me preparing for my interview and supported me through all the processes. If you need an agency to give you a fully professional and consultative approach to finding you a new career move, the Aaron Wallis can certainly provide this for you.

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Perfect from start to finish. Simon deserves a shout out. Best recruiter there is. If you need a job, this guy will get you one. He's like the super man of recruiters. Top man, can't recommend him enough.

M. Crisp, Candidate

Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment are a very friendly and professional recruitment organisation who listen to your needs, work with you and act on your behalf which sets them apart from many of their competitors who in my experience are willing to throw anything at you. We discussed my history, my preferences and my wishes - one opportunity was introduced. It was perfect. I start at the end of June.

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I have to say coming across and having dealings with Aaron Wallis proved to be very successful. Being highly experienced did not seem to count for much during my job search bit a conversation with Robert Scott gave me a real confidence boost and enabled to get a position at the age of 63. Great service!!!

D. Burgess, Candidate

The service provided by Aaron Wallis has been just great. I was constantly informed about what was going on with the process interview and the agent has always been supportive and kind to me.

L. Colagrossi, Candidate

I can honestly say that the time and expertise you gave me was way beyond any other recruitment consultant I dealt with. You are a rarity in your industry.

S. Akers, Candidate

Aaron Wallis helped me secure a position I really wanted. Giles sought to keep me updated with all the details preceding interviews and after with feedback. I would highly recommend Giles and Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment.

L. Taylor, Candidate

Fantastic customer service, communication was brilliant, happy polite people to talk to, made everything a lot easier and smoother. Thank you for all your help getting me back in the work force, Keep up the good work :-)

K. Everitt, Candidate