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Sales Models, Metrics, and Motions Blog

The Real Difference Between a Director and Inside Sales Manager

by Trish Bertuzzi on Wed, Apr 15, 2015

I don’t think anyone would argue that the quality of the executive who leads your Inside Sales team makes or breaks its success.

A few times a month, companies will reach out to me looking for a “rockstar” Inside Sales Manager. I’ll ask a few questions about what the person will need to accomplish and, quite often, suggest they set their sights on a Director-level candidate.  Better to spend more in compensation than to hire someone who lacks the skills to get the job done.

There is a real difference in aptitude and attitude between the two. Here’s my take:

Inside Sales Manager– Not to be cute, but a Manager does just that… they manage. They manage people, they manage metrics, and they manage processes.
Inside Sales Director
– A Director has the skills and experience to not only execute, but to also identify issues and course correct. They take the overall goals and rough plan delivered by the executive team and drive results.

Dave Kellogg, CEO of Host Analytics, had a great piece recently where he laid out his view on what it means to be a Manager, Director, and VP

Definitely, take a look.

Having said all this, it is not easy to find great Inside Sales Directors.

Sorting contenders from pretenders

I’m frequently asked for ways to identify Manager versus Director-caliber candidates during hiring. Well, rule #1 is to ignore previous titles. A big-company Director, might be a Manager in a less structured role. And a startup Manager, might have a Director mindset. It is too hard to level across companies.

Let me share a story that highlights how a Director-level candidate thinks. One of my clients was interviewing for a Director of Inside Sales. His process includes asking the candidates to develop a 30-60-90 day plan. This is a fairly standard request for a hire at this level. One wise candidate didn’t just go away and create it. She asked the hiring CRO the following:

1. You mentioned your 3-year plan. Can share what has been communicated to the Management team and the reps?

2. Over the last 3-4 quarters, what challenges have been identified and what has been done to remove those obstacles?

3. What career path/succession planning is outlined or implied at time of hire for the Reps and Managers? 

4. Please provide me with a review of the current compensation model, implementation date and % of reps exceeding, meeting and not meeting goal. Also, in your opinion, would an Inside Sales rep be able to explain to their peer in less than 5 minutes how they get paid?

5. Please provide background of current Sales Managers, coaching style and observations/feedback given from front line reps. What is Sales Manager attrition over the past 12 months? Why did they leave?

These are damn good questions.

And, yes. The CRO hired her as his new Director. Would a Manager have had the experience and the confidence to ask these questions? I think not.

Hiring great people is easy, well not really, but hiring people who will perform greatly is spectacularly hard. If you hire someone with the wrong skills, you’ll pay for it.  When defining the profile of candidate you need, think through are we looking for someone to manage an existing process or create process from stratch?

In this fast-paced sales world, you don’t have the luxury of making the wrong hire.

(Photo credit: rosipaw) 

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