Sales Team Guide: Roles + How to Hire and Manage

June 24, 2021
Sales Team Guide: Roles + How to Hire and Manage

Building a sales team isn’t easy.

You can’t just hire a group of fast talkers and hope they’ll convince prospects to buy your product or service. You might close a few deals, but the results won’t be consistent.

If you want a sales team that can regularly deliver above and beyond their sales target, you need to use the proper hiring, sales training, and sales team management methods.

In this article, I’ll cover what sales teams are and two surprisingly overlooked reasons why you need them.

I’ll then highlight the key roles you need to hire for and how to hire them. I’ll also give you seven no-nonsense tips to help you build and manage a successful sales team in 2021.

5 Essential Sales Roles for Which You Need to Hire

The sales professionals you hire depend entirely on your business’ needs.

That said, most companies follow a similar sales team structure.

Here are some roles that exist on most sales teams, along with their typical pay mixes:

1. Sales Development Rep (SDR)

sales development rep (SDR) is the first point of contact for any lead.

They obtain leads from various sources before passing them off to account executives for qualification. SDRs are rarely involved in closing deals.

An SDR is considered an entry-level salesperson and usually has a pay mix of around 65/35 (65% base salary and 35% incentive pay).

2. Sales Specialist

A sales specialist’s primary responsibility is supporting the sales process through proposal development and customer demos.

If your business regularly engages in complex transactions, you should consider hiring a sales specialist to help with industry-specific challenges.

They don’t close deals but play an essential role in the sales process by conducting market research, forecasting sales, and applying their product knowledge to practical situations.

Sales specialists usually get a pay mix of 70/30, with incentives varying based on how challenging sales are.

3. Account Executive

An account executive is your sales representative.

They work directly with prospects who’ve expressed interest in your offerings and try to convert them into customers. Naturally, account executives have the most significant impact on the outcome of deals.

A large portion of their pay comes from incentives since their primary responsibility lies in closing deals and bringing in revenue. Account executives usually have a pay mix of 50/50 or 60/40. 

4. Customer Success Representative

When account executives close deals, your prospects turn into your customers.

At this point, customer success reps take over to handle customer satisfaction and retention.

They follow up with customers to maintain relationships and find avenues to upsell or cross-sell your product or service.

Customer success reps usually have a pay mix of 75/25 — with incentives based on up-selling and proactive outreach activities.

5. Sales Manager

Sales managers set goals, track key sales metrics, and motivate and support their team members to ensure the smooth running of the sales process.

The primary responsibility of the sales leader is to ensure the success of the sales organization, which means their incentive pay is based on team performance. They are usually allocated a pay mix of 70/30.

Sales teams need clearly defined roles to function correctly, but that doesn’t mean you can hire any way you like.

How to Hire Your Sales Team (Step-by-Step)

Here are a couple of steps you can follow when hiring for your team:

1. Define Your Sales Process

The first step in hiring a sales team is to define your sales process.

The sales process is a collection of repeatable steps like prospecting, presentation, and closing, all of which a salesperson takes to turn prospects into customers.

The sales process is essential for hiring because how you approach the sales process can impact what type of candidates will perform well at your business.

Every organization has a different sales process, which means you have to think about your target audience and what steps you need to convert them into customers.

Additionally, you can prepare a sales playbook — a single source of truth — to support your sales process.

2. Look for Internal Candidates

The most successful sales hires can sometimes be internal.


When you hire people internally, you get people who’re already familiar with your organization’s culture, policies, brand, growth targets, and offers.

This way, it’s a shorter learning curve — which provides faster results. Additionally, internal hires can even save you the cost you might endure with bad hires because you already know them, and you’ve seen them work successfully.

3. Build a Standardized Hiring System

Creating a hiring system helps you standardize interviews and compare candidates more objectively — helping you choose the best for your business.

To create a hiring system, start with interview questions that will help you arrive at an informed decision.

Create role-specific questions you can ask every candidate interviewing for the same position. You can also opt for candidates to sit a skills test or personality test.

Here are some sample questions you can ask candidates:

  • What motivates you?
  • How consistently do you meet sales goals?
  • How would your colleagues describe you?
  • Can you describe a situation where you lost a sale?
  • How did you land your most valuable sale?

You can even define the different stages involved in the hiring process, through which each candidate must pass. It’s also important to determine certain passing criteria so that decision-making is easier.

You can opt to hire a recruiter to do all this for you, but if you want more control over who joins your team, consider keeping things in-house.

4. Create Job Profiles and Hire Perfect Matches

Building a job profile can help you identify whether candidates fit your organization.

Job profiles are different from job descriptions — job profiles outline the job’s duties from the employee’s perspective. In contrast, job descriptions detail responsibilities from the firm’s perspective.

A job profile will typically contain details like:

  • The length of the sales cycle
  • Pricing of the product or service
  • The buyer personas relevant to your offering

Once the job profile is complete, you can filter through candidates that fit it best — they’re most likely to succeed at the job.

Ideally, you should see if their skills, experience, past results, attitude, and habits match your profile. You can use frameworks like David Mattson’s SEARCH to see how candidates match your job profile.

5. Hire for the Long Term

Did you know that a new hire takes 4.5 months to go from no sales to a level of high competency and performance? 

Remember, a bad sales hire is going to cost you more than a few months’ salaries. You’ll waste five months of investment if your new sales team member isn’t meeting expectations.

Always look for the best candidates and hire them with a long-term plan for their growth. Investing in them will make them top performers and reduce turnover, giving you a loyal, high-performing team.