Considering hiring a sales manager? Whatever you want that person to do, it's important to put it in writing before he or she is hired. A job description should be the key document in determining the person you hire.

“You have to define the boundaries of the [sales manager] job,” says Grant Mazmanian, president of Pinnacle Group, which helps companies test and hire applicants for a variety of positions. “Sales managers tend to be fairly independent people,” he says. “If you don't tell them what you want them to do, they'll do what they want to do.”

WHAT'S IN IT George Faerber, co-owner of Bee Window, in Indianapolis, says he wrote the company's sales manager job description “15 or 20 years ago,” and it remains unchanged. At Bee Window the sales manager is responsible for “recruiting, training, and maintaining the margins on the jobs we're running,” Faerber says.

At Dial One/Renewal by Andersen, in Santa Ana, Calif., the job description lists 27 functions. Among them: “Coach and train sales reps on an on-going basis to improve their product knowledge, sales skills, and sales performance.” For owner Charlie Gindele — who currently is serving as his own sales manager — that's 80% of the job. Sales managers, he says, “set their people up for success, and then work with them to get the job done.”

Dial One's 11 reps range from veterans to relative newcomers. It's with the newcomers, Gindele points out, that the sales manager needs to spend most of his time, whether in twice-weekly meetings that center on role-playing, or riding with reps to help them smooth over the rough spots in their presentation.

TWO TYPES Mazmanian says sales managers usually fit one of two behavioral profiles: they're either manager types who review reports and sit on non-performers , or they're coaches who teach and train.

Two years ago, Pinnacle Group was hired to help Windowizards, in Philadelphia, recruit a new sales manager of the “coach” type. Pinnacle worked with Windowizards' managers to develop a job description, then used it to attract an appropriate candidate. “We wanted someone who could reshape the salesforce,” says vice president David Goodman, by instilling the discipline that was clearly lacking, without driving people away.

Today Windowizards, with a salesforce of 20, uses two sales managers because teaching and training consume a huge amount of time.

Goodman now uses the job description as “a reference point,” he says. “If something didn't get accomplished, we need to go back and say: Did we actually set that goal?”