I tend to think of it this way: managers manage and directors, well, direct. The level of your sales leader isn’t just about title or compensation. It’s about the part you expect that individual to play in the team’s success.
Here’s my rule of thumb: if your group is brand new (or evolving rapidly), you likely haven’t yet 100% nailed down what repeatable and scalable success looks like. In that case, you need a director. You need someone who has created process from scratch, knows when things are going awry, and, even more importantly, has the skills to fix things.
Hiring an inexperienced leader, for example, an early career manager or an individual contributor looking to move up, to do director-level work is a huge mistake. There’s a time and place for on-the-job learning, but that time is not when captaining a ship through a storm.
Once you’ve locked in on the strategy, built solid processes, and have metrics down, you’re ready for a manager to take the reins.