The Sharks took an early lead with a try from Mark Cueto but Montpellier's forwards soon took control in wet conditions and tries from Francois Trinh-Duc, Timoci Nagusa and Julien Tomas secured victory for the hosts.
Sale got off to the ideal start with Danny Cipriani - handed the fly-half shirt following his game-changing burst against Cardiff last weekend - chipping into the corner for Cueto to touch down in the third minute.
But as the half wore on Montpellier's forwards began to exert their power up front and a series of errors in the wet conditions from Sale cost them possession and field position.
Martin Bustos Moyano landed four penalties to give the hosts a 12-8 half-time lead with Rob Miller kicking one for Sale.
Miller landed a further penalty after the break but Montpellier's superior power up front was decisive as their pack decimated a Sale scrum, leaving Trinh-Duc to stroll over to score in the 49th minute.
Minutes later Nagusa had the pace to finish off a breakaway try before the hosts scored their third try when Trinh-Duc's deft chip and collect set up a try for scrum-half Tomas.
Bustos Moyana landed both conversions to end with an 18-point haul while substitute Richie Vernon grabbed a consolation try for the Sharks.
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