Your organization’s top priority is hiring a Sales Manager. Should you promote from within or launch an external search? Most organizations choose to promote their Superstar Sales Person. Hiring a sales manager from within is tempting for the individual because of the financial and professional benefits of a promotion. For the organization,  replicating their superstar salesperson’s proven success is attractive. Unfortunately, this is not always the wisest choice.

Your Superstar Salesperson may possess the drive, skills, and experience needed to close the deal. However, a Sales Manager role is an entirely different animal and requires a vastly different skill set than the individual contributor role. Internal promotion may be the worst decision you could make for both parties. Additionally, your sales force and the company may benefit from the fresh perspective and influx of new ideas from an outside sales Manager.

To make the best decision, understanding the pros and cons of hiring a sales manager is key.

Hiring a Sales Manager from Within

Your superstar sales person has proven herself!

PRO ~ Proven Track Record

Your superstar saleswoman is a proven success. Clearly, she understands your company’s product/service and has mastered how to communicate the value proposition to the client. This knowledge and experience allows her to build a sales team with similar skills, experience, and salesmanship. In addition, “internal candidates have a strong knowledge of our culture, processes [and] methodologies, and have many relationships throughout the organization,” states Larry Nash, the Pittsburgh-based director of experienced and executive recruiting for EY.

PRO ~ Corporate Message

Hiring a Sales Manager from within has many unique and powerful benefits. Promoting from within demonstrates the company’s commitment to rewarding hard work and consistent revenue generation. Additionally, developing a sales management training program shows the company is invested in your success. Ultimately, this benefits the company as well. “Companies that support sales manager development saw a 14% advantage in exceeding sales objectives over companies that did not.”

CON~ Benching Your MVP

Hiring a Sales Manager from within inevitably cuts, and possibly eliminates, her time in the field. As a Sales Manager, she will be removed from her customer-centric role in which she clearly thrived. Unfortunately, she is now a coach rather than a superstar hitter.

CON ~ Unclear Succession

The gap between your #1 and #2 players may be significant. Your MVP is relegated to a sideline manager. Is there another MVP ready to take her place and continue driving the company’s incredible growth.

UNKNOWN ~ Does successful salesmanship translate to successful leadership?

The ability to sell well does not guarantee she will lead well. Many of the skills that make a successful salesperson are the traits you find in top notch leadership- drive, determination, working with others, listening to, and meeting needs. The chameleon-like nature of sales can be a big turnoff to a sales team looking for direction. In addition, data from Sales Management Association’s Top Sales Managers Report indicated that, although 96% of firms rely on internal promotions to staff sales management positions, less than 50% of firms consider themselves proficient at it.


PRO ~ Fresh Ideas and Perspective

Successful companies grow in sales and complexity. New skill sets and business acumen are required to avoid stagnation. External hires can offer a boost to the internal culture, allowing companies to break out of the risky “groupthink” dynamic plaguing many mature businesses.

PRO ~ Larger Candidate Pool

Ultimately, companies want to hire the best Sales Manager. By casting a wider net and including external candidates, hiring managers will attract a diverse pool of potential hires who bring skills and experiences they might not have considered had they simply promoted from within.

CON ~ External Hires Cost More and Score Lower

According to Wharton Professor, Matthew Bidwell, external hires typically have less tenure in the role for which they are hired and receive vastly lower performance ratings than their internal counterparts. This leads to a 16% higher termination rate. Furthermore, external hires cost more. On average, they are paid 18-20% more than an internal employee for the same position.

CON ~ The Learning Curve

Hiring a Sales Manager externally often follows an uptick in success. The company is growing, revenue is increasing, and solid leadership can ensure that trajectory. Therefore, external hiring can be dangerous because of the “ramp up” time required for any new employee. In fact, 57% of executives indicated it took up to six months or more to reach full impact of their new role. During this time, your sales team will lose their successful momentum.

UNKNOWN ~ Team Impact

Sales Managers must direct the existing team. This can cause serious disruption to the current environment if he or she ushers in new protocols and procedures or has an opposing leadership style. If the current team is successfully closing deals and works well together, is this a risk you’re willing to take?

Identifying and hiring high-quality leadership to ensure continued growth and take revenues to the next level is a challenge. Good candidates are found anywhere. Success is dependent completely on the merits and ability of the individual to transition to a management role.  Ultimately, hiring managers should be looking for the best candidate, internal and external, to meet the unique needs of their company, its goals, and its existing team.

Hiring/Executive Recruiting