When it comes time to choose a new sales manager one of the topics most discussed and considered is whether to hire internally or go outside.
On the one hand, companies need to provide a career path for their employees. Most companies have team leaders or salespeople who aspire to leading and managing teams of their own. Addressing those motivations and maintaining seniority or meritocracy are valid considerations. On the other hand, companies often feel the need to hire from outside to acquire a certain skillset and experience that is not immediately available within.
The most heated discussion happens when a successful salesperson aspires to or is about to be promoted into management. There is plenty of literature out there warning against hiring the best salesperson into a leadership role – and let’s be frank many do not do it simply because they do not want to lose the wins the salesperson brings in. There are also plenty of reasons (like career paths, motivation, respect, keeping knowledge and expertise from walking out of the door) to promote the person from within.
Personally, I have both been promoted from within and been hired into an organization as a manager. At times it was a difficult transition, but it worked out at the end. Having said that, hindsight is 20/20.
Salespeople, very successful ones anyway, are tireless, motivated, single-minded, hungry and do not give up. Not every salesperson on every team answers perfectly to that description. As I have written often a decent manager is flexible, sees and understand diversity and gives plenty of room to making the circle whole by responding to different direct reports’ needs and aspirations.
Will a single-minded salesperson make that transition into a successful sales manager? Maybe and maybe not. Then again, it is hardly guaranteed that an outside person would be a successful hire. Rule of thumb remains: hire a good proportion from within and supplement it at all times with fresh blood to allow the latest and greatest seep into the department from outside.
Back to the internal promotion however. This new manager may be operating at two extremes with his or her new team. At the one end is choking the team with micromanagement and pressure. Experience (correctly) tells the new manager that hard work and intensity pay off. The manager demands to see that from the team. At the other end, the manager gives the team too much leeway and operates too often on faith. After all, the salesperson was self-motivated and went out there and made things happen. It would not be strange to expect that the sales team would act in the same way.
Again and again, we come back to keeping an open mind, understanding people and being flexible in approaching different people on the team in unique and personalized manners. That is the reality of sales teams and the material any manager must work with.
By the way, there is no other way. The sales team is now responsible for selling. The manager will be consulted and brought in. The manager will inspect and advise. The manager will become an escalation point and shoulder to cry on, but at the end of the day the manager cannot be the one doing the selling and must let go of the act of leading the sale to customers. It is obviously imperative that the manager quickly figure out what the motley of characters and personalities on the team need to make it happen.
*Things That Need To Go Away: not helping by putting them in the wrong position.