Internal Leadership Promotions: When They Work and When They Don’t

As the leader of a high-growth, scaling sales team, you expect only the best results from your sales team managers and reps. During this period of rapid growth and expansion of your organization, the time will come where the expansion of your sales team is crucial to keep up with the demands of increased qualified prospects that are being funneled by the marketing department towards your key sales reps.

On top of reps, the modern sales team consists of many positions of leadership, each of which is unique in its functioning and necessity as your organization grows and scales. When the demand to bring on more managers comes, sales leaders are often caught between a rock and a hard place.

Should you be promoting your best sales reps into management positions, or are they better off staying in their positions and maintaining their high close rates? Does it really pay off to nurture existing reps until they’re ready for management positions? Is the risk of hiring a sales manager from the outside worth the investment? Research shows that it may not be, with research concluding that external hires get paid more, but have significantly lower marks in their performance reviews over the first two years on a job.

In this post, we’re going to examine the pros and cons of promoting from within your sales team versus hiring an experienced sales manager from external talent.

The Skills Necessary for Success as a Sales Leader

The first step in deciding who your next sales-related manager will be is to determine the qualities that make up an excellent, forward-thinking sales leader. There are two key skill areas that all sales leaders must demonstrate in order to create a successful, streamlined sales team.

The Traits of a Leader: The traits that create a leader vary from the traits apparent in successful sales reps. As you’re beginning your search for your candidate for promotion, keep an eye out for sales reps who are already seen as “leaders” within their individual sales team.

Often, these individuals are approached by their sales peers for advice on the sales process, or guidance with a difficult prospect. Take time to view how they deal with these interactions, and if they seem to be able to manage their stressors on top of their peer’s issues.

Experience: Any sales leader must showcase a detailed and complete knowledge of the service or product your organization provides, paired with curiosity to research targeted industries, potential clients, and buyer personas.

Within the modern sales organization, experience in utilizing technology to communicate with your peers and other departments is necessary for alignment and efficient sales processes.

Promoting Talent from Within the Sales Team

Promoting sales talent from within your company is dependant on the situation that your organization finds itself in. However, it should be noted that external hires can cost you big time, as research shows that external hires make 18-20% more than internal talent promoted into similar roles.

The transitional process from sales rep to sales leader isn’t as easy as you may initially believe, as the traits which define an incredible sales rep don’t necessary transfer into a well-rounded sales leader.

But if you do notice the two key leadership traits in one of your sales reps, it’s recommended that they have at least one and a half to two years of observable, trackable performance data and reviews. Through reviewing a rep’s experience and performance reviews over this time, sales leaders will be able to see if the candidate is equipped with the traits and skills necessary to successfully carry out leadership tasks, such as coaching, guidance, and hands-on training.

During this time, your sales team is often discovering it’s own culture, and generating processes that drive better results. When an external hire is brought into a leadership position, this culture may be affected, or the performance of the team may decline as they work to inform a new hire about the technology used within the sales org, prospect information, and the sales process itself.

Target High-Performing Reps with Performance Data

No matter whether you choose to hire your next sales leader internally or externally, proper technology integration and onboarding processes are key for a successful transfer into a role.

If hiring internally is the best route of action for the state of your organization and the leadership role that needs to be filled, utilizing metrics and data through quality technology will allow you to view the strengths, weaknesses, and habits of your existing sales team.

People.ai: This Artificial Intelligence (AI) based tech allows for the coaching of reps to be automated, allowing sales leaders to see exactly how each rep is spending their time, and the personalized feedback provided to streamline their sales practices for success.

InsightSquared: Equipped with the ability to provide sales leaders with the KPI’s you want to track within your prospect sales reps, InsightSquared is the perfect platform for executives to view in-depth analysis’ of sales performance.

When to Bring In External Leaders

Hiring externally comes with it’s own risks and rewards. On top of lower performance reviews over the first two years, external hires were 61% more likely to be fired from their new roles than internally-promoted talent.

Within young companies experiencing rapid-growth, bringing external hires into leadership roles where they’re leading hires who are just as new to an organization poses a specific threat to the development of sales processes and generation of revenues.

There are many situations where bringing in external talent can benefit your organization, and the sales team that they will be leading. If your organization is in the midst of thorough strategy changes or adaptations to tough markets, an external hire can bring in a new and necessary skill-set and previous experiences that may be relevant to the situation your business is experiencing. These portable skills fit well into more technical, strategy-focused positions such as:

  • Sales Operations Managers
  • Sales Enablement Coordinators
  • Sales Onboarding and Training Professionals

Regardless of your choice to promote your next sales management superstart internally or externally, the ability to grow your company is a sure sign of growth and forward-motion.

Are you a sales leader curious about how you can create a structured and successful sales team through efficient hiring and onboarding? Download our free ebook, Hiring Superior Salespeople.

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