Benefits from Hiring Sales Leaders from Outside the Industry

When faced with the need to hire a new sales manager, it is natural to consider looking within the industry.

However, there is compelling data to suggest that bringing in a sales manager from outside the industry can provide additional benefits.

  • The sales and marketing functions are diverse and decentralized. If the company’s go-to-market strategy includes inside, outside, and direct sales, for example, the new sales manager must understand not only each pipeline, but also how they interact and support each other. The new manager should bring not only sales acumen, but also the ability to coordinate sales channels.
  • The sales force is composed of highly competitive veterans. Salespeople who are ensconced in the company likely have absorbed all the current training and have incorporated all the “tricks of the trade.” They will be eager to learn outside techniques that will give them an edge. Hiring a sales manager from outside the company provides an opportunity to expose the team to sales practices from outside the company, maybe even from outside the industry.
  • Internal candidates lack management skills. Effective sales management requires different skills than those used in closing deals. Someone who excels at hitting his numbers and making presentations may not necessarily be good at coaching, nurturing, and holding other reps accountable. In fact, taking your top producer out of the field and promoting him into a management role could result in lower overall production by the sales team, which suddenly finds itself without its pacesetter.
  • The sales environment would make adjustment difficult. Oftentimes even the best salespeople find it difficult to make the transition from peer to boss. Moving from “one of us” to “one of them” can engender hard feelings among the salespeople the newly promoted manager now oversees. Discipline, morale, adherence to procedure, documentation, and other aspects of the sales process may suffer.
  • It’s time for a change. More than simply bringing new ideas and “new blood” to the organization, a new sales manager can establish new processes and organization. For instance, the company may wish to adopt a more formal use of forecasting and customer management. An outside hire often is more effective at managing change. Someone promoted from the sales ranks, who has been using the old system effectively, may drag his feet on change and fail to exhibit leadership to obtain buy-in.
  • On a grander scale, strategic shift – say from a focus on farming to hunting – may be better led by someone without departmental biases.
  • Hiring a sales manager from outside the company infuses the organization with fresh viewpoints, innovative techniques, and the chance to align sales with business strategy. A growing company can use the transition to a new sales manager as a gateway to obtaining skills and knowledge that will complement and synergize their sales activities.

Ann Zaslow- Rethaber is President of International Search Consultants, a leader in Executive Search since 1999. Please reach out to ISC ‘s recruiting teams for any recruitment needs in the following 5 areas of focus: Sales Recruiters, Financial Services Recruiters, Healthcare (non-clinical), Human Resources, & Construction Leadership Recruiters.

You can reach the author directly at or via phone at 888-866-7276.

Kara Onorato is ISC’s Team Lead for Software Sales Recruiting, and can be reached via e-mail at or direct dial at 877-316-6249