Chris Gash

Any company with more than three salespeople probably needs a sales manager. If the owner is not going to do it, it’s time to consider a manager who will oversee this vital component of your organization. The question is: Do you promote one of your current salespeople or do you bring someone in from the outside? As usual, it depends on who you ask.

Phil Callen, co-owner of Callen Construction, in Muskego, Wis., has had mixed results in the past when he has promoted from within and says that you should be prepared to lose your best sales generator, at least for the short term. “Not only do you lose those sales, but potentially the rest of the team cannot generate enough sales to fill that gap,” Callen says, adding that dollars aren’t the only losses you’ll encounter. “You could also lose salespeople who are used to doing it their way and now have to do it someone else’s way.”

Success from Within

However, Callen was fortunate; he promoted from within and had successful results … this time. In the past, the company had promoted a long-time salesman to sales manager as a reward for tenure, and things did not go as smoothly. “He just didn’t have the qualities of a good sales manager,” Callen says. “Luckily, we figured that out pretty quickly” and he returned to selling full-time.

By contrast, Callen is more than pleased with his current sales manager, another promoted salesman. “He wanted to be a sales manager,” Callen says. “Plus he is very organized, well-read on sales techniques, and willing to share those techniques.”

Callen points out that many salespeople work as if they are running their own business anyway, which should give top management a sense of how that sales rep would perform in the manager role.

Look Outside the Box

Grant Mazmanian, president of Pinnacle Group International, in Media, Pa., says that despite Callen’s recent success, promoting from within is “never a good idea.” After 18 years of working as a sales recruiter in the home improvement industry, Mazmanian says he has only seen a handful of successful promoted sales managers. “[Salespeople] lack the basic components that a sales manager needs: persistence, follow-up, follow-through, organizational skills, and the general category of management,” he explains. “Once they get promoted, they get bored and want to go back out into the field where the action is.”

Mazmanian is a proponent of bringing in somebody new to manage your sales team because most small contracting businesses cannot afford a learning curve. “While the promoted sales manager is cutting his teeth learning how to manage people, sales are going to go down. They always do,” he says. “Bring in a professional who has a track record and a demonstrated history of managing salespeople. They’re coming in fresh, but they have to be accomplished and have some credentials.”

Mazmanian adds that a potential sales manager really only needs about two years of a demonstrated track record because they have already shown that, behaviorally, they like managing others.

—Mark A. Newman, senior editor, REMODELINGcretxbcqrwcrybebutyr.