Promoting from within sounds logical. There are many really compelling reasons:

  • They know your product.
  • They know your people.
  • You know they kick butt at selling your product.

It makes so much sense in theory: the people best suited to lead your department are the ones who excelled in that department's functions.

Unfortunately, this is just theory.

Promoting one of your best salespeople into a leadership role isn't always the best idea. You can do serious damage to your team--and even your business--by assuming your top salespeople will be your best managers.

I learned this the hard way at my business, WordStream.

Here are four serious risks of promoting your best salespeople into management roles.

1. Great Salespeople Can Fail As Managers

I've watched many stellar salespeople fall down as leaders. How is this even possible?

Well, think of it like this. Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Yet when he tried to become a big-time rapper, he failed miserably. Remember K.O.B.E.?

The lesson is simple: someone might be a superstar when it comes to sales or basketball, but that person can also fail spectacularly, whether it's as a manager or as a hip-hop musician.

2. You Lose One Of Your Best Salespeople

One of the biggest problems you'll discover is that when you place a salesperson into a management role, you are losing a great salesperson. That means less sales, revenue, and profits.

Granted, there is a possibility that your salespeople might take a management role at another company if you don't promote them. However, unless you're confident in their ability to transition from leading the pack to being a leader, then at least you'll have lost a salesperson without doing any damage to your company.

3. Transitioning From Salesperson to Manager Isn't Easy

Making the transition from salesperson to manager is challenging. You can't assume that just because someone is extremely adept at managing client relationships that they will instantly become great team managers, too.

Sometimes, the people you promote won't thrive in their new position. They won't be able to inspire or train others to replicate their previously above average sales performance.

Management skills are more complex than just having good people skills. The ability to sell a product you're passionate about externally doesn't necessarily translate to selling ideas, concepts, and process internally.

4. Loyalty Has Risks

Most employees want to know there's some growth opportunity for them in your company. They want to see progression in their career. There has to be a ladder there for them to climb.

However, rewarding loyalty doesn't equate with business success. You should hire the most talented or experienced person for a management role, not the most loyal person.

Even great managers can't keep the best employees. However, should you choose to pass over your salesperson and hire from the outside, there are plenty of ways you can choose to inspire loyal employees.


Although this article focused on the dangers of promoting from within, I don't want to give the wrong impression. Not all salespeople will fail!

In fact, great salespeople can become spectacular managers. But if you want to successfully promote from within, then you'll need to set up your new managers for success