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Hiring from Within: The Smart Way to Build an All-Star Sales Bench

The US unemployment rate was sitting at 3.5% earlier this year, the lowest since 1969. But as a result of COVID-19 and the associated furloughs and layoffs, first-time claims for unemployment benefits grew by more than 3,000% between early March and April. 

6 million American workers filed for their first week of unemployment benefits during the last full week of March — a historic high.

One way for companies to avoid layoffs is to hire from within and look for individuals they can take from non-revenue-generating roles and move them into revenue-generating roles like Sales. 

This keeps your high performers on staff while focusing resources on what will help you survive a tough economy, namely a stronger sales force.

How Hiring From Within Can Benefit Your Company

Hiring salespeople from outside an organization is tough. Salespeople have to be determined, driven, engaging and show a sense of helpfulness that creates a sense of trust with potential clients. On top of that, your salespeople need to be extremely well-versed in a company’s platforms, products, and services.

Finding this perfect salesperson can often feel nearly impossible. That’s why, when hiring the next member of your sales team, you should look within.

Hiring sales team members from within isn’t just something we preach at my company, Influence & Co. Every member of our sales team originally worked in other departments at our company. 

That experience in our company ensures they’ve all had time to get a real grasp of what we do for our clients and gain firsthand knowledge of how our services help our clients achieve their goals. This allows them to truly believe in what they’re selling, which is paramount to success in sales.

When salespeople have this institutional knowledge and dedication to the company’s mission, it can have a huge impact on the business in multiple areas. 

There are 3 main benefits that hiring from within can have on your company. Let’s dive a little deeper into each one.

1. Build a Passionate, Knowledgeable Team of High Performers

The highest performing salesperson on our team has been with the company for over six years. He previously served clients as a member of our account services team. 

The time he spent working with clients in that capacity has resulted in deep knowledge and a passion that he passes along to potential new clients. This leads to more successful partnerships. 

Expertise and passion are qualities that an externally hired sales rep often need several months, if not years, to fully acquire.

Because our sales team is composed of people who have worked in other departments within our company, team members have had more time to learn the ins and outs of our industry, our clients’ pain points, and our service offerings.

Don’t let the learning stop once you have company veterans on your sales team. Have your marketing team create sales enablement content to equip your salespeople with content and training they can use to nurture leads. It’s also helpful to have salespeople shadow other roles periodically so they can get an up-close look at how your company’s offerings are delivered and the value customers are seeing as a result.

Keep your salespeople up-to-date with what’s happening in your organization. Send regular updates to them, letting them in on product and service updates, changes to the process, and adjustments to the way the company would like its products and services to be positioned. 

2. Alleviate Some Employee Recruitment and Retention Pain Points

Many companies aren’t in a position right now to hire externally. So, if a high-performing employee has asked to learn new skills or expressed the desire to venture into sales, be willing to provide that training to keep the employee engaged. 

By filling a sales position with an internal hire, you are choosing a candidate who you know and trust. It also provides that individual with professional growth and fulfillment — a true win-win.

An account manager at our company once approached our director of sales regarding an inbound sales position we had opened up. She believed that her skills would be put to better use on the sales team instead of the account services team. 

We took her up on her suggestion. It boosted her career satisfaction and allowed us to retain a high-performing employee. Since that career shift, she’s been a tremendous asset to our sales team and consistently closes valuable new business for us.

When considering an internal team member for a sales position, take a close look at the person’s skills and how they might transfer to sales. 

Is the employee friendly, polite, and a good communicator, both verbally and in writing? Internally motivated? Able to put themself in others’ shoes and consider things from that perspective when trying to find solutions to problems? 

These are important transferable skills that you can identify in your team members no matter what role they’re in now.

3. Create a Better Sales Experience for Your Leads

When sales reps are passionate, know their stuff, and truly stand behind what they’re selling, they don’t need to rely on sleazy sales pitches to drive their conversations. 

Hiring from within ensures this by arming members of your sales team with the institutional knowledge they need to approach the sales process in a way that speaks the language of the leads they’re talking to.

Instead of a script or a templated approach that comes off as rushed and overly eager, the reps you hire from within can take their time and rely on their personal knowledge and experiences to drive their conversations. 

They don’t often need to refer to other departments to answer questions, and they can discuss the process and inner workings of the partnership with accuracy and enthusiasm. 

This might lead to a slower sales process, but it keeps the process authentic and genuine. It builds trust with leads. Plus, in our experience, a longer sales process creates a more knowledgeable lead, which tends to result in a longer client relationship.

Dos and Don’ts

When considering internal hiring, just keep a few do’s and don’ts in mind.

Do look at any strengths of your team members that could be transferable to sales. These could include intrinsic motivation, good communication skills, organization, and empathy.

Do let your team members decide whether they want to transfer departments. If someone isn’t looking for a new challenge, he or she probably isn’t going to thrive in a new role.

Don’t overlook the importance of reskilling and training, even for internal hires. The employee who’s transferring departments will feel much more confident and capable if they get solid training — and you will probably see better results as well.

Right now, with the economy and job market so unpredictable, building an all-star sales bench and keeping your high-performing employees around is harder than ever. If you want a more engaged workforce and a more effective, authentic sales process, hiring sales reps from within is your key to success.

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