Often CEOs decide that the best solution is hire inside the company. This is respectable and sometimes a great solution. However make sure you understand what success in the sales manager role looks like before you hire or promote an employee to this position.
Here is the deal… it makes sense to think, moving your top-salesperson to this role would help get the rest of your sales team performing like the top-dog did. Especially since he/she is now running sales and sharing his/her knowledge with the sales team, right?
Why you ask? Well partly because you pulled your top-seller out of the line up. Now depending upon the system and sales process you have in place, this could be a temporary drop in sales or a permanent drop. Keep in mind that although your top-salesperson was great at sales, they may not be great at managing salespeople. There may be a learning curve to get the new sales manager up-to-speed on how to best manage salespeople.
On top of that, how well will the sales team take to the new sales manager? Is there resentment that they now report to the top-dog? Do their selling styles, skills and process sync? Maybe, maybe not. Are they going to like changing their styles, process and learning new different skills or are they stuck in THEIR way of doing things?
Make sure you outline the 3-5 main roles that sales manager will be accountable for. Create a game plan for how the new sales manager will build the sales team, how they will set goals for themself as well as goals for the team, how they will hold the team accountable, what kind of reporting they will need to deliver to leadership (CEO), and an overview of why this is all important. Starting down this path will get you set up properly.
The last recommendation I can make is to clearly outline what the perfect sales manager would look like (don't think people here, think what does the company need in order to hit the bigger goals). Then talk to someone that can help you assess against your criteria, sales manager criteria, and accountability criteria. The right tool and partner here will save you a ton of cash and headaches by not hiring/firing the wrong person (or people). Hiring mistakes are very costly. Worse, if things go poorly and you tried moving the top-salesperson, could you lose this person altogether? What would that cost you?