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Use External ID for lookup field instead of SalesForce ID

Forgive me if this question has been answered already, but I don't believe I have been able to find a definitive answer to my question.

On my Account object in SalesForce, I have a field that is coming from our production system, which is called SLSPERSON.

The field in our production system is a foreign key on a SLSPERSON table, for example.

So, in SalesForce I also have an SLSPERSON object which has an ID field that is an autonumber. Obviously I have populated this object from our production table. But now when I try to insert Accounts with the ID of the SLSPERSON record from our production database in the SLSPERSON field of the Accuont record, it is telling me it is a malformed ID.

Presumably, this is because it expects the SLSPERSON field of the Accuont record to be a SalesForce ID.

I've made the ID field on the SLSPERSON custom object an External ID field. Should I not be able to use the External ID instead of the SalesForce ID in the SLSPERSON field on my Account object?
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