Oct 032011

Sales Leader: Is Your Sales Leader on Afterburner or in the Ejection Seat?

Sales Leader: By Dan Hudson, 3forward.com, 9/29/11, via Smart Brief on Sales, smart brief.com

Several recent sales benchmark reports indicate that the current average tenure for a chief sales officer in complex B2B sales has fallen to between 16 and 22 months.  Even worse, that trend continues downward!  When you stop and consider the timelines to onboard and allow the new sales leader to become productive you realize some never even had the chance to be successful.

Is Your Sales Leader Failing or Are You Failing Your Sales Leader?

Your new sales leader is trying to learn company culture, fix sales process issues and manage the sales team.   Meanwhile, continuous pressure is applied to “make the number.”  Something has to slip so sales leaders often shift more and more time to working deals and less time on long term fixes like developing the sales team, recruiting to replace low performers, and addressing process issues.

The year progresses and should it appear the “number” is in jeopardy then short term strategies are often implemented to reduce expense to make the bottom line number.  Expense reductions often impact the sale organization in the form of headcount and resource cuts.

Now heading into the last quarter you start to wonder if you picked the wrong sales leader.  It’s possible you even begin the dreaded search for your next CSO.  As a CEO how can you end this revolving door process, bring continuity to your sales organization and achieve the results you and the Board expect?

Set an Ambitious Yet Reasonable First Year Plan

Prioritize all the organizational things your new sales leader must achieve in their first year, while also driving the team to make the number.  Make sure everyone agrees on both the structural and financial goals.  Here are a few to consider.

1. Assess the Sales Team and Review the Opportunity Pipeline

When a new leader comes into position most have to play cards already dealt to them.  The have a sales bench that may or may not be at full strength.  At best they may have a few Sales Rainmakers along with the average reps and low performers. The sales pipeline probably contains both qualified and (often) lots of unqualified opportunities.  All of which must be assessed to determine if a pipeline gap exists.

2. Optimize Sales Process and Lead Management

The sales leader must also quickly determine if sales processes are capable of supporting the required opportunity deal volume and velocity.  The sales leader must investigate if existing lead generation activities are sufficient to continuously provide the quantity of qualified leads needed to keep the sales organization fully loaded with sales-ready opportunities.

3. Integrate/Change the Company’s Sales Culture

New chief sales officer are often tasked with being a change agent.  A goal much easier said than done in many companies.   Organizational layers, complexity and politics have broken the backs of many otherwise very capable leaders and top executives.   It’s a delicate balance for a new executive to drive change without alienating too many of the people they also must count on to help make the changes a reality.

Success Takes Time

The above activities can’t happen in a few days (probably not even a few months), and by the time the new sales leader determines the investments needed for success they are possibly already into their second sales year.  When you consider that most complex B2B selling cycles are measured in months and quarters, you see why so many sales leaders appear to fail even when they are making the right moves.

How CEOs Can Raise the Odds for Sales Success

sales leader




Tom McDonald, tsm@centurytel.net; 608-788-5144; Skype: tsmw5752

sales leader, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC