Updated: Sep 16
Published on September 11, 2023
Any business executive who has hired the wrong sales leader knows how detrimental it is to your business. The process of finding or replacing a sales leader can be a perilous journey fraught with multiple risks to the organization.
Those about to embark on hiring their first sales leader are wise to recognize the importance of getting it right with such a critical role, but often aren’t aware of the pitfalls to avoid.
We’ve worked alongside 100s of small and mid-sized business executives to help them understand the right position scope, timing, and skill requirements that are imperative in putting their sales leader on solid footing for success.
In this article, you’ll learn why even the best sales leader hire is only part of the success equation. Gain the following insights before you take action on your next sales hire:
Why two different sales leadership roles are needed to achieve long-term, sustainable growth
What is takes to transform into a high-performance sales organization
Symptoms that indicate gaps in your current sales system are causing underperformance
Staffing for The Right Skill Set at The Right Time
Hiring a sales leader might seem like a guaranteed way to accelerate revenue growth, but without the right sales strategy, system and structure in place, even the most skilled can flounder. Tasking your new sales leader to execute on a fundamentally flawed sales system is a pitfall that can be avoided.
In small and mid-sized business settings, there is typically only justification for one sales leader on-staff. That creates a quandary for top executives to determine what skill sets to hire for given the broad scope of sales leadership expertise that is needed at various stages of growth.
Let’s review the two very different sales leadership roles that are necessary to transform and operate a sales department at high-performance level.
VICE PRESIDENT SALES - THE BUILDER
Background: Executive Sales Leadership
Focus: Strategy development and People/Process/Systems optimization
Skill Set: Strategic Planning, Infrastructure Design & Implementation
Represented as Phase 1-2b in Sales Org. Transformation Process below
SALES MANAGER - THE OPERATOR
Background: “In the trenches” Sales Management
Focus: Tactical Execution, Sales Skill development, Nurture Sales Culture
Skill Set: Sales Expert, Trainer & Coach, Career Path Planning
Represented as Phase 3-4 in Sales Org. Transformation Process below
As outlined in my illustration, the VP Sales role paves the way with executive-level expertise to establish a best practice sales platform during Phases 1-2. While these activities only make up 33% of the transformation process, they are foundational in enabling high performance sales results.
The right resource for this role should have a track record of successfully revamping sales teams – not just once, but multiple times, across various industries.
The Sales Manager role has an entirely different purpose – to drive adoption of the Sales System and create a sales culture of high-performance and accountability. They provide sales skill development training and coaching and have a guiding hand on career path mapping that fosters sales rep retention.
Remember, a Sales Manager is not a magical solution to underlying systemic issues; they are catalyst that drives growth by effectively employing a well-oiled sales system.
So, before you bring in a new sales leader, make sure you have clarity on the readiness of your Sales System that is key to putting the Sales Manager on a solid footing.
When the Sales System requires fixing, small and mid-sized companies benefit by involving an interim VP Sales resource for the short-term analysis, design and build phase. These companies typically don’t have the large-scale strategic planning and implementation requirements found in larger, well-resourced corporate settings.
Once the Sales System is complete, a highly skilled Sales Manager is the ideal long-term resource to drive growth. This role requires full-time focus, attention, and integration into the organization to achieve long-term objectives.
How Do You Know if Your Sales System Needs Fixing?
Having someone who truly understands how to assess the intricacies of a sales organization is crucial when it comes to gauging your sales system readiness for heightened growth.
This is the purpose of Phase 1 within my High-Performance Sales Organization Transformation Process - Discovery & Gap Analysis.
You may find only small adjustments are needed to establish a solid platform for your next sales leader to drive the growth you are looking for. However, often, there are sizable gaps lurking under the surface that derail or dramatically slow down even the most promising hires.
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, engaging in my gap analysis process will save you insurmountable time, money and headache in the long run.
No defined, proactive sales effort
High sales rep turn-over
Cannot find “the right” salesperson
Sales pipeline not full enough
Difficulty competing on value and resorting to leading with price
Sales compensation plan is not driving desired behaviors or results
… and the list goes on
The Value of an Experienced Guide
Whatever stage you’re at when you determine it’s time to hire a dedicated sales leader, having a Fractional VP Sales veteran come alongside you as a guide can be extremely helpful.
Working with a seasoned professional not only guarantees that you’ll be able to attract and secure the right sales leader for your team, but also ensures that your organization is equipped with the necessary strategy, systems, and structure for them to excel.
Setting up your new sales leader for success isn't just an investment in their success - it's an investment in your company’s future.
Replacing a sales leader can cost a company between 1.5 to 2 times the leader's annual salary, plus indirect costs such as lost sales and productivity.
Ensuring that your sales leader has a strong foundation to start with, a thorough understanding of the company's goals, and the tools necessary to achieve them, is paramount.
If you’d like to discuss the improvement you’re looking for in your business through your next sales leader hire, contact me through any of these methods: email@example.com or fill out our Contact Us form.
We are part of a national group of Senior Sales Leaders who collaborate to share insights like the examples shown in this article. We formed because of our shared passion to help business leaders exponentially grow their revenue.