While the Chief Sales Officer is one of the most critical members of the CEO’s C-Team, many Chief Executives tend only to evaluate the effectiveness of their sales leader on quota attainment. Unfortunately this standard measurement only shows part of the picture when you consider the other ways this key role impacts the company.
Evaluating a CSO beyond quota attainment becomes even more important if you believe you may be heading towards a sales leadership change.
Remember, turnover at the CSO level puts great strain on the organization. It can cause top sales talent to begin looking for other opportunities and also shakes the confidence of other functions around the company. So if there are issues, how does a CEO decide if a sales leader transition is needed? Below are several scenarios that should be considered beyond measuring only plan attainment to help a CEO answer that tough question.
Chasing the RFP
Like a dog chasing cars some sales leaders and their teams try to fill the sales pipeline by focusing almost purely on RFP’s. Often, these opportunities are poorly qualified and a real resource drain on opportunity management teams. Leaning heavily on RFPs also suggests a sales leader more focused on tactics than strategy. Designing and executing a sales strategy based on market sweet spot is far more important than chasing high volume, unqualified deal flow. This poor behavior also leads to the next most likely issue, inaccurate forecasting.
Nothing causes the C-Team to lose confidence in their sales leader like missed sales forecasts. Yes, pipeline slippage does happen for legitimate reasons but if there are continual surprises, and if high probability deals are often lost in the 11th hour, there are probably fundamental flaws with the accuracy and integrity of your pipeline.
In many cases sales reps are too optimistic about an opportunity and their probability scoring reflects that. If your CSO is not knowledgeably involved with the particular client they may not know if the pursuit is really legitimate. That makes it impossible for them to challenge their reps or explain the opportunity to their peers on the C-Team.
An even bigger problem is deals that never appear on the pipeline until they are nearly closed. Loosely managed sales people can be very secretive about their opportunities and refuse to forecast them until just before signing. These situations make it far more difficult for your firm to exceed client expectations since key delivery reviews are often missed during the design process.
Has your firm experienced high, unplanned sales turnover in the last two years? High turnover rates, particularly among A-players, often indicate a sales leadership issue.
Sales teams need their leaders to support them at both client and internal levels. Does your CSO represent the sales team at the executive level? Does he or she tenaciously support the internal sales process that should always drive deals big and small?
If your sales leader spends all their time at HQ in meetings or buried in data they will never be able to impact the most important deals in the field. Sales people that have to do 100% of the internal and external legwork eventually tire of that environment and move on to greener fields.
The best sales leaders know the right balance between the needs of their prospects and the capabilities of their employer; managing that balance is critical to winning the right kind of new business.
Sales leaders cannot allow their sales people to steamroll through internal teams to get the pricing they want or withhold information that could expose the company to unacceptable risk. Some friction between sales and delivery teams is normal, but a sales culture allowed to function by intimidating internal departments and that perpetuates a win at all cost mentality is unacceptable and bad for the company.
Assessing Your Sales Leadership
If you see some of these situations in your existing sales organization then spend time evaluating the causes. Some situations may be easily fixed, whereas others may ultimately require a sales leadership change. While no leader is perfect, you may have a problem if your CSO does not manage the line between aggressively pursuing quota attainment and gauging the impact that effort has on the rest of the company.