Sales leaders have some of the shortest tenures of any positions in the business world. In fact, most research will show that the average tenure of a sales leader is right around two years, give or take a couple months. This is such an important role in the organization and is most often tightly linked to overall growth of the company. Why do people struggle with making this critical hire? There are three big reasons that we see:
This is probably the biggest reason. We hear CEOs and business leaders talk all the time about hiring “an experienced leader, preferably from the industry, that has a good track record of growing sales and managing teams.” Some executives even look to see if the candidates are strong sellers themselves because they need to be a strong seller to model good selling for their team. If that is your only criteria, then you should pull this blog out again in two years and read it again when you are ready to make your next sales leader hire. The fact of the matter is that not all sales leaders are the same. Before starting the interview process, consider some of these things (this is a partial list):
Keep in mind that all of the leaders described above could be “experienced sales leaders from my industry” but they possess very different skills.
This is probably the #1 reason that we see sales leader get fired. There is a poor communication between CEO and sales leader. This is not all on them by the way. Sometimes CEOs are not clear on their expectations which makes it very hard for the sales leaders to live up to those expectations. Or, the CEO’s expectations of their leader changes over time, but they don’t talk about it. On the flip side, I’ve seen sales leader who have a great plan, good processes in place, drive great accountability and are good coaches, but they don’t tell their boss at all about all the cool things they are doing. They say things like “He/she doesn’t need to be concerned about that.” What a great formula for problems. Soon the CEO doesn’t see those things and questions the competence of the sales leader. We highly recommend a formal, structured sit-down between CEO and sales leader every week.
Sometimes, the CEO/Owner is just impatient. Sales may not be where he/she wants them to be and it’s been that way for five years. But, the new sales leader has been there for 12 months and although the sales pipeline is building nicely, the results are not dramatically different. That’s because the sale cycle is 9-12 months long and all the good things the sales leader has been doing is just starting to kick in. But, we don’t wait for them. Instead we make a change and start the process all over again.
These are just a few of the things to consider when hiring your next sales leader. If you would like to chat more about your specific scenario, we would love to talk to you and help you make a better decision this time around.