Just Hired a New Head of Sales? Here’s What Your CSO Needs to Succeed.


So what happens now?


Do you throw your new CSO to the wolves?


Of course not. But that’s what you’re doing, in effect, if your onboarding is inadequate. HR leaders who don’t properly onboard new sales leaders are all but guaranteeing two things. First, a poorly assimilated CSO; second, a painfully slow ramp to productivity.


Today, we’ll discuss what a top-notch CSO onboarding program involves. And we’ll explain what you need to do to execute successfully.


You’ve just recruited a world-class Chief Sales Officer but your job isn’t over yet…


With So Much at Stake, Onboarding Is Critical.

A new hire is a new hire, period. Even veteran A-Players need to be primed for success. When it comes to the C-Suite, the cost of inadequate onboarding is unacceptably high. The purpose of a CSO onboarding program is threefold.


It Speeds Cultural Alignment.

Cultural attributes, priorities, and values must be understood and shared by all company leaders. Proper onboarding brings new CSOs into alignment.


It Introduces Key Players.

To transition smoothly and rapidly, new CSOs must understand their fellow C-Suite leaders. Specifically, their personalities, functions, and motivations.


It Provides Important Resources.

Having the right industry contacts and tools enables CSOs to succeed in their new role. And, more broadly, to continue their professional development.


3 Components Your Program Must Include:

No handbook can prepare a new CSO for everything he or she will encounter. A comprehensive, well-rounded onboarding program uses these complementary approaches.  


  1. Knowledge
    Goal: Comprehension
    This is straightforward learning—a leadership curriculum composed of content, organizational primers, and courseware. The CSO will come away with an understanding of the company, market, processes, offerings, etc.


  2. Activities
    Goals: Competence, Cadence
    The CSO will be required to perform key tasks at appropriate times. These controlled scenarios will facilitate learning while identifying coaching needs. Three major focus areas: selling skills, team management, personal/interpersonal.


  3. Enculturation
    Goal: Cohesion
    A combination of specially designed knowledge and activities will highlight the company culture. It will also provide opportunities for the new CSO to fully participate and engage.


3 Best Practices for Best Results

Plan design and execution require careful thought and planning. Not to mention an “all in” mentality on the part of everyone involved. 


  • Create a New Plan. A sales rep onboarding program won’t cut it. You must design from scratch, with plenty of input from peer executives and sales subordinates.
  • Create It in Advance. The CSO onboarding plan should be created and approved before the candidate is hired. In fact, a strong onboarding program helps with recruiting top talent. (A-Players appreciate the importance of starting off on the right foot.)
  • Assign Ownership Roles. Your plan should name the person responsible for each facet of the program. Every peer executive should be involved. The CEO is ultimately accountable for onboarding success.


Remember, the CSO’s success begins with you.

Like most HR leaders, you take your C-Suite hiring practices seriously. The caliber of your new CSO is a testament to your insight and dedication. 


Equally important is the investment you make in onboarding. Your CSO’s long-term success depends on what happens right out of the gate. The entire C-Suite must share in the responsibility and support the mission. That’s how you’ll achieve onboarding success by the CSO’s standards, your executive team’s, and yours.


Mike Drapeau

Makes data and analysis come alive so clients can understand the “what” and “why” and design solutions that fit the environment.
Learn more about Mike Drapeau >

Once the leader of SBI Delivery, Mike is now head of the firm’s internal talent development, so he has had the fortune to help some amazing sales and marketing leaders. He starts by earning their trust. Much of this comes from his deep base of experience. With more than 25 years in sales, sales management, pre-sales and sales operations, he’s never met a challenge he didn’t like. And with backgrounds in sales leadership, marketing, and sales operations, he shuns the idea of being a desk jockey and relishes the idea of living in the field.


Mike maintains, develops, and leverages SBI’s library of emerging best practices for sales and marketing, which leads to evidence-based solutions, custom-fit to each client. Maniacally focused on execution, Mike does not believe in giving clients fancy deliverables with no operational details. He knows that field adoption is key. After all, if behavior doesn’t change, the lift doesn’t come. Likewise, if those closest to the field adopt the solution, the client wins.

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