We have interviewed and discussed the top Sales Leader role with hundreds of CEOs. In this blog, we will discuss the key qualities that make SVP/CSO candidates stand out in the minds of CEOs. 


Learn how John Gleason, Alex Shootman, and Greg Nelson landed the top sales leader job by downloading the Sales VP guide to Success.


What happens if you don’t market yourself?

If you are happy retiring in the position you currently hold, stop reading now.  You are wasting your time.  If you don’t want to see your peers pass you by, keep reading and focus on the steps below.


Are you betting on succeeding due to a fair interview process?  If so, you are assuming each interviewer will be able to suspend their personal biases and motivations as well.  Not likely. RFPs are seldom conducted on a level playing field, nor are sales leader searches.  Enter the process with an unfair advantage. 


How has hiring changed?

Most job descriptions list requirements such as: great communication skills, customer service, and proven leadership skills. What do these mean? The truth is, when you get to the executive level these skills are expected.  They are the absolute minimum requirement. Almost 60% of the customer buying decision is made before a customer interacts with a sales rep. This is driven by the wealth of information available to customers today. The same is true with hiring for an executive level sales role. So what makes a candidate stand out to a CEO before there is ever a face-to-face interaction? First, think about yourself from a 3rd party perspective.


Sales Leader Promotion


Market Yourself:

You are a product.  Your skills are product features.   When a CEO is looking to fill the next SVP/CSO job they are looking for the best product with the features required to hit their own personal objectives.  Here are five ways to market your product so CEOs will come looking for you. 


  1. Build your Personal Brand – You should be considered a thought leader among your peers.  How do you know if you are?  Your peers call you when they need strategic guidance.  Imagine interviewing with a CEO that reads your blog or Chatter post every day and implements your ideas.  Use all the available channels to communicate with your peers.  Examples:  LinkedIn, Blog, Twitter, Chatter.
  2. Find & Promote Talent – Nothing speaks to your effectiveness as a sales leader more than the talent you have promoted into leadership roles.  They are walking billboards advertising your abilities.  During our annual market research, we learned that a firm’s talent level is one of the primary reasons CEOs can’t sleep at night.  Give them some rest by articulating why you know how to hire and advance talent.  Develop a World Class Talent Management process.
  3. Take a Strong Stance – “Yes men” are able to hide in middle management roles in corporate America.  Successful SVPs/CSOs are willing to take a contrarian point of view when they believe it is correct.  CEOs are looking for someone with vision who is willing to go against the grain.
  4. Consistent Performance – This is not just about making the number.  I am referring to outperforming your peer group on a consistent basis.  Making your number isn’t enough.
  5. Show you’re a Builder and not a Follower – Have you taken over established teams and maintained performance, or have you built teams and created performance where it didn’t exist?  There are plenty of VPs who can execute the plan and get good results.  Prove that you can create the roadmap versus following it.


“All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”  – Tom Peters in Fast Company


How do you know if you are effectively marketing yourself?

How often are you being contacted for the next big job? Out of those contacts, are most of them recruiters? Conversely, are your peers referring you for bigger roles?  Are CEOs reaching out to you directly?  The last two are good indicators that you are properly marketing yourself. 


Call to Action:

The following three activities will help build your brand, expand your network, and market yourself to the CEO. 


1. Read this blog by Eloqua on Personal Branding


2. Increase Your Personal Reach – Set aside time each week to add more connections on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook


3. Read this book by the founder of LinkedIn – Reid Hoffman



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Scott Gruher




Scott Gruher

Orchestrates and designs the perfect project strategy, one engagement at a time, to ensure that every SBI client makes their number.

Scott joined SBI in 2010 with years of hands-on experience in sales leadership and enterprise selling. Since his arrival, he has helped dozens of organizations dramatically accelerate growth, from Fortune 10 organizations like Phillips 66 to fast-growing cloud service organizations like InfusionSoft. Scott specializes in cross-functional alignment. He helps leaders align around the growth goal and design the right processes to bring the strategy to life. His unique combination of real world experience and a pragmatic approach to problem solving have made him one of SBI’s most demanded resources.

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