It’s important to understand that the roles of VP of Sales and Chief Sales Officer (CSO) are equally complex. But, putting the wrong role into play in your growing company can spell disaster.


You must design the right job description in order to set the right expectation. This will increase the speed of sales revenue generation and create more sustainable growth.


Here’s how to put the right set of experience and expertise into the right role. As an added resource, turn to the How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook to access a revenue growth methodology to hit your number quarter after quarter, and year after year.


The Fundamental Differences:


A VP of Sales is focused much more on execution. He’s a tactical master and laser-focused on beating the competition. This role works best in simpler business environments with a single sales channel.


A CSO knows how to increase sales by designing the right strategy for each channel.


There is a very low margin of error in the VP of Sales role. If he misses his mark, it can be difficult to recover. Also, cross-functional collaboration can distract him and make him miss windows of opportunity.


The VP of Sales is surgical in his execution. He processes every opportunity through the sales methodology. Sales operations are his top priority. His tactical sales plans are as targeted as his sales territory mapping.


A CSO is focused on strategy. This role works best in complex business environments with multiple channels, verticals, and competitors.


Because complex environments have so many moving pieces, strategic expertise is critical. A CSO finds success in collaboration with cross-functional peers. He doesn’t just listen to the loudest voice coming from the product management organization. He understands where the growth markets are, and allocates sales resources accordingly.


A CSO knows how to increase sales by designing the right strategy for each channel.


The Costly Result of Putting the Wrong Person in the Wrong Role:


When you put the wrong expertise in either position, misalignment is the inevitable result.


Strategy and execution are unique skill-sets, and equally challenging. But aligning them with the right role is the critical ingredient to sales success.


If You Put Someone With CSO Strengths in a VP of Sales Position:


Sales execution will suffer. A CSO is a strategy expert, but a VP of Sales must focus on execution. A CSO’s inclination to collaborate will slow down decision-making and jeopardize necessary decisive action.


If You Put Someone With VP of Sales Strengths in a CSO Position:


Sales strategy will suffer. A VP of Sales personality will not give enough thought to organizational strategy. He will push tactics and program implementation. He is used to making things happen quickly, and will likely neglect collaboration.


How to Tell if Your Sales Leader is Ready for the CSO Role:


As business units increase in complexity, sales leader roles also increase in complexity. As CEO, be on the lookout for this situation:


  • A business unit evolves and begins to compete in several products.
  • A business unit leader’s performance review shows above-average strategy and collaboration capability.


This situation is preparing an individual to step up into the CSO role. Design tests for each business unit to monitor for this situation. Leaders in this position may be ready to make the leap to CSO.


Use This if You Need to Recruit a CSO:


We compiled a Chief Sales Officer Checklist that has 30+ tasks to complete when hiring a CSO.  Use this tool to organize your search effort and make sure you are getting the best candidates.


Download the Chief Sales Officer Search Checklist


Now That You Know the Difference – Make the Right Combination:


There are critical differences between a VP of Sales and a CSO. Create the right role for the current state of your business. Then choose the person with the right skill-set for the role. This is your winning combination. The right person in the right role will grow your organization in the right direction.


As you exit the 2018 planning season, are expectations rising?  If you are wondering if you have the right strategies to support your revenue growth goals, here is an interactive tool that will help you understand if you have a chance at success. Take the Revenue Growth Diagnostic test and rate your Sales Strategy against emerging best practices to find out if:


  • Your revenue goal is realistic
  • You will earn your bonus
  • You will keep your job


Sales Revenue Growth


Matt Sharrers

Leads the firm's focus on the CEO’s role in accelerating revenue growth by embracing emerging best practices to grow revenue faster than the industry and competitors. 

Matt Sharrers is the CEO of SBI, a management consulting firm specialized in sales and marketing that is dedicated to helping you Make Your Number. Forbes recognizes SBI as one of The Best Management Consulting Firms in 2017.


Over the course of nearly a decade at SBI, Matt Sharrers was an instrumental early partner guiding SBI as the Senior Partner. Matt’s functional responsibilities included acting as the head of sales where he led SBI’s double-digit revenue growth, and was responsible for the hiring function to build SBI’s team of revenue generation experts.


Prior joining SBI in 2009, Matt spent eleven years leading sales and marketing team teams as a Vice President of Sales. Matt has “lived in the field.” As a result, he is the foremost expert in the art of separating fact from fiction as it relates to revenue growth best practices. CEOs and Private equity investors turn to Matt’s team at SBI when they need to unlock trapped growth inside of their companies.



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