When we posed this question to CEOs, many answered with one of the following:
- Make the revenue goal
- Position the company for a successful exit
- Complete a successful exit (sale, IPO, etc.)
Are you so in the weeds with sales strategy you can’t spend time focusing on your professional success? A big challenge keeping many CEOs of growth companies from achieving these goals is their involvement in the sales organization. Duplicating efforts with your sales VP takes away valuable time to focus on driving towards the company’s overall objectives. By dedicating yourself to just being the CEO, you could do a much better job.
The fact is you should be focused on things like:
- Which markets to pursue
- What your customers want
- How to take the company from $50 to $100M in the next 3-5 years
If you are spending time on day-to-day operations of your team, you are duplicating the work of your VP of Sales. You are acting as another “pair of hands” in the sales organization rather than working in complimentary roles. Your roles have become corrupted.
This is a common challenge that is likely frustrating both you and your VP of Sales. You feel your oversight is required. Your VP feels like he is being micro-managed to death. You are both heavily involved in things like:
- Rep hiring
- Closing sales
- Sales compensation plans
- Quarterly sales meetings
If the two of you are going to accomplish the big objective, you have to figure out a way to divide and conquer.
There are two ways to solve this problem:
1. Trust Your VP –At this point in his career, your sales leader must be able to accomplish the above items with minimal intervention from you. If you find yourself getting involved with things like hiring because your VP’s track record for picking talent is spotty, you can direct him here, here or here. This is a developmental issue both of you need to solve quickly.
How often are you parachuting in to get deals done? Your help is warranted on big deals, but not all deals. Limit yourself to 1-2 deals per quarter that are “must haves.” To learn how CEOs and sales leaders are dividing and conquering new sales, register for this session.
Risk/Reward – If you and your VP agree to divide and conquer, the risk here is that you will live and die by his actions. The feeling of letting go is difficult for small company CEOs. At some point, your company is going to hit a point where you can’t do it all. Allowing your VP to do what you hired him to do is an important step.
If you’ve selected the right VP of sales, the reward here means you can focus on being the CEO and trust him to hit the number and scale your sales organization.
2. You Are the VP – If option 1 isn’t in the cards for you, this means you are the de facto head of sales who performs other CEO-like job duties. Ultimately, the buck stops with you. In addition to participating in hiring and closing the majority of sales, you also help run quarterly sales meetings and design rep compensation plans.
Risk/Reward – The risk here is selecting the right VP to compliment you. If you are highly involved with sales, you need to hire a VP who is comfortable and welcoming of a CEO involved in the sales force. This usually means you will have a less experienced manager who requires your guidance. If you can’t provide it, he won’t evolve in the role. He won’t be ready to take over when it’s time to pass the reigns.
The reward for you can be a cautionary tale. You are able to maintain your influence over the sales team and deliver results. But, this comes at a cost. Time otherwise spent acting as the CEO is now focused on sales activities. If you can perform both roles successfully today, this may be the solution for you.
Call to Action:
A way to solve for this is to have an authentic conversation with your VP about role clarity.
Use a RACI Diagram like the one below to review the activities each of you conducts to identify areas of overlap. RACI stands for:
- Responsible – Who is responsible for doing the work?
- Accountable – Who owns the result?
- Consulted – Who gets consulted before decisions are made?
- Informed – Who gets a “heads up” when a decision is made
If you feel like you can’t do this, consider having an objective third party like SBI facilitate a strategy session with you and your sales leader before year-end. A suggested agenda might look like this:
- Assess sales strategy against corporate strategy
- Define next year’s objectives
- Create a RACI chart with clear role distinction
- Establish clear guidelines to avoid overlap
Don’t let role corruption be the barrier to success next year. Get laser focused on your sales strategy and role clarity and charge out of the gates on January 1st.