Your 3-Step Plan For Moving from VP of Sales to CEO


You have years of experience as VP of Sales under you’re belt. Now, you’re ready to vie for the CEO seat. With the right plan in place, you can put yourself in prime position to get it.


You already have the number one requirement for being CEO: a strong understanding of the customer experience. That makes you invaluable to your company and qualified to run it.


For example, Cisco just hired their Chief Sales Officer Chuck Robbins to succeed long-time CEO John Chambers. This move is setting the stage for a new generation of CEOs with sales skill-sets.


Do you want to be the next VP of Sales to take over as CEO? You can. Just follow these three steps.Prepare now to make the board’s decision to promote you to CEO an easy one.


1. Train a replacement.

Start preparing your replacement now. Find a strong candidate and train him to fill your position. Understand that you are key to your company’s sales strategy. Promoting you is a risk that could potentially cripple revenue as they find a replacement.  Proactively training your replacement alleviates the board’s concern.


2. Promote your replacement.

Having a replacement is the first step. Now you have to get your replacement on the board’s radar.  Imagine that your candidate is a product and the board is the prospect.  Develop a plan to systematically expose the board to your candidate.  Highlight your candidate’s successes and move aggressively to mitigate any weaknesses.


Make it clear that if you leave, they don’t have to worry about a gaping hole in the sales team. The VP coming in is going to be just as good as the VP going out.


Why? Because you were responsible for selecting and training him.


3. Accept the risks of training your replacement.

It’s gut check time. Most VPs don’t take these steps because they are concerned about job security. They don’t want the board to latch onto the replacement and fire them without that big promotion.


Yes, this is a risk but ask yourself: Do you really want to be CEO?


If you do, take the necessary steps. You will train your replacement and trust that the company will do the right thing. You will trust that they will reward you for your work, and not let you go.


It takes risks to get the top. And it’s worth the reward. Most VPs want to be CEOs, but they don’t always know how to get there. So they switch from company to company, waiting for the one that will be brave enough to promote them. And their careers plateau.


To become CEO, you have to be the brave one. You have to make it evident that you are more than qualified for this job.


Before you go:  We’ve covered a great deal in this post and it’s easy to overlook some key points.  We developed a guide to help you assess your “succession readiness.” It’s a valuable tool to make sure you are prepared to take the next step.  Go ahead and click here to download it.


As head of sales, you’re already armed with the strongest understanding of your company’s customer experience. In other words, no one is more prepared for the CEO position than you are. Go make it happen.


Greg Alexander

Leads the firm's focus on the CEO’s role in accelerating revenue growth by getting the product team, the marketing department, and the sales organization into strategic alignment.
Learn more about Greg Alexander >

Greg is the host of The SBI Podcast, the most listened to sales and marketing podcast on the internet.


He is the host of SBI TV, a monthly television program broadcast on the internet featuring top B2B sales and marketing leader sharing their strategies to grow revenues.


Greg is the Editor-in-Chief of The SBI Magazine, the leading B2B publication focused on sales and marketing effectiveness.


He is the author of two critically acclaimed books Topgrading for Sales and Making the Number.


Greg has authored over 100 articles on SBI’s award winning blog, The SBI Blog.


He graduated from The University of Massachusetts Amherst with a BA in English and received his MBA from Georgia Tech.




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