In a recent article published by Selling Power magazine, they report that the average tenure for a sales leader has been steadily falling and is now between 24 and 32 months. This means that the people responsible for driving increased growth are failing at an alarming rate. But it’s not their fault – at least not all of it.
The Road to Sales
Consider this: in America, the beacon of capitalism, there is no formal education to train people how to lead sales organizations. Most universities provide Bachelor, Masters and even PhD training in other business disciplines like finance/accounting, marketing, organizational development, IT, etc. But you can’t get a degree in sales or sales leadership. So, where do sales leaders go to learn how to lead their organizations?
The typical journey to becoming a sales leader begins by learning to sell. In most cases, a salesperson demonstrates enough proficiency in sales to be selected by their boss to lead a sales team. In many cases, the business owner taps the first salesperson hired to “run sales” so he can get on with running their company. Little thought is given to defining the role and then determining if the person they just promoted can actually meet those requirements. Once promoted, the salesperson does his best to emulate what he learned from the people that have managed him.
This leaves business owners in a very vulnerable position. As they let go of the reigns, they are depending on an inexperienced leader to take charge of leading the team to grow the company. This problem is compounded by the fact that most business owners haven’t defined a plan for growth that they want this new leader to follow, leaving it up to the sales leader to determine how the business will grow.
Sales is a Business Outlier
Sales has long been marginalized and left out of traditional business disciplines. In recent years, with the advent of CRM Systems, the discipline of sales has matured significantly – although sales leaders are slow to embrace these new disciplines. Here’s a few of the reasons why:
- Sales leaders are former salespeople. They tend to be “doers” more than learners. Their professional career has been based on getting results without excuses – “just do it!”
- Business owners don’t invest in developing their sales leaders. They might invest in training the reps, but they don’t invest in training their sales leaders.
- Most business owners don’t understand or recognize the sales disciplines, so they don’t know what they are missing. They only know when they aren’t getting the results. Then they blame the sales leader for missing their goals.
In a highly competitive market, business owners can’t afford to turn their sales leadership over to an inexperienced manager, but in many cases and at their current size, they can’t afford to bring in the experience they need for future growth. So, they either choose to live with the under-performing, inexperienced sales leader or they cycle through sales leaders every two to three years.
What’s the Sales Solution?
There is a solution – Fractional or Outsourced VP of Sales. Over the past few years, most business disciplines have adopted the fractional or outsourced model. Oddly enough, sales is one of the last disciplines to adopt this model. Business owners have a tough time embracing the idea that an experienced leader working part-time can accomplish more than an inexperienced leader working full-time.
This is the number one hurdle we face when working with our clients – believing that experience, along with a defined process, will exceed expectations. The good news is that it works. Our firm – Sales Xceleration – is comprised of over 50 Advisors, former sales leaders with years of experience, who are generating significant results for the companies they serve. If you think this solution may work for you, check out our website at www.salesxceleration.com.
Brent Bonine is a Sales Xceleration Advisor and corporate revenue leader with 25+ years of executive experience in sales, marketing and business development. Reach out to Brent at firstname.lastname@example.org.