An epidemic plaguing small to midsize B2B organizations: High head of sales turnover

Your head of sales won’t be around much longer…

In today’s business environment, head of sales turnover is happening on average every 24 months — and is quickly approaching every 18 months.

Your business is going to feel the gap in leadership before and after your head of sales leaves. Underperformance is, perhaps, an obvious road to termination — you have to decide when enough is enough. However, if the individual is headed out of the door for greener grass, the effects will be less obvious but equally impactful as they disengage from your driving toward your revenue goals. The effect of this happening every 18 to 24 months is disturbing, let alone disruptive. Sales cycles will be missed.

Salespeople will start underperforming or jumping ship even sooner: Only 28% of workers ages 18-35 say they can see themselves staying on for at least another two years (Comparably), while 34% say they plan to leave their current role in the next 12 months (Mercer). Corporate bonuses will get cut. Budgets will fall under the axe too.

What can you do about it?

Reacting to head of sales turnover.  

Once it is determined your chief revenue officer (CRO) is departing – be that termination or of their own accord – the onus of the head of sales job falls onto you, as the senior executive of the company, and the scramble begins.

  • Put out a job listing/hire a recruiter
  • Filter through resumes and cover letters
  • Interview applicants
  • Receive yet another 120-day plan
  • Onboard and train the replacement
  • And the list goes on

But who runs your revenue engine in the meantime?

HireBetter estimates a 74-day span to hire at this level — more than a quarter of revenue at risk. You are going to have to tell your board and investors to lower their expectations. Even if you do find someone to fill the position, it can take one to two years for your new head of sales to reach the productivity level of an existing leader (Bersin). And, chances are, as things remain, you will likely end-up repeating this process in 24 months – at least that is what the statistics predict.

When you are totally immersed in the operational activities of running your business it is commonplace to miss signs of structural faults in your revenue engine. Has each head of sales brought the processes that worked in their previous company and merely tried to replicate them? What is your real bench strength in sales? Are your people, processes and tools aligned to serve your customer segment?

Now would be a good time to ask these questions, before the cycle begins again, and to make absolutely sure of the profile of leader that you want. Better still, have these debates with your CRO all the time, because as you grow, the people, process and tool requirements will change.

We suggest these actions:

Set your current/new head of sales up with a mentor.

Once a candidate matches with the position’s requirements, you can avoid low productivity and missed cycles by teaming your new CRO with a seasoned mentor who can put him/her on a fast track to achieving the company goals. This mentor can mitigate two risks.

Many cannot get to the next level because of bandwidth, not ability. Providing your current head of sales with a mentor gives them a collaborator, coach and ally, carrying some of the load as your CRO executes. This opportunity growth leads to increased tenure and engagement of that individual as the company and they personally grow and makes them less inclined to answer that call.

Put a qualified person in the head of sales shoes temporarily.

Few leaders achieve great results by wearing multiple leadership hats; the CEO has enough to do that they cannot give their all to the CRO position. And your salespeople need a strong sales leader to keep them engaged and to keep their confidence strong.

An interim head of sales can give you objective assessments of the state of your pipeline, your bench strength and processes, whilst still performing the responsibilities of the CRO.

Leave the hiring to a qualified individual.

Leaders are not necessarily the best hiring managers. From the time-consuming nature of posting the right job description to seeking-out qualified applicants from numerous resumes, this job is best left to someone who knows exactly what the position requires and who this person needs to be to do the job as well and also fit the culture — embracing your corporate vision and mission.

Create a solid profile to hire against. Make it competency based and future proof it for the growth you need and anticipate — hire for the next growth cycle not this one.

If you suspect your head of sales is going to leave soon, if you have recently lost this key player or if you want to get ahead of the issue, let’s talk now about how the Office of the CRO solution can help put your organization on the right track to long-term sustainability and success.