chief sales officer

The domino effect of chief sales officer turnover on salespeople

Head of Sales turnover is happening every 18 to 24 months. This reality affects your sales cycles, your revenue — and your salespeople.

Salespeople train themselves to work for their specific head of sales and the culture he or she has created. They know the communication streams, and they have a feel for expectations and leadership style.

Salespeople Can Sense an On-the-Way-Out CSO

The minute the CSO disengages with their position, salespeople sense it. They take changes in leadership personally and can start to feel insecure and lack their usual motivation, which can result in underperformance and which the customer can ultimately sense — and respond to accordingly.

It is akin to a coach shrugging his or her shoulders and walking off the field right before a game, leaving the team at a loss for which players to put in, which plays to run, which substitutions to make.

Julen Lopetegui was sacked as Spain’s national team coach on the eve of the World Cup, one day after he agreed to take over at Real Madrid after the tournament. The team’s leader had been “poached.” Spain’s subsequent performance in the tournament was, let us say, less than stellar!

Beyond the gap in leadership, salespeople are also tuned-in to budget cuts, gaps in financial expectations, shuffling of client territories and other red flags related to CSO turnover. Insecurity heightens as productivity dips.

CSO Turnover Often Means More Sales Force Turnover

It isn’t surprising: Salespeople who experience CSO turnover do not often stick around to see a new one through the turnover cycle; many take the cue from their previous leader and jump ship too.

Turnover, as you know, is costly – 2.5x base salary is not an exaggeration: There is a minimum 20% annual turnover in sales, and it is up to 34% if you include both voluntary and involuntary (Bridge Group research).

Up to 71% of companies take six months or longer to onboard new sales reps, and at a third of all companies it takes nine months or more to build up the salesforce (ClearSlide and CSO Insights).

The impact on sales contribution is expressed in the chart below. Turnover is disruptive and costly, and the contribution of increasing tenure even by a few months is significant.


chief sales officer


So, notwithstanding the likely turnover of the head of sales, every company must embed consistency, continued growth opportunities and minimal disruption in its culture. But mitigating risk may take supplemental activity. Using the Aflac model as an example there needs to be “an extra layer of protection for life’s speed bumps.” Just like Aflac offers a wide range of insurance policies to help you feel confident about your coverage — it is worthwhile to have an extra layer that is hugely beneficial when disaster strikes.

We suggest the same to be done for your sales engine. Partnering your CRO with an experienced sales professional can achieve several benefits:

  • Removes bandwidth as a barrier to the incumbent getting to the next level.
  • Provides your current head of sales with a collaborator, coach and ally to carry some of the load as they execute.
  • Increases tenure and engagement of your CRO as they personally grow with the company, making them less inclined to answer the call of other offers.
  • Provides a ready-to-go interim to tide you through the replacement process, minimizing risk to revenue achievement and sales turnover.

The same mentor can cast an objective view on other factors too.

  • Are the performance plans for salespeople in place and if so workable?
  • Are there clear activity standards published and known?
  • Does the compensation plan to support the achievement of the corporate plan?
  • Are competency models in place to ensure the right recruiting profiles?

Soften the Disruption to Your Salespeople

Your salespeople need a leader to step up after CRO turnover who can encourage their performance, inspire them to reach their goals, all the while reassure them that the company is stable and set for growth — and their positions are safe.

If you are in search of someone to fill the gap your CSO has left — and someone who will not only help you fill the gap but help you find a long-term replacement who will achieve long-term success in the position — contact us today.