If you are a transitioning sales leader, welcome, the clock is ticking… Faced with rigorous pressure to emerge victorious coming out of the gate, the average tenure for a Chief Revenue Officer is a mere 19 months. Your success will be measured by how well you define and execute the revenue growth for your company. You need to develop a strategy with a clear execution plan that will be ready for the first major organizational interaction, whether it be a board meeting or QBR. The goal is to gain confidence across the company and stakeholders. However, before the high-fives can begin, there is work to be done. You need to be aware of 3 critical mistakes SBI has witnessed throughout the pandemic that can torpedo your success.
Mistake #1: Allowing Your CEO to Overpromise
You know the old adage: If sellers fail to set customers’ expectations, customers may set their own–often at your peril. There’s a parallel in a Sales Leader-CEO relationship: You must be aligned with your CEO (and CFO) before they start speaking for you–well before your first BoD meeting.
It’s imperative to tighten up the narrative that began to take shape during your hiring process, and to get them on message about prioritization, sequencing, pace and cadence. Over-promising inadvertently or under pressure is a pothole to help them avoid.
Looking ahead to your maiden voyage at the Board, you need your CEO to set you up for a cameo that makes you look great (which ultimately reflects back on them that you are the right hire) and gives you the runway you need to execute quick wins and sort out the big questions that require deliberation and design thinking.
Don’t assume your supremely capable CEO knows everything about the sales leader role. You are the expert at how GTM strategy drives execution. You know how a revenue plan builds from the bottom-up with clear visibility into forecast accuracy of your team. You’re in the role because you’ve proven you can make things happen. Use this time to ensure you are aligned with your CEO.
Mistake #2: Disappearing While Establishing Your Fact Base
From day one, anticipation and expectations are high. Everyone will be waiting to hear your innovative strategy that will quickly accelerate growth. But you know that big strategy decisions require diagnosis. You need to do a listening tour with peers, customers, partners, employees, and other stakeholders. But if you leave a void, you risk people wondering what you’re doing and what’s taking you so long.
So you need a quick wins playbook. Inevitably there are common items, which don’t require deep contextual understanding, where you can demonstrate decisiveness and action orientation without committing ready–fire–aim. Producing tangible, quick commercial wins early, will help you get points on the board and give confidence that the CEO and Board made the right hire.
Mistake #3: Waiting to Foster Peer Alignment with the CMO
Your peers are already skeptical of you, thus, the longer you wait to orchestrate cognitive and emotional alignment among the C-suite, the more difficult it will be to build those lasting relationships. Take your strategy in fostering alignment with the CEO and CFO and garner that intel into the next most imperative relationship–that with the CMO.
Simply put, the sales leader and CMO need one another to succeed. You know that you have to work in tandem to successfully execute on the Big Bets that are focused on Go-to-Market execution, and it starts with an understanding of each teams’ capabilities. Do you know what the sales team is capable of? From lead management, account management, account segmentation, to revenue enablement? Does the sales team know what the marketing team is capable of? Without mutual understanding, your marketing team will be talking around the sales team and vice-versa, leading to a lack of execution rigor. The customer absolutely cannot have a different brand experience from marketing to sales to CS. Thus, the CMO and CRO need to become best friends.