How to know when it's time for a new sales leader
Your organization's sales leader was likely hired to reach ambitious sales goals, motivate a hungry sales team and unlock new markets. Unfortunately, a great salesperson can sell themselves to a CEO as a great sales leader even when they really aren’t cut out for that job (ie. Michael Scott).
It’s not easy to admit when you’ve made a bad hire, but it’s your job to accept reality for what it is and recognize when it’s time to walk away.
Outside of ethical issues, professional misconduct or policy violations—which should make your decision easy—there are usually clear signs that a sales leader’s time is coming to an end.
Based on our experience hiring and working closely with sales leaders around the world, here are some clear signals that it’s time to fire a sales leader:
Your sales reps are always discounting your product
This can be disastrous for your organization’s growth and sustainability. If all of your clients are on discounted packages, your bottom line will feel it and your projections won’t be as accurate.
Sales professionals often overlook the influence that discounting can have on cash flow. Unfortunately, the wrong discounting formula can put your company in a tough spot for key expenses.
50% of your sales team hasn’t made their target in months
Quota is king. If your sales team isn’t hitting their quotas, and they’re viewing goals as suggestions rather than required outcomes, you've got a problem, and it falls squarely on your sales leader’s shoulders.
You should always give them a chance to explain why they’re struggling, but listen closely to their answer and where they put the blame.
If they own it and say they need to take a different approach to motivating, training or coaching, that’s a good signal. If they blame everyone but themselves, the writing may be on the wall.
Sales has a higher turnover rate than any other role
A high turnover rate can be a sign that your sales culture is toxic. And if word gets around that your organization has a toxic sales culture… good luck recruiting the best of the best.
You’re going to have some turnover in sales; that’s expected. But if you’re constantly losing your top reps to roles that aren’t a step up from what you’re offering, then it’s time to review the culture your sales leader has created—and maybe even have some heart-to-hearts with reps who’ve left.
Your sales team is constantly pointing fingers and blaming product
Excuses are the enemy. If you have a sales leader who always finds an excuse for why they are running late to meetings, losing big projects and not reaching goals, that’s a sign that this person (1) isn’t very self-aware or (2) just can’t execute.
Both of these traits aren’t great for a leader.
You need a sales leader who can execute. You need a sales leader who knows their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s never good to have a sales leader (or any leader) who's constantly butting heads with everyone else when they can’t get things done on their own end of the responsibility matrix. Here are some additional things to look out for:
- Is your product getting rave reviews but sales still thinks it’s coming up short?
- Is your marketing team driving qualified leads but sales thinks they’re mediocre?
- Are your BDR reps getting calls booked but the sales leader says they’re not relevant?
These are all signals that something needs to change. Firing a sales leader is not easy, but it might be the key to unlocking your sales team’s true potential. It isn’t fair to those who believed in your company to be subjected to an ineffective leader.
We know it sucks…but you’ll be better off in the long run.
You’ll trade a bit of short-term discomfort for the chance to get the right leader on the bus and take it all the way to your desired destination.
Want to setup your sales team for success? Download our Sales Management Toolkit: featuring email templates, sales scripts, a call review checklist, and more!