Let Go of the Chief Sales Officer Role – Going from Entrepreneur to CEO

Let Go of the Chief Sales Officer Role – Going from Entrepreneur to CEO December 23, 2013


As your company grows, the capabilities that got you to that growth may no longer serve you in the future.  The successful path from entrepreneur to CEO involves making changes in three key areas:

  1. Letting go of your role as Chief Sales Officer
  2. Disciplining yourself to Focus
  3. Building the Right Culture

This blog will address the first key area and the two remaining areas will be examined in the next two blogs.

Letting Go of Your Role as Chief Sales Officer

Most entrepreneurs get started because they see an opportunity to take advantage of or a niche to exploit. The founder usually takes a lead with sales and is able to stay close to customers as a result.  Talking with customers regularly helps the entrepreneur better respond to evolving market needs.  Entrepreneurial companies are competitive because they are nimble.  Larger companies just can’t respond to customer needs as quickly and the entrepreneur can usually offer services and products faster.  At this stage of growth, the entrepreneur feels on top of things. One of the CEOs in our CEO Forum, built his e-learning company on these principles. He was able to bundle services from outside providers in unique ways. He is a rainmaker and put some big deals together that accelerated his company’s growth.

See Also: Corporate Executive Coaching: Hiring the Right Talent

As a company grows and the customer base expands, there is a point where the entrepreneur is no longer able to keep up with all the customers personally.  It is humanly impossible. S/he must let go and delegate the core functions of sales and marketing to others.  Not every entrepreneur knows how to delegate well so this can be a problem. Take for example the entrepreneur that hired a top sales person and proceeded to micromanage him until he could no longer stay engaged in the job. Entrepreneurs may be excellent individual contributors where they hire others in the company as a support instead of taking the time to coach others and give them the freedom to be proactive. Losing control of the day to day customer contact can be very disconcerting. Many people start their own businesses because they want control so letting go is difficult. If the entrepreneur is unable to give others the opportunity to take the lead with customers, the company languishes.

Here are some tips on how to let go:

  • Be aware. Self-awareness of your control needs is the first step to improving.
  • Be clear on what you expect from a top sales person and have clarity on what their competencies should be so that you are hiring effectively
  • Learn to delegate; here are some suggested steps:
    • Describe the assignment in detail and why it is important.
    • Explain the results you expect
    • Highlight the potential benefits to the associate and check that the associate fully understands and accepts the assignment.
    • Solicit suggestions from the associate about how s/he will approach the assignment.
    • Identify the appropriate resources to support the associate and establish a timeline for completion, including periodic checkpoints.
    • Set a time for a follow up meeting and express confidence in the associate.

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