Stepping Away from Founder / Director Led Sales

Matt Garman
14 Apr, 2021

You know that expression ‘Lonely at the top’? Well it especially applies to running a company. A Founder/Director is likely to sacrifice a significant amount of time, sleep and often their social life, to make sure their business stays on track.

The job can be tough and challenging, especially when they’re also the primary revenue driver in the business. The ideal solution is to have another leader who is responsible for the continued success of the revenue stream. Usually, this is a Sales.

So, what does a Sales Director look like and how is it possible to find the right person for a business? It’s a very common scenario for a business to struggle to find the ideal Sales Director, going through a lot of failed hires, which is very risky and also extremely costly.

In addition to the expense, when a Sales Director is found who seems like the right fit, the average longevity of a Sales Director is only 19 months and it’s estimated, that during the first nine months of their tenure, they are ineffective because they are building their credibility in the company.

These are pretty shocking statistics and even in the best-case scenario, the sales industry is not known as a stable environment. When a Founder/Director of a business experiences this first hand, they might decide to do away with the Sales Director position and take it on themselves.

This may seem like a risky step, but is it?

When the company’s revenue is at stake, it’s a smart move to cut back on stress and expenditure and build the sales team into a super productive unit. Does the MD, the FD or another role have time to be the Sales Director too?

Time is the traditional enemy of most leaders in a business. There’s too much that needs attention, too many problems that need fixing now and a sales team that needs leadership. It seems impossible, so back to the Sales Director, right?

Not necessarily. From experience this is where many Founder/Directors often make significantly costly errors by hiring the wrong person at the wrong time in the business evolution. I’ve lost count of the number of Founder/Directors I’ve met that, with the best intentions, have hired someone to lead and drive the revenue number. The downside is that if they’re not totally immersed in the journey and heartbeat of the business then making an external hire without the necessary structure in place is often about as successful as pinning the tail on the donkey.    

Indeed I recently met a Founder/Director who had spent upwards of £400k over a 3-year period through hiring supposedly high level people, often from big business backgrounds, without the necessary sales systems in place.

This is where a more robust strategy is required, one that considers a sales system and support technology. Thereafter onboarding the right resources at the right time is equally critical. For example a big hitter with no leads is a heavy overhead therefore it may be more appropriate to focus on taking on a more Junior sales hire with mentoring, clear direction and good quality marketing support.

This way the Director/Founder is still involved in the high-level discussions but not having to lead all aspects of the sale. In doing so they can focus on other elements of growing the business.

The right Sales Leader in the business at the right time often makes the difference between a business that flies and a business that stutters.

Wealth Warning – whilst letting go of sales to focus on other areas of the business feels like a key step forward for a Founder/Director, it needs to be a considered process with a well thought through sales strategy and evolution process. Making a success of a stepping away from Founder/Director led sales should be a planned ‘delegation’ and not a costly ‘abdication’ that takes the business backwards.