The Biggest Mistake CEOs Make Related to Sales

So, you’re either looking to hire or you’ve just hired a new VP of Sales. The question is: are you hiring them to execute their sales process or your company sales process?

This article is to make you stop and think about this because I think it’s one of the most important decisions company leaders make. After all, isn’t the sales process the key factor driving growth of any business?

At Dakota we have our own sales process known as the Dakota Way. Every new team member is trained to learn this and live by it. We’ve operated in this fashion since our founding in 2006, and have since raised over $40 Billion for our clients following the Dakota Way.

In this article we are going to dive into this concept and why I believe it’s the biggest mistake businesses leaders make when hiring a VP of sales. By the end of the article, you’ll have a clear understanding why even the best VPs of Sales need the CEO to fully own the structure of the sales process. 

First, we’ll tell you what the mistake is. 

The 100% preventable mistake

The biggest, single mistake CEOs make as it relates to sales is not owning their sales process.

As a CEO, you must own this process. 

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sit in on every sales call or that your VP of Sales can’t run things over time. It simply means you need to create a process for your team, implement it, and have your VP of Sales execute it. 

Why is this so important you may ask? Because you’re in business. If your company is a direct sales effort where you’re selling a product, investment strategies, or a software product doing demos like we do at Dakota, your number one criteria is going to be how many first time demos or first time meetings you get with your product. 

Constantly you must be finding new, qualified buyers for meetings. Over time as you grow the number of first time demos you’re doing for prospects, you'll have to have a level of re-engagement demos. These will be your two critical numbers and it is your duty to have a process for how your sales team is getting them. 

The mistake I’ve seen time and time again is the CEO has no idea what the sales process is, what the numbers are, and why they matter. They completely outsource this task to the VP of Sales. The CEO hangs their hat on with the excuse, “I hired the VP of Sales and that’s their responsibility.” 

No, it’s not. 

The conventional wisdom is the CEO is a CEO; they hire the VP of Sales; the VP of Sales comes in and creates a sales process. Also wrong. That’s why there’s so many failed VP of Sales. At startup companies, 95% of the VP of Sales candidates aren’t a good fit for you. 

When you interview a VP of Sales you say, “This is the job. The job is to execute our sales process. If you don’t want to do so then don’t take the job.” They aren’t there to recreate a wheel you’ve spent a lifetime crafting.

Sales process set in stone

It is absolutely essential you have your sales process in place before hiring a VP of Sales. You put the sales process into place with all the metrics, details, structure, everything A-Z. Then you bring the VP of Sales and tell them it’s their job to execute the company’s sales process. That’s how you win. You measure them based on your numbers that you know matter most. That is the job of the CEO. 

We know what we’ve created works because we’ve proven it to work. Your job is to implement it. This is the infrastructure for sales. 

The CEO = responsible for growth

As the CEO, you are the leader. At the end of the day it’s your job to own the growth of your company and growth process. In normal parlance this is the sales process. It’s critical you own this because it is do or die. You can be average, 1x, 5x, or 10x your process. Wouldn’t you rather be doing 5 to 10x more than what you could be? Own the growth process. 

You can’t expect as the CEO that any VP of Sales is going to have a full handle on this. If you do, you’ve gotten lucky. For the most part this is not the case, which is why the CEO must own their sales process.

I can lay out what this process should be as I’ve created it twice for a fundraising and investment organization. I own my sales process and wouldn’t let anyone mess with it, change it, or modify it. 

Now, there can obviously be slight modifications to improve this process, but nonetheless I would need to approve these. I make everyone accountable for the numbers. 

If you don’t feel comfortable that you understand sales, you have to find a guy like me or someone like our firm that can guide you. But the most important thing is for you to define and own your sales process and it needs to be very clear and repeatable, which ours is.

Get started on setting your team up for success

If you’re a sales leader and you’re struggling to define your sales process, we’d love to help you through that process. 

Ready to get started? Take the next step and register for a Dakota Rainmaker session with Dakota CEO Gui Costin, the sales process expert. 

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Written By: Gui Costin, Founder, CEO

Gui Costin is the Founder and CEO of Dakota.