Portrait of a good Chief Sales Officer (CSO)

By Graham Collins • October, 2020 • 5 mins

Chief Sales Officer

When you’re ready to take your sales company to the next level, it’s time to bring in a Chief Sales Officer. These industry pros know buyer personas and basic funnels inside and out. They’re legends of assessment, masterful leaders, and organization whizzes. In short, a good CSO can make your company great. Here’s what to look for and how to hire your next CSO.

What is a Chief Sales Officer?

Chief Sales Officer (CSO) is the person tasked with overseeing a company’s revenue streams. Rather than solely managing salespeople, CSOs look at the big picture regarding generating revenue. Strategies include motivating the sales team, monitoring their growth, and facilitating partnerships between departments.

It’s easy to confuse CSO and Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). We’ve discussed the former, and the latter stands for Chief Revenue Officer. While the job descriptions are similar, CROs tend to be more focused on creating plans that help spur revenue. CSOs concentrate on executing those strategies and leading teams as they work towards a common goal. CROs also have their hands on more tasks. They might look at marketing as a tool or work with CRM. CSOs are all about sales, sales, sales.

What does a Chief Sales Officer do?

Chief Sales Officers are fixtures in the world of sales. Many of their duties have to do with helping their team achieve predetermined goals, like hitting a specific sales target or spurring overall growth. From their spot at the top of the corporate sales totem pole, CSOs often provide oversight for the VP of Sales and Sales Managers.

As part of their management responsibilities, CSOs may be involved in hiring and training new employees. Remember, your Chief Sales Officer is in charge of executing a sales strategy. It makes sense that they’d help choose the right person or people for the job.

What’s the typical background of a Chief Sales Officer?

There’s more than one way to become a Chief Sales Officer. Still, most candidates have some or all of the following boxes checked prior to applying:

  • Experience in different sales environments and niches. This may include time in corporations of varying sizes as well as both B2B and B2C sales.
  • Time as an SDR. Applicants who have been a Sales Development Representative have hands-on experience with outbound prospecting. This can come in useful when teaching others to usher leads through the sales funnel.
  • Individual contributions. It’s hard to teach sales if you haven’t made a lot of sales. Great CSOs have a proven track record of their own.
  • Success in other sales roles. This may include sales management positions and higher posts such as VP of Sales. It isn’t the titles that make an impact but rather the knowledge and skill that comes from coaching others.

What makes a good Chief Sales Officer?

Your CSO is responsible for constructing and implementing a winning sales strategy. It’s imperative they have the skills to pick a goal and help their team achieve it.

A good Chief Sales Officer excels at:

  • Sales. It goes without saying, but to manage salespeople you need to be a salesperson. The tricks of the trade you learned on the way up now benefit those now busy fine-tuning their technique.
  • Hiring. Hiring is an art form. It’s not enough to like an applicant. You have to be able to gauge how they’d mesh with your existing team. Sometimes it’s good to build a diverse team where everyone is good at something different. Other times, cohesion is paramount.
  • Spotting weaknesses. Sales plans aren’t set in stone. A great CSO can modify their blueprint to account for gaps in their team and accommodate unforeseen circumstances.
  • Taking chances. CSOs determine how and when to utilize resources. This may be an easy decision, or it could involve calculated risk.
  • Coaching. Teaching is a special skill. In sales, a leader has to have the trust of their team before they can coach them. They need patience and the ability to offer constructive criticism that builds morale and confidence without being lenient.
  • Accountability. CSOs must answer to their own bosses for missed quotas and dropping revenue. They have to hold their team accountable for mistakes. Both require confidence, introspection and a willingness to accept responsibility for the wins as well as the losses.

How to hire a Chief Sales Officer

It doesn’t take a keen eye or experienced mind to read a resume and tick off boxes for education and work history. But hiring a Chief Sales Officer is about much more than what’s written on the page. It’s vital to assess an interview subject on both their technical and soft skills. Look at the candidate as a whole, and consider how the wording of your job posting comes across to job seekers.

Many times, listing your opening on a standard job board brings in a ton of unqualified applicants. Instead, be proactive. Start by looking at VPs of Sales employed by growing companies. Bonus points if the company has been scaling steadily and the VP has been there for a while. That means they’ve played a role in the expansion and can bring that expertise to your team.

You can contract with an executive search firm. These specialty organizations know exactly what it takes to excel in a C-suite or other leadership position. They can take your criteria, add their own and see who fits.

Once you’ve hired the perfect CSO, it’s time for them to start tracking their team’s commissions and earnings. They can use QuotaPath to calculate commissions, track attainment, and motivate reps.

Updated on October, 2020


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