Why the Wrong Chief Sales Officer Got Hired


Share on LinkedIn

Your Chief Sales Officer (CSO) left. Or maybe he/she needs to leave. Either way, when a new CSO is needed, use a structured approach. This position is too important to leave to some subjective thumbs-up/thumbs-down exercise. Instead, top HR and Sales leaders follow a detailed checklist of tasks. This post introduces the necessary tasks for a successful CSO search. As well, emerging practices from top sales organizations are discussed for 3 key tasks. Future posts will delve into the best practices for other tasks.

To assist you further, download the CSO Search Checklist. You can access it when you sign up for SBI’s Sales & Marketing Research Review here. This no-cost tour presents findings from SBI’s research in 2013. You’ll have access to a host of guides, templates and tools.

The CSO Search Checklist

The title might be CSO, Chief Revenue Officer, SVP Sales or similar. It is the executive in charge of sales at your organization. We’ve found that such a crucial role requires a structured approach to hire. There are 30 or so tasks to undertake including:

  • Determine the confidentiality level of the search process
  • Identify in-flight initiatives that should wait for the new CSO to start
  • Craft CSO competency interview guides
  • Build a target sourcing plan
  • Administer a controlled scenario or work tryout

The complete list includes the tasks and related advice, like this:


Register for our Make the Number Tour to get the complete list. The tasks can be quickly imported for use as a project management plan. Below are 3 of the tasks with explanations.

1. Identify A-level Competencies of a CSO

Your company requires a different set of competencies than other companies. For the CSO position, define which top competencies will ensure the number gets hit. My colleague Andrew Urteaga blogged about the top 25 competencies for a sales leader. This list is a great starting point. From here, decide which ones to focus on in your CSO search.

The competencies must be those that fit your culture, but also drive winning behaviors. They are closely linked to another task – determining the type of CSO needed. For example, should the new CSO be a Strategist or one who is execution heavy. That determination will drive which competencies to select.

These competencies are needed for later tasks including “developing the CSO hiring profile”.

2. Develop a CSO Onboarding Plan

Finding the right CSO will be fruitless if they don’t become productive quickly. An effective onboarding plan should include these components:

  • Knowledge – learning to understand the company, market, processes, offerings, etc.
  • Activities – actual performance of key tasks at appropriate times to improve learning and uncover coaching needs
  • Enculturation – knowledge and activities specially designed to reveal culture and involve the new CSO

The plan must match the level – a Sales Rep plan can’t be used as the basis for this. Create it from scratch with ample input from the peer executives and sales subordinates.

An onboarding plan must be created before recruiting and hiring start. It helps determine if a candidate could progress successfully through. Also, it can be used as an attractive perk to candidates – they will know that they’ll be brought into their new position carefully.

3. Hold an Interview Day

There are two parts to an interview day for each candidate. TopGrading for Sales suggests “work and life history” and “competency” interviews. Since each of these could take up to 4 hours, it could be one full day. Or, it could be split into multiple days. Any candidate that declines this intense effort should be removed from consideration.

The Work and Life History interview is basically a “conversational résumé”. It uses the information in the career history form that the candidate supplied. This interview reveals not only the integrity of the information, but also candidate motivations.

The competency assessment poses scenarios with questions that the candidate responds to. This interview results in a rating for each competency (A, B, or C player). The results are used for the hiring decision and, potentially, for development planning.

Whoever will be performing these interviews should be experienced in the process. Also, he/she will need the appropriate competency assessment assessor guide.

Next Steps

These are just 3 of the 30+ tasks to perform when hiring a CSO. Get the complete list by registering here. Future posts will provide more advice on other tasks. If you are starting a CSO search, you need this tool. Without it, your doubts will linger on whether you’ve found the right sales leader.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Loftness
Steve has worked for more than 20 years in process design and implementation, as a certified Six Sigma Black Belt. While at Sales Benchmark Index, he has helped many B-to-B organizations eliminate non-value add selling activities resulting in productivity improvements of 20+%.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here