Replacing your sales leader – how?
That dreaded day arrives when your leading light in the Sales function, the person who has taken the business forward over the last so many years, your Sales Leader, hands you a resignation letter and informs you s/he’s off to your major competitor and there’s no amount of money you can pay to stop that happening. So here it is – the challenge of replacing your sales leader.
Replacing anyone who is delivering to expectation in a sales team is a bitter pill to swallow let alone the person who is the stalwart of your organisation’s sales ambitions. Where to start, what to do? Emotions kick in straightaway, “but I thought we were a management team”, “how can I have not seen that coming” and feelings to get even with that damn competitor. “How dare they”, “it’s simply not cricket” or even “What about the no compete clauses in the employment contract” (even though you know in the back of your mind the clause in unenforceable when push comes to shove). Courts have a habit of upholding an individual’s right to earn a living. And whilst all these thoughts are going on in your head, Rome is burning!
A lot of organisations find it difficult to recover quickly from this scenario. Without doubt, replacing your sales leader IS a big challenge. However, a swift recovery is a must. Of course the “magic wand” solution to this issue is that you have valued succession planning so highly in your organisation that you know exactly what to do. You have groomed a number two who understands the sales strategy intimately and commands the respect of the whole sales team, so stepping up will be as smooth as silk. You may even have already identified someone you’d like for this job outside your organisation and now’s the time to go get them! So, with a ‘magic wand’ like this, replacing your sales leader becomes… not exactly a piece of cake, but a great way of breathing fresh air into your sales department.
Typically this type of succession planning is done effectively in about 10% of organisations whilst the scenario will be encountered by 90% of organisations (if not in Sales then another key function). In truth not many of us want to devote too much time to something that might never happen – after all running a business successfully is tough enough, without thinking about replacing your sales leader. Except when it does you wish you had. But you didn’t, so what are you going to do now?
A Sales Leader going to a competitor is a serious issue and s/he needs to be marched out of the premises in double quick time – act immediately. The next thing is someone has to be immediately appointed to either “act” in that position or as a direct replacement, with all the stripes and the authority to keep the ship afloat. The most important thing in this situation is that normality prevails for the sales team as quickly as possible. DON’T promote your best performer immediately (unless that is your succession plan and you have thought through the risks), otherwise that will mean you lose two key performers from their positions. Even if you are the CEO and have to act as Sales Leader yourself, do that and let anyone who may be expecting to step up know that you will follow a structured recruitment process so that internal candidates have the opportunity to step forward for consideration in due course.
If the situation of replacing your sales leader occurs and you have already identified a succession plan for him/her – give yourself a huge pat on the back! If you haven’t for whatever reason don’t be caught out by thinking it won’t happen to you or that your Sales Leader cannot be tempted away – anyone can.