Sales Coach: Drifting from the Metal

americas-coachMy company Argyle was starting to see some real traction.  We had three reps hitting quota, we had tons of inbound leads every week, and our product was getting better.  And the revenue curve was going up and to the right.  

So of course it was time to hire a VP Sales and grow our sales team.

After a fairly lengthy recruiting process, we made an offer to a stellar candidate.  I knew that all of our growth dreams would come true, so I started spending more of my time on marketing, speaking at conferences, and doing strategic CEO stuff.

All of which were the exact wrong things for me to do.

Hiring a VP Sales means that you need to spend more time on sales, not less.  Because I more or less 100% outsourced our growth problems to our new — incredibly talented and very qualified — VP Sales, I missed a lot of signals that trouble lay ahead:

  • We were closing deals, but it was a struggle.  Our team was able to get deals done, but we discounted every deal and had to pull every closing trick imaginable.  I didn’t care because we were making our number.  It wasn’t until we had a couple missed months that I began to understand the systemic issues with our team, product, and market.
  • We were missing the mark with (what we thought was) our core differentiator.  We thought that people wanted social media ROI.  It turns out that no one really cared and I missed this insight because I wasn’t paying attention.
  • We were squandering a lot of cash.  The VP Sales hire failed because we missed the mark with our product — the sales process, the team, and day-to-day management were all great.  That said, had I been paying attention more closely, we probably would have waited a bit on the hire to give ourselves time to address our product / pricing problems.  And we would have saved an awful lot of cash in the process.

The lesson here for founders is that you should never get too far from the metal.  Even when…actually, especially when you’ve hired a great team to execute a sales process, you need to make it a priority to meet with customers, listen to sales calls, and understand how your product/service is creating value.  Otherwise, your team, process, and business could begin to drift off course.

Had I caught these issues sooner, the Argyle story may have turned out different.  Instead, I had to ask a fantastic VP Sales to resign, fire a bunch of reps, and try to unwind what eventually spiraled into an incredibly messy situation.