How to Avoid Sales Leadership Failure
How to Avoid Sales Leadership Failure
leader with flag climbing steps

By Jeff Johnson

March 24, 2021

The average tenure of a Sales VP is now less than 19 months, down from 26 months just 7 years ago.  If you have a 4-to-6-month sales cycle, that can be as little as 3 sales cycles. The Sales VP position is the most replaced position on the executive team, for good reason. As a Sales VP, the reality is you must make a tangible and measurable impact within the first 90 days, or your tenure is in jeopardy.  In sales leadership the VP must produce quickly.  

Also, being the manager of the Sales VP can be a difficult position. If you do not have a sales background, how would you know how to hire the right Sales VP?  And if you can tell early there are issues, what steps need to be taken?  This is why you hired them, right? It is an unfortunate situation and a major contributor to sales leadership turnover. 

Here is some practical advice from a guy (me) who has been coaching execs and their sales leaders for a good while.  Look for these four things first: 


With low production of sales (usually in the first 90 days), the quality and quantity of your lead generation and sales pipeline should be measurable and growing.  In the absence of strong sales, the pipeline is your first indicator of coming success.  For more insight on how your sales pipeline should be setup and functioning read:  Avoiding Happy Ears and Pipeline Bloat in Your Revenue Pipeline.

Accountability & Coaching

Underperformance from the sales team cannot be left to correct itself, because it will not.  Effective use of lead generation and the sales pipeline should be able to quickly identify failure points.  Then with positive accountability, sales leadership can provide strategic coaching to begin the journey back to revenue success.  Using a repeatable strategic sales process will dissect the why behind failure points. Look to see what documented and dated “next steps” are in each sales cycle and track the results.  This should tell you quickly if the coaching and accountability are effective. 


I learned this one the hard way many years ago.  In 5 years, I built a sales team from 3 to 100, but I almost failed before I got started.  Using resumes and gut feel, I hired salespeople who were required to hunt for new business, it was a colossal failure.  As soon as I hired one person, got them trained and moved on to the next hire, the first one quit.  I was running in place and falling behind very quickly.  If a Sales VP cannot consistently hire the top 20% “flavor” of your sales requirements (hunting, account management, farming, customer service) then failure, underperformance, cost of sale and team swagger will quickly move in the wrong direction.  Read more on the topic Sales Leadership Failure Starts and Stops Here.  

When executed effectively and consistently, these four areas will change the course of sales results, enable scaling to take place, and eliminate many sales team struggles.   

What do you do when these things are not happening?  Get some help! For you and your sales leader, it is important to know if they are the right person for the role and what help they need to be successful.  If the results are not there, the worst thing to do is to continue down the same path.   

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