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Leadership: did you hire the wrong CRO?

Leadership: did you hire the wrong CRO? 1024 682 Bruno Sireyjol

It is easy for companies going through a slump to shift the blame on sales. Dropping sales root causes may range from a lack of alignment between sales and strategy, false or invisible differentiation, sales and marketing divide, or poor product positioning to name a few.

Sales may sometimes be the ones to blame. Yet, instead of jumping all over field reps and questioning your sales process, the remedy is rather to be found at the top, with the Chief revenue Officer. In other words, the army is great, and the weapons are sharp enough. The Commanding officer is just not up the expectations.

Let’s go through the telltale signs that you have probably hired or promoted the wrong sales leader.


“My Way” managers and micromanagers.

Selling still matters but this is definitely not the #1 skill for CROs. Maintaining productive relationships with strategic customers and negotiating to win are still valid competencies. However, the role of a CRO is no longer to sell. Storytelling, strategic thinking, knowledge sharing, creativity in positioning offer and services or solving deals issues are much more critical.

Some CROs never cut the cord with their former roles and still believe selling is their absolute priority. They are lured by the attention and kudos that go with advancing and closing deals. So, they jump in.

  • • No progress or no fast enough progress on a top deal? They jump in.
  • • Executive engagement scheduled with a strategic account? They jump in.
  • • Favorite VP, sales manager or sales rep struggling? They jump in.
  • • Board concerns on CRM hygiene? They jump in.

The problem is that they don’t just get in and stay there. Since they are crazy busy and caught up by multiple priorities, they jump in and out, leaving employees dealing with whatever impact or adverse effect they may have brought about. Some of them go one step further.

As former superstars, they think there is only one way to do business or solve issues: their way. They dive into every single detail and follow up to make sure the actions they recommend is not only taken but also implemented the way they think it should be. Doing so, they do not only rob direct reports from the opportunity to learn and grow: they become the main limitation of their organization’s growth.


Me, myself, and I.

“If you were to step back and had a chance to live a different life?” I once asked a CRO who I was supposed to coach into his new role. I would be the leader of a Rock’N Roll band”. Why? I asked. Being in the spotlights, being famous and being loved”.

Obviously, power and glory were the main reasons for taking up a sales leadership role. These are valid drivers. After all, you don’t make it and thrive at the top without a healthy ego. However, these leaders are unlikely to build, enable and empower great teams. Like micromanagers and “My Way managers”, they struggle to switch to the attitudes and aptitudes required for a leadership role.

When looking for talents, these leaders are likely to hire clones or followers. Being details oriented or sticking to the process becomes the norm. As a result, their teams mostly consist of Thinkers and Persisters profiles. These guys are famous for doing the right things and doing things right. Building a culture based on execution and discipline is a fair goal. However, deference and obedience are unlikely to generate outstanding results. And while action-oriented extroverts dominate, thinking introverts are suppressed or silenced, thus depriving organization from original, valuable insight.

In meetings, these sales leaders hog the airtime and steal the limelight. Collective intelligence is shut down. People work their boss and depend on him instead of thinking by and for themselves. What is the point in confronting them anyway? “Me, myself and I” leaders are poor listeners and, show a remarkable indifference to others’ opinion – unless it confirms their own view or support their agenda.

No wonder, therefore, A players quit, and the sales organization gets a reputation of the place to avoid.


My decision, my direction.

Leaders make hundreds of decisions per year. CROs are no exception. From driving a sales culture, maximizing territories potential to resources allocation, you should expect sound decisions and rigorous debates, team involvement and trade-offs. If you have hired or promoted the wrong leader, nothing close to team discussions will ever happen.

Instead, they tell people what they think, what to do, how to do it and eventually…where to go. They don’t ask questions because they are curious and open to learning: the tone they use and the way they ask leaves no doubt they don’t expect an answer. Because they already know and know better. Every time you are asked about your workload, about a deal or about your direct reports, you actually undergo a screening test. The goal is not to get your input or to know how well you are doing: it is about checking you are doing it right. Their way. No safety, no vulnerability. Accountability maybe, but at a high price.

These leaders may be highly capable strategists or “doers” but they have not learnt yet how to use the collective power of an organization. They may know the principles but, either by fear of losing control or by fear of not being able to showcase how much they know, they force decisions and focus on inner circles to confirm them.

Territories are not cocreated to maximize potential: they are built to add resources. Global deals are not managed against objective criteria, they are given to their trusted clique. Strategies are not designed by consulting various sources: they are top-down decisions where people are left figuring out the rationale. Under their leadership, the sales organization never reaches its full intelligence. People don’t feel stretched but stressed.


People working under the wrong CROs can be sent to a downward spiral. They feel undervalued, unchallenged, and frustrated. Confronting them may be an option. Be aware though that if they feel you are too smart and sense their power is being questioned, those kinds of leaders tend to respond with even greater force. They would typically double down, consciously, or unconsciously on everything they do wrong.

So, defense or offense? From shopping for a new boss to managing up and across, we have the answers.

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