There’s a fascinating article from Jason Lemkin on SaaStr about what the CEOs of early-stage companies need to look for from the key players in their first management team.
But I believe that the principles also apply to organisations at all stages of development. In fact, I think they are particularly relevant to post start-up expansion phase companies - and that the CEOs of these businesses would do well to take them into account when recruiting and assessing any new functional heads.
The “expansion phase” is a critical stage in the development of any post-startup organisation. They have already demonstrated that they have managed to attract an initial cohort of early adopters. They have probably attracted expansion funding from investors who believe they can see the potential in their business.
But now they have to execute. They have to turn that early potential into a predictable and repeatable set of business processes. They need to create a scalable sales and marketing machine.
When it comes to sales and marketing, the last thing they now need are mavericks - even though those sort of personalities might have been successful in getting them out of the start-up jungle and on to the growth-phase dirt road.
What they need now are functional leaders with an engineering mentality - people that can establish repeatable processes that will confidently deliver the predictable results they are looking for and that their investors are expecting.
This is no longer a time for heroics: this is a time for thoughtful, effective execution. And that’s why their assessment of both their existing and potential new sales and marketing leaders needs to be based on a simple question: are they capable of tilting the revenue curve?
According to Lemkin, when it comes to sales leaders, this comes down to a single critical consideration: are they capable of increasing revenue growth within one sales cycle or less?
It’s an interesting test, and one in which the results can be evaluated quickly: is the new head of sales capable of extracting more value from the current set of leads than their predecessor (which in the early-stage companies Lemkin is focused on might well have been the CEO themselves)?
In fact, the more I think about it, this ability to make a tangible short-term impact from the existing assets and resources seems like an important goal for any new sales leader. It demonstrates an ability to quickly analyse the current situation and to take decisive, effective action.
Of course, simply making the best of the current situation isn’t the only test by which the long-term impact of a sales leader must be evaluated. Their contribution also critically depends on the intelligence with which they make investment decisions, the clarity of their go to market strategy, the accuracy with which they assess the potential strengths and weaknesses of individual team members, their ability to recruit the right new players and their skill in building a cohesive team.
But the ability to “tilt the revenue curve” - even modestly - early on is a pretty powerful leading indicator, isn’t it? You can read Lemkin’s full article here.
Bob Apollo is the Managing Director of UK-Based Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners. He writes and speaks regularly on the critical importance of thoughtful selling strategies in driving B2B sales success.
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An earlier version of this article appeared on LinkedIn.