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    Issue 42

    August 22, 2020


    Who should lead your sales team? Deal coach or system builder? 


    In today’s issue…

    Do you plan to grow your sales team in the coming months?

    Do you plan to rethink your sales leadership?

    If so, today’s issue of Driven is just what you need.

    It’s about hiring the right sales leader for your company’s current stage of growth.

    This isn’t obvious, but it’s important. Many executives miss it.

    I sold complex B2B software deals for more than 20 years. I also held positions in sales management.

    In those years, no one ever talked about the differences between sales execution and sales operations.

    Then I interviewed Kevin Bock, a Driven subscriber. He switched on a light bulb in my mind.

    Today’s article will do the same for you.

    You’ll see why it’s so important to have a sales leader with the right focus for your company’s current needs.

    The article is likely to deliver great value for CEOs, investors, and founders who have limited prior experience in managing sales teams.


    Do you have the right sales leadership for your company’s stage of growth?

    When you’re hiring someone to lead your sales efforts, it makes a big difference whether their chief strength is in sales operations or sales execution.

    Both are important, but one is more crucial than the other at different stages of your company’s growth.

    What’s the problem?

    Few sellers are equally strong in both execution and operations. And companies may not consider which they need more.

    This is especially likely to happen in companies whose founders and investors have limited experience in sales management.

    They risk hiring a person with the wrong skills for their current and next stage of growth.

    Such mistakes are expensive. The out-of-pocket cost is likely to run well into six figures.

    Companies also pay a high opportunity cost for wasting precious time.

    Why it matters now

    Many companies have seen a big change in demand for their products or services.

    They’ve reshuffled their sales teams, or they plan to do so soon.

    Companies must think how they will rebuild their revenue team as they come out of the current crisis.

    We’re approaching the time of year when companies are planning for next year.

    What you’ll get from reading this

    You’ll get a clear understanding of the differences between sales execution and operations.

    You’ll also get tips to avoid making mistakes in hiring the wrong sales leader for your company’s current stage of growth.

    What is sales execution?

    Sales execution focuses on answering this question:

    How can we run sales in a way that closes deals and is profitable for the company?

    Sales leaders who focus on execution get involved with deals from beginning to end.

    Their goals are to…

    • Discover and establish repeatable sales methods and processes
    • Understand the value your company provides to customers
    • Increase your average revenue per sale

    When is sales execution most important?

    Sales execution is always important. But it’s crucially so for companies in these situations:

    • Your company is young and planning to hire its first few sellers.
    • Your company engages in sales that involve more than one decision influencer.
    • You want to grow without relying on outside investors.

    Why is sales execution so important if you want to bootstrap your company?

    Because early mastery of sales execution is essential for improving cash flow. It may provide enough added cash flow to fund your growth.

    What are sales operations?

    Sales operations focus on answering this question:

     How do we manage sales growth, and how do we keep score?

    It’s largely a matter of defining, creating, or refining these elements:

    • Processes
    • Systems and data
    • Tracking
    • Analyzing

    The focus is on achieving greater effectiveness and efficiency rather than on closing deals.

    Sales operations also addresses these elements:

    • Staffing & compensation
    • Planning & optimization
    • Pipeline management
    • Revenue forecasting

    When are sales operations most important?

    Sales operations are always important. But they are even more important than sales execution if…

    • Your sellers have figured out how to close deals and can do so consistently.
    • You have sales methods and processes you know will scale.
    • It’s time to put systems, standards, and repeatable procedures in place.
    • You want to measure and reduce your customer acquisition cost (CAC).

    How can you know whether a sales leader is more focused on execution or operations?

    If you know what to look and listen for, it’s easy to tell whether a prospective sales leader is stronger in execution or operations.

    Look at their resumé or LinkedIn profile.

    Do they talk more about establishing systems and scaling operations?

    Or do they talk mostly about closing deals and the sales methods they’ve used?

    When you interview them about their accomplishments, do they talk first and most about sales execution or sales operations?


    To avoid making mistakes in hiring the wrong sales leader, do these things:

    1. Be clear about what you need for your current and next stage of growth.

    Is it more important for you to nail sales execution or sales operations?

    2. Recognize that your sales leaders will need different strengths as you grow.

    Few sellers can adapt to the changing needs of companies as they grow through multiple stages.

    3. Learn to identify the differences in the strengths of candidates you consider hiring as sales leaders.

    Leaders who are most comfortable with sales execution will talk first and most about deals they helped close.

    Leaders most comfortable with sales operations will talk first and most about systems, processes, metrics, and reports.


    Kevin Bock provided the insights for this article.

    He’s a “sales leader for rent” who works mostly with young companies.

    The ideas here are from an unpublished Driven interview in April 2019.

    Dig deeper

    If you’d like to talk with Kevin, he’s open to your questions and inquiries. You can reach him here:


    Phone: +1 516.650.8820. (U.S. Eastern Time zone)


    That’s it for this week.

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    See you next Saturday.


    Dave Vranicar


    Driven is a free weekly email for hyper-busy revenue leaders in business-to-business SaaS companies.

    Its goal is to keep you informed about a broad range of topics related to revenue growth.

    We scan the horizon for insights and ideas from sources you may otherwise miss.

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