Fractional Leadership and the Fractional CSO

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This blog is part of a series that outlines some high-level considerations and offers insight into the five major types of Fractional Leadership: marketing, sales, operations, finance, and technology.

The information is a consolidation of my personal experience as a Fractional Leader (FL), retaining other FLs in businesses I managed or manage, interviews with FLs on my podcast, Win-Win—An Entrepreneurial Community, and my network and relationships with other FLs.

My experience in operations and being a Fractional Leader in companies running on EOS certainly contribute to my knowledge of operations. I am not, however, a subject matter expert in marketing, sales, finance, or technology. I’ve written these topics with reliance on business owners and FLs in those fields — from a 30,000-foot perspective.

Check out my previous blog discussing the Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (FCMO).

If your marketing is in good (or good enough) shape, what about your sales team? To ensure your sales team capitalizes on the demand created by your marketing, it might be time for you to consider engaging a Fractional Chief Sales Officer (FCSO) to help dial in a high-performance team.

Does Your Sales Strategy Needs Help?

Let’s briefly discuss the several scenarios that trigger the need for an FCSO ( In my book Fractional Leadership, I detail these scenarios as described by Teresa Renaud, an FCSO affiliated with SalesQB.

Scenario 1: you’re personally “half-managing” the sales team. You don’t have a Head of Sales you can trust or rely on, or, because you’re the best at sales, so you’re running the team. I say “half-managing” because you have an entire business to run, not just sales, so your full attention isn’t on it. You don’t have the bandwidth to develop a proven sales process, figure out how to collect and use data to hold the team accountable for actual sales results, and you don’t have the time to teach, manage, and coach the sales team to excellence the way they need. You’re frustrated with the results.

Scenario 2: You hired a sales leader or manager at a lower price point because you can’t afford more or don’t see sales management as hard. You underestimated the skills and experience you need your sales leader to have. Now you have an underperforming sales manager who’s frustrating you and the team. All the salespeople still go to you almost all of the time anyway, they’re frustrated, and the sales manager is one more person you have to manage. He isn’t saving you any time.

Scenario 3: You decided to take your best salesperson and make them the sales manager or team leader. They either take a passive role, simply answering other salespeople’s questions, leaving them with essentially no manager at all. Or they try to live up to that role but aren’t good at managing people, creating systems and processes, collecting data, or using that data to hold the team accountable. You’ve now lost your best salesperson, so sales are down, and you still don’t have an effective sales leader for everyone else. It’s the worst of both worlds.

The common denominator in all of these scenarios is recognizing that being a good salesperson is an entirely different skillset from leadership, management of people, and the creation of accountability.

To get past this blockage, you want someone who’s built and led sales teams successfully before. The catch is you think you can’t afford someone with that level of experience full-time.

How Does an FCSO Engagement Work?

A Fractional CSO might be what you need, but how does it work?

Again, I go into more detail in my book, but briefly, depending on the situation in your business, your FCSO will tackle the various elements of a powerful sales team in different orders. These can include:

  • Locking down your lead generation process and head up your marketing efforts.
  • Ensuring that whatever you’re doing for lead generation gets you leads in your target market and that you have the correct information for them.
  • Creating a scoring system to ensure accountability for the quality and the number of leads.
  • Drawing on your and your sales team’s experience to clarify and document the right and best way to make sales in your unique organization with your unique customer or client base.
  • Determining how best to use technology like a CRM to manage these metrics and create actionable data. Using this data, you’ll find out how many of each type of action you need to get the results you want.
  • Taking ownership over building up your sales team when appropriate by driving recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and training to build a team of “A” players.
  • Creating corrective action plans with underperforming salespeople and make the difficult decision to let someone go when it becomes apparent that they aren’t going to be able to level up.

This all sounds great. So, what is the next step?

What Type of FCSO Do You Need?

Now it’s time to determine which type of FSCO is best for your business.

Some FCSOs operate as a group under one umbrella — which I call organizational Fractional Leaders (OFLs). You engage with an FCSO firm, and they work with you to find you an experienced FCSO from their firm to serve on your leadership team.

Other business owners engage with solo practitioners or individual, “single shingle” FCSOs. They like the independence and greater simplicity of working with a single individual. If that person has the right experience, this often works very well.

Some independent FCSOs are licensees of an established sales management system. The two main licensing organizations are SalesQB and Sales Xceleration.

Great FCSOs are using all the above models, so you need to ask yourself which resonates more with you. It can be helpful to speak with FCSOs or clients who have used the various models to determine which would be best for you.

Define Deliverables When Hiring an FCSO

If you’ve decided to hire an FCSO, be sure you’ve define the deliverables you expect from your fractional hire before the engagement starts. This includes:

  • Discussing your current sales and what you expect them to achieve, and in what time frame;
  • Discussing the level of authority you can and are willing to grant the FCSO; and
  • Ensuring that the two of you are 100 percent on the same page to avoid misunderstanding, frustration, or disappointment later on.

If your company’s marketing or sales are not your biggest pain points right now, but you’re having pervasive issues with your people, business structure, or processes, your main pain point might be your operations. In my next blog, I’ll discuss how engaging a Fractional Chief Operating Officer (FCOO) or, for companies using the Entrepreneurial Operating System management (EOS) framework, Fractional Integrator, can tighten up your business operations.

Ben Wolf Author
Ben Wolf, founder and CEO of Fractional Leadership, has been on both sides of the Fractional Leader search process.
As a leader in companies where he served as Fractional Integrator (outsourced COO), he has searched for and found multiple Fractional Leaders for clients. And as a Fractional Integrator, he has gone through many cycles looking for new clients at the successful conclusion of each engagement.
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