"Vice president" is typically a title that carries a lot of weight. When it comes to the sales department, however, the average tenure of a vice president is shockingly short. Data from the ES Research Group suggests the average vice president of sales lasts between 24 and 32 months in that position.
Even more surprising is the fact that this number is declining at an increasingly rapid rate. Dave Stein, CEO of ES Research Group, said he's seen tenures as low as 19 months – hardly enough time for new executives to make any meaningful changes within a company.
Sales departments are known for having a revolving door of talent due to the challenging nature of the occupation. Still, the short tenure of executive positions may speak to more than just the difficulty of running an effective sales branch in today's economy.
Claudio Fernandez-Araoz, Boris Groysberg and Nitin Nohria, authors of "The Definitive Guide to Recruiting in Good Times and Bad," suggests the problem lies in hiring and sales coaching practices.
Many sales vice presidents are promoted or brought on because of the hiring manager's "gut feeling" that candidates will be able to do what is required of them to succeed at their jobs. This type of unquantified approach to hiring is obviously a poor one that opens companies up to failure after failure.
When promoting from within, it's also crucial that companies realize the importance of coaching and training executives to handle their new positions. An effective salesperson may not have the skills needed to succeed right away. If he or she is left to develop these traits, the process could result in many months of poor decision making. At a time when the average vice president of sales only lasts a few quarters, this clearly doesn't give employees enough time to adjust their management styles.
"But even when a new VP implements positive change, two years is barely long enough for the results to begin showing," Selling Power adds. "So even in cases in which VPs may be doing things right, impatient CEOs under intense pressure to turn things around in this challenging economy are hustling those VPs out the door to show they're doing something to change results. It's change for the sake of change – and it's a recipe for disaster."
In an industry that relies so heavily on skills and insight, it's crucial that companies give their sales employees – whether they're baseline employees or vice presidents – the tools they need to succeed.