Where Does the Fractional Model Work Best… and Where Does It Not?

Photo by Anne Gosewehr

“Job fit is a concept that refers to how well an employee is suited for his or her position.”

from criteriacorp.com

“Where Does the Fractional Model Work Best… and Where Does It Not?”

This was the question I was recently asked by a client, specific to fractional sales leadership. The question, of course, implies that the client thinks that it is not a universal one-size-fits-all.

In my response, I broke the scenario down along several factors:

1. Size of the sales team: Span of control is not an exact science in sales. The span can be greater for a homogeneous, office-based, inside, or call-center team versus a globally dispersed team of experienced account executives. But generally speaking, a team of around ten salespeople or direct reports requires a full-time leader. The time it takes to develop strategy, messaging, tools, and tactics, as well as train and coach the team on those, keeping an eye on the need for changes and executing them, all of these combined require full-time attention.

2. The ambition of the business: Maintenance or growth, preservation or change? Experienced sales leaders with 20+ years of expertise are rarely excited about a stagnant business. They look for and want to drive change and growth. “A business needing a fresh perspective” is a common phrase they use to describe what they are looking for in their next assignment. Preserving the status quo is something most anyone can lead. Change and growth require the skill and expertise a seasoned fractional sales leader brings to the table.

3. The openness of the executive team: A fractional sales leader is often brought on by the owner or CEO of a business. And once onboarded, they need to work intensely with the other functional leaders. Sales do not operate in a vacuum; depending on the type of business, the executives heading operations, manufacturing, or legal are critical partners. They need to be aligned with the vision of the owner or CEO and accept a fractional executive as an equal.

4. Transparency regarding the engagement: The assignment starts with the proper introduction of the fractional sales leader to the team by the owner or CEO. The reasons for their engagement and the criteria in the selection need to be clearly conveyed. An interim sales leader becomes a full member of the management team of the client company for the duration of the assignment. They will operate as part of the team, rather than as an employee of an external organization. Unwillingness to operate under this transparency will lead to failure.

5. Compensation: Interim sales leaders are more expensive on a cash comp basis than permanent hires. Compare apples to apples, though, because you won’t be paying for many indirect employee expenses like benefits, holidays, sick days, bonuses, equity, training, equipment, or recruiting. In addition, fractional presents the opportunity to only pay for what you need: If the need for the qualification and experience of a sales leader only exist for 10 hours a week, contract and pay for only 10 hours. You want the best, the perfect person for the job, without paying for qualifications, or time, not needed. Ultimately, you get what you pay for. And keep in mind, a fractional sales leader is not a commission-only salesperson.

6. The openness of the owner or CEO: An outsider brings a fresh perspective, especially when this outsider doesn’t need to think of a career or other benefits but rather focuses solely on what’s best for the organization. This will produce new ideas, strategies, products, habits, culture, and so much more. The owner or CEO needs to be prepared to hear those truths and act upon them. Otherwise, it is a failed investment.

Considering those factors, fractional sales leadership is indeed not a one-size-fits-all. However, it does have a rightful place in many SMEs looking for growth, change, and a fresh perspective.

Contact us to explore if and how a fractional sales leader may be able to help your business.

Originally published at https://www.vendux.org on November 10, 2020.

Chief Evangelist for Interim & Fractional Sales Leadership