March 1, 2024

Fractional Sales Leadership: The Oldest Newest Role in the World

Steve Dawson's Asia Market Entry office overlooks Singapore’s river and impressive skyline and it made for the perfect location to drink wine and discuss fractional sales roles – good, bad and ugly. Over 20 of us did just that this week with the goal of better understanding fractional roles and how individuals can best position themselves for these types of opportunities.

The term 'fractional' is often reserved for executive-level roles, such as CFOs, COOs, CROs, CHR and others, who prefer to work with multiple companies rather than committing to just one full-time position. To the sceptics in the room, fractional is a fancier sounding term compared to contractors and that’s why they get paid more.

The wine from Petersons started flowing and breakout groups listed out the biggest pros and cons of fractional sales roles (and any fractional role, in fact) and lessons learned for increasing the likelihood of having a successful part-time hire.

A good start. There were several seasoned fractional veterans in the room and we looked at several topics that companies and leaders should consider when going down this path:

1)      If you are considering a fractional role within an organization, find your internal coach and make sure to ask the right questions. Inside information helps. What politics are at play here and who is really in charge? Are there short-term opportunities due to maternity/paternity leave, illness or sabbaticals? Also, find what are the company's key hiring metrics? For some companies, headcount is a key metric. Salary, not so much. This is when being a vendor isn’t a bad thing, especially when headcount reduction trends heat up. In these cases, how a fractional role gets positioned and structured can make or break the duration and effectiveness of the role.

2)      Many in the room were eager to understand the various ways to price a fractional position. Hourly or day rates? One suggestion was to take a page from lawyers and use an ongoing retainer fee. This avoids falling into the headcount trap discussed above.

3)      Managing Scope creep is a critical skill for fractional leaders. Frequent challenges for senior roles include being pulled into tactical execution rather than strategic guidance. Many small businesses need both so it’s important to be clear about the scope before getting started.

a.       Time management is a particularly important skill, especially minimizing meetings. However, even managing this well can have unintended consequences. For example, not being fully involved in a company’s interactions can lead to reduced influence and having full-time employees take credit for your work since you aren’t always there to "be seen." Managing company politics came up multiple times.

4)      The reverse of that is to be clear about what is not involved in the scope. What will not be completed by this person? If these tasks are important, who will get them done instead? Fractional hire.

5)      Maybe fractional roles are not the way to go. Instead hire a consultant or contractor there the role is entirely Output-focused. In other words, list out the specific tasks that need to be accomplished as well as the time frames. Hire someone to complete this rather than a “fractional leader.”

6)      Being in fractional roles can be lonely. We didn’t dig into this point too much, but some attendees took a long swig from their glass and stared out into the distance.

Overall, this was a fantastic session with great networking and sharing of ideas. Looking forward to the next one!


For those of you who do not know me, I build sales pipelines and develop leadership training programs that help companies increase business across regions and prepare next-gen leaders for tomorrow's global threats and #hybridwork opportunities. My courses and coaching are both live and digital.

I wrote a book about the lessons learned, good, bad and ugly, when expanding into foreign markets called The Accidental Business Nomad: A Survival Guide for Working Across a Shrinking Planet. It makes fun of the hyper-growth expectations over the last few decades and won the Axiom Business Book Award and the audiobook is narrated by the guy who does the Jack Reacher books, which is pretty cool.

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