Marissa Mayer's Blind Spot

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in front of cameras

Photo: fabianmohr

After two months on the job, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is going to update employees today on her strategy for turning around the company.There is one other thing she urgently needs to do: talk directly to Yahoo’s massive army of sales people in New York, Boston, Detroit and even Sunnyvale.

Mayer has, in her two months on the job, single-handedly improved morale at Yahoo by leaps and bounds. But the sales group’s morale is lagging somewhat behind other employee groups, particularly Yahoo’s engineers.

That’s because they feel direction-less. Unlike prior CEOs, who communicated with all Yahoo employees at least once a week, Mayer has not communicated as much to employees in Yahoo’s field offices. 

One employee, who is otherwise thrilled with Mayer’s arrival, tells us she needs to get better at this type of communication. This source tells us that remote sales people are “sitting on their hands.”

Mayer has a reputation for not being particularly interested in the ad sales side of Internet businesses.

When she was a young, but very high profile Google executive engineer, the sales team there would try to get her to join meetings with some of the CMOs at the company’s most important clients. Google’s CEO at the time, Eric Schmidt, would pretty much always agree to do these types of meetings.  But Mayer would regularly decline.

We also heard that during her first few weeks at Yahoo, one sales exec spent a few days at Mayer’s elbow in Sunnyvale and had zero conversations about the state of that side of the business.

The truth is, Mayer is probably never going to be a CEO who gets deep in the weeds on Yahoo ad sales. It’s not her interest. She’s an engineer and a UI designer. She is going to rely on leadership like Yahoo’s chief revenue officer, Michael Barrett, to give the sales team direction. And that’s mostly fine. There are a few problems with this, though:

  • It’s not a sure thing Barrett will stay. AdAge reports he isn’t going anywhere. All Things D says he is lobbying for a rich exit package, and that Mayer is already talking to potential replacements.
  • Mayer is a business world star, and before CMOs drop big money, they are going to want to meet with her.
  • Sales are going to suffer at Yahoo for a few quarters because sales people are sitting on their hands. Direction from Barrett is fine, but these people want to hear from their fancy new boss about what to do.

Mayer has a lot of leash with Yahoo’s board in terms of top and bottom line performance, but that doesn’t mean she should use all of it.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.