THE V.P. OF SALES
Hero or Goat?
So goes your sales chief, so goes your sales group at large -and your sales volume.
One of the toughest decisions a CEO has to make is selecting the sales chief. The corporation's growth, whether minute or huge, to a very large degree will depend on who has the responsibility for sales. Some of them are heros and some are goats.
Attributes of a Hero
Self improvement is crucial. I haven't met anyone with a BS or a BA degree in "Vice President of Sales". I always start my consulting process with helping the VP get better. So goes his improvement so goes everyones' improvement.
A VP who looks busy is not necessarily an effective one. I describe efficiency as "doing things right" as compared to effectiveness which is "doing the right things". Big difference. An effective VP focuses intently on two major areas - his sales group and clients. Major time on major things and minor time on minor things. Focus on helping your group with obtaining and keeping clients. Everything else is the small stuff. Guess where too many VP's spend their time. Small stuff. For salespeople to be effective, the chief must be growing at a faster rate than the group they are leading and managing. It's that simple.
Recruiting must be an on-going process where recruiting is done when you do not need anyone. This helps you to select the right people by interviewing them at least 3 times to include an informal meeting in a restaurant. Recruiting only when you need someone is bad business. A rushed decision made because you urgently need a body will probably haunt you down the road. The VP of sales should get a personality profile processed on the individual and possibly utilize a consultant in one of the sessions.
You can't train the wrong people so taking the time to thoroughly interview is an investment that pays dividends.
Sales and Marketing Plans are a must. This is your blue print for every major activity for the year.
Deadline dates must be applied to the majority of the items in the plan. The plan must be reviewed monthly with the purpose of meeting or beating the deadline dates. This eliminates corporate drift. The plan need not be fancy with color graphs and mundane data. Just include the major activities that you need to do for growing your group and your sales.
Sales Meetings should have several goals. The first one should be that it will be the best sales meeting the organization has ever experienced. The following sales meeting, however, should then be the best one ever. And so on. I understand that making every sales meeting the best one is a tall order, but is a responsibility.
The meeting should be charged with energy and activity. There should be a fun environment so that individuals look forward to coming. Next, be sure to provide training that is practical and targeted towards the groups' needs. Remember that an abundance of product training does not turn an average performer into a great performer. Sales training is the priority followed by product training. The VP must hold the group accountable for the skills they learned at the sales meeting. If not, many people will leave the meeting and go into the field with old skills and habits. Monitor, Monitor, Monitor.
Coaching is more important that training. I say that because a 1 on 1 session is targeted only for the one individual you are meeting with and his needs and concerns.
Salespeople are like thumb prints. That is, there are not two that are identical. Each one has different skill sets and particular areas for improvement. Don't rush your 1 on 1 sessions. Your people want to know that you care about them and they want to be listened to. If you have recruited the best sales force possible, get ready to give them you best coaching.
Target Accounts are major clients you want to land, those you want to increase your volume with and those you never want to lose. You must invest an adequate time with these clients.
Work on delegating tasks that consume you time so that it can be invested into major sales people who handle major clients. When delegating, think of little things that can help you pick up an extra 5 minutes a day. If you just gain 5 minutes daily, that is 20 1/2 hours annually! Then find another 5 minute time waster and you now have saved 10 minutes daily or 41 hours annually. Work towards being the ultimate delegator which would be to assign someone to sit in for you in the dentist's chair. When you get that good, please call me and tell me how you pulled it off.
Elevate Expectations of every individual because everyone can get better. When you invest in sales training and in your 1 on 1 coaching time always assign new skills and ideas for the individual to act on. Otherwise, your training dollars and 1 on 1 time will be wasted.
Think about what each person needs to improve upon and assign 2 - 6 specific challenges you will ask/demand that he act on. Think of the following areas for each salesperson: organization, prospecting, time utilization, planning, presentations skills and closing techniques. If the VP is dedicated to personal improvement, he will have earned the right to ask everyone else to get better. Don't ask others to do what you do not do.
Motivation is critical for a sales group. They want to work for a leader - not a boss. The leader is a role model for others to emulate. He gives his best stuff to his employer, his group and to clients. He loves to be in the field where the action is. He is fun to be with and he is armed to the teeth with skills and product knowledge. He understands what most do not. That is, he is in the people business.
He needs to be hard when he must be and soft when he should be. He praises others in public and provides constructive criticism in private. He provides unexpected rewards to a salesperson that has done something fantastic.
Lots more, of course, but maybe a VP has read of just one area in this article to work on. I hope so because people change jobs, hobbies and even spouses. It is better to change (improve) ourselves.
Your sales force will be the winner for it along with your employer - your clients - and you.