As a CEO starting your own company, you know you have to hire some C-level executives to help you run your business, namely hiring a VP of Marketing, Product and, of course, Sales. But why is this sales management position so integral to the growth and success of your new startup? What does a Sales VP actually do?
Fortunately, we know a few Sales VPs – awesome ones from successful companies, too! In talking to them, we discerned a couple of things that you should expect that great Sales VP you’re about to hire to do on a regular basis.
A great Sales VP cannot sell by himself – in fact, they might even be terrible at sales. After all, there is little correlation between a great sales rep and a great sales manager. Therefore, you should expect your Sales VP to have a keen eye for talent and know how to choose wisely from a long list of skills that great inside sales reps should have.
Furthermore, a great Sales VP should always be keenly aware of exactly how many sales reps they need. The best ones know their historical conversion rates, how much pipeline they need to hit quota and subsequently, how many reps they should have on their sales force. Sales VPs at growing companies have to always be on the hunt for their next great reps and ensure that they never fall below their required headcount of reps.
2) Sales strategy
The Sales VP, in working with the CEO, is in charge of setting the sales strategy for the entire company and his sales force. What are your goals for the upcoming quarter or year? Are you satisfied with the market that you are currently servicing or should you be expanding into more markets? How should you be spending your budget and resources?
In order to create – and stick to – a successful sales strategy, your Sales VP should have both vision and honesty. He needs vision to be able to set aggressive goals and think outside the box, while adhering to marketplace realities. He should also have the honesty to trust in sales metrics and use data as a method of checks and balances, instead of simply implementing ideas that may or may not be working.
3) Sales tactics
While setting the strategy is a great high-level exercise, Sales VPs should also be comfortable rolling their sleeves up and diving down into the tactical nitty-gritty of their sales team and process.
What is the core messaging that your sales reps should deliver? What is the Salesforce workflow like in terms of processing incoming leads from marketing? Will the team be using scripts and, if so, what is the script like? What is the process for following up? How is the team splitting up customer segments or territories? How often do sales coaching sessions take place? Are forecasting and pipeline review meetings conducted separately, and what goes on at each session? What sales metrics do you want your team focused on?
This is just a small proportion of the multitude of tactical sales questions that your incoming Sales VP should be able to answer. Sales reps need guidance, and that mentorship starts with clearly outlined tactics for their day-to-day workflow. As your team grows, your Sales VP should eventually hire or promote a sales manager to take care of these tactical minutiae.
The Sales VP should be who every sales rep turns to for guidance, for mentorship and for leadership. She sets the tone for what type of culture the sales team and the company will adopt – does the team operate strictly by-the-book, with each rep focused only on their own work? Or is there more of an open, friendly and competitive atmosphere, where reps are challenged to think outside the box and motivate each other to be better? These determinations rest in the hands of your Sales VP.
Finally, your Sales VP should contribute to the bottom line by…selling! While this might seem like a novel concept, oftentimes, the Sales VP is an excellent resource and can be a great asset in helping reps close big deals in the late stage. This is even more apt when the Sales VP has made great connections in the industry over the course of his career and his extra push or helping hand can actually make a big difference.
However – and this is important to be mindful of – the Sales VP should never make closing deals a priority. Many Sales VPs are loathe to give up their previous selling responsibilities, perhaps because they were great at it and loved the acclaim that comes with closing a deal. In their new role as Sales VP, they have to be more focused on being a leader and building out a great sales team.
These are the things that a Sales VP should be doing – is your Sales VP actually focused on these priorities? If not, you might have to start looking for a new one soon.
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