For Steve McKenzie, starting as a new Sales VP at a high-growth company is a little like showing up late for the 100m Olympic final and going straight to the starting block without a pre-race routine and warm up. You have to just get on with it.
McKenzie knows this feeling intimately, as he’s been the Sales VP at InsightSquared for six months. The business can’t and won’t slow down while a new leader gets acclimated and learns the ropes, he explained. You have to hit the ground running and get results fast.
“From day one, there’s a number that has to be hit, so you have to assimilate yourself into the business while driving the result at the same time.” McKenzie said. “You don’t have the luxury of orienting yourself in the business. You have to plan and execute simultaneously – all while figuring out how things work.”
This is a daunting challenge, and one many Sales VPs have faced in their careers. We’ve decided to shine a light on the real experiences of Sales VPs like McKenzie. Here’s an inside look at how he’s working to achieve fast-paced business growth in one of the most, intense, demanding and high-pressure jobs in sales.
Welcome to our new series, the Sales VP Spotlight.
The First 30 Days on the Job
In his first month at InsightSquared, McKenzie said his immediate focus was to understand as much as he could as quickly as he could. He needed to understand what he had to work with, including:
- The Skills of the Sales Team
- The Size of the Sales Pipeline
- The Historical Conversion Rates
- The Sales Process
- The Customer Experience
“The starting point for me was to assess the people on the team, their level of experience and skills,” he said. “I did ride alongs in many 1-on-1 meetings, to try and assess everything quickly. I sat in on calls to understand the challenges faced on the front line and talked to a few customers to find out their experience of the organization and the product.”
Next, McKenzie focused his attention of the sales goal for the first month, and tried to figure out whether the team would be able to hit that number or not.
“Day 1, your first thought is, how are we tracking?” he noted. “You have to look at the pipeline and analyze the probability of hitting that number.”
He dove right in, looking at the current pipeline and using historical conversion ratios to figure out if there was sufficient pipeline to hit the number. If there hadn’t been enough, he would have had to:
- Push the team to quickly generate more pipeline based on their historical performance.
- Look into the existing pipeline to assess if there were opportunities to increase conversion ratios.
With a solid understanding of the pipeline, he then delved into the minute details of the sales process, specifically looking at how the CRM is used by every rep, how they input data, how they forecast deals, and much more – always looking for ways to improve the process and lessen friction for buyers.
Following the Metrics
Right away, McKenzie emphasized personal responsibility for every rep on the team to not just hit their number, but also to track their personal sales metrics.
Every rep needs to think of themselves as a franchisee who is responsible for managing their own business.“Every rep needs to think of themselves as a franchisee who is responsible for managing their own business,” he said. “Hitting the number is merely the output. Reps also need to be responsible for managing the inputs.”
- Steve McKenzie
He analyzed each individual’s personal performance in detail and walked through it with them.
“It’s easy to look at how all the reps performed against quota, but quota is not the only indicator of performance,” he said. “You also have to look at their conversion ratios, sales cycles, and pipeline. If I’ve got two reps and one consistently hits 50% of their number and the other hits 100%, you may think rep one should be fired. But then you realize he’s got a 100% conversion ratio and just hasn’t been served enough pipeline. You can’t rely on just one number to track performance.”
McKenzie worked with reps to own their performance, and identify areas where they can improve – driving higher results in one stage of the sales funnel, speeding up their sales cycle overall, or contributing more pipeline growth.
“Looking at historical conversion rates, where is our biggest drop off? What stage are you seeing the most opportunities lost? That tells us what kind of training and coaching is required to help reps improve,” he explained.
Making Your Mark
Sales VPs are driven by the numbers, and held accountable for driving business growth. McKenzie said he had to learn fast and make decisions quickly, even as he was still learning about the company, its people and processes.
I joined a company that is growing fast and needs to accelerate – so my mandate was to help it grow even faster.“Unless you are brought on with a mandate to flush the system, it is important not to make changes for just the sake of it,” he said. “Understand what is working and what is not, identify areas for improvement and then be decisive – evolution rather than revolution. In the early stages as you are building trust with your new team, it is important to sell the benefits of the changes you want to make. Failing to do so may alienate you from your team. I joined a company that is growing fast and needs to accelerate – so my mandate was to help it grow even faster.”
- Steve McKenzie
His first change was to implement a weekly Go-to-Market meeting, to help start each Monday morning with a bang and motivate his team. McKenzie is also working on sales process improvements like lead scoring, Service Level Agreements with Marketing, and more.
“My objective is to make myself redundant,” he said. “How can I get the people and process optimized so there’s no need for me in this role? If I can get to a point where everyone is building enough pipeline, everyone is forecasting accurately, and everyone is blowing their number out of the water, then the system is working optimally and you don’t need me as overhead. In reality, you never really get there, but that’s the goal – to set up reps for success.”
His advice to other Sales VPs starting out at a new company is simple:
“Jump in feet first and get to know the people and the processes as quickly as possible,” he offered. “Roll up your sleeves and work. Don’t manage by theory, but be practical and understand how this business operates. What worked for you somewhere else may not work here. No two businesses are the same. Take your past experiences and adapt them to your new world.”