How a VP of Sales Makes the Number (The Step by Step Process)

Hitting a sales number is a complex thing to do – not complicated but complex – because there are so many variables and moving parts.  There is no “one size fits all” and not a magic bullet and it is “contextual” to each company and it’s own issues.  But here is a step by step approach that is a high-level summary and links to other articles that I wrote with more details.  As a VP of Sales, you already need to bring a depth of experience and knowledge and some key attributes as the Sales Leader so that you know what you’re doing.  The key here is that you are in the VP of Sales / CRO role to make good decisions – to create systems and processes that will lead to successful results.

I recently wrote about the 4-step process a Sales Leader can use to achieve their aim of creating a Repeatable, Predictable and Scalable Revenue Growth that  Mark Roberge taught me – he also wrote about these steps in his best-selling book “The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to go from $0 to $100 Million“. Mark’s 4 steps to scaling sales are the absolute foundation to effectively build a sales machine and Mark also provides a lot more details for each of these four steps in his book. And once you have that “repeatable, predictable and scalable” foundation in place and once you have a quota target, here is a summary of the overall sales management process that a VP of Sales / CRO can use to hit their number:

  • Planning
    • Ensure you have the right Sales Strategy
      • this includes a lot of components – i.e. setting the direction, quotas, objectives, headcount plan, even operations and sales tech stack, etc.
      • also includes understanding the $ Investment necessary to achieve a high ROI that is many multiples higher than your cost of sales
    • effective Go-to-Market (GTM) Strategy and Plan
    • knows how to assess the overall sales strength and then knows the team’s competence as well as the gaps
    • creates an effective, consistent, repeatable and optimal Sales Process
    • develop a Sales Playook to ensure everyone is following a consistent process and training
    • Understand the key Sales Effectiveness Drivers to grow sales
    • Plan the correct compensation structure which is one of the 6 key levers of managing your sales team to drive results
    • Perform benchmarking to challenge internal strategy and to provide KPIs beyond the insular environment inside the organization
      • for example, you have to know how your “cost of sales” is compared to the industry benchmarks and your competition
      • you have to understand your “sales effectiveness” in the context of the industry benchmarks to know if you’re doing well
  • People / Sales Team 
    • Business and effective sales management is all about “People”
      • this is where a head of Sales must focus 90% of time and effort
    • Recruiting Process
    • Culture
      • Develop Trust – give trust first to earn trust from the team
      • Create a culture of winning
      • Build high-performing teams – the foundation starts by creating a “psychological safety” for your people to take intelligent risks
        • Read more about Google’s research called “Project Aristotle” (see this HBR article) which is key to creating “high-performing” teams
      • Care about your people (read the “Trillion Dollar Coach” book about a CEO coach Bill Campbell aka “The Coach”)
      • Win the hearts before the minds
      • Develop real “pride” in your salespeople – each sales person should be coached to have the following 3 things to be proud of:
        • in yourself
        • in the company
        • in the product
    • Team
      • Everyone must put team above self
      • To win, you win as a team – there is a lot more to closing sales including effective lead flow, prospecting, ops, enablement, etc.
      • The best team wins – get the “right people on the right bus in the right seats”
      • Making the team better
        • A great VP of Sales or sales manager is one who makes their people better
        • A great professional is how who makes others on the team better
        • Peer relationships are key
        • You’re only as strong as your weakest team member
    • Onboarding & Developing (Coaching and Training)
      • The 3 key focus areas of a VP of Sales is Effective Hiring as well as Onboarding & Developing the team
      • Sales Team Development – sales coaching & an ongoing training process
      • Your team is very knowledgeable – each rep can teach others
      • Continuous Improvement – continuous improvement of the sales force skill-set and sales force effectiveness
        • Film reviews and recorded sessions are two great ways of continuous improvement
        • Individual Development Plans
        • Co-created Coaching Plans
      • Feedback – this is critical for improving your sales reps
      • Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” – Richard Branson
      • Your success as a manager can be best measured by what your reps do when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Hoffman, a highly-ranked sales trainer
    • Alignment across the team, from marketing/DemandGen to SDRs (Sales Development Reps) to your AEs/Closers
      • Finally, if your team is aligned, you are in the best position to hit the Revenue number and it’s always a team effort – as the old adage goes, “A Team is only as Strong as its Weakest Player”
    • Commit to coaching your talent & have a long-term mindset
      • Have the coaching mindset – it has been proven that focusing on improving your people rather and coaching your people is better than having a high employee attrition in sales and constantly looking to replace people
      • You have to commit to your talent unlike many organizations that play the game of terminating sales reps just to replace them with someone else who may not perform any better – this requires understanding your people well and gauging whether they can improve but that’s the job of the Head of Sales anyway
    • Alignment with other teams – starting with marketing/DemandGen and Product
      • have 1-on-1 meetings with all your peer executive VPs to ensure that everyone works together to enable and support sales
  • Managing
    • A Sales Leader / VP Sales has 4 Managing Roles
      • People manager: Manage and build a successful sales team
      • Customer manager: Provide exceptional customer experience
      • Business manager: Attain the business and sales goals
      • Sales Manager: Create and manage the system for the sales force and manages the “day-to-day
    • Use the “Magic Sales Formula” to grow and scale
    • Have regular weekly rhythm – Pipeline Reviews, Forecasting, Skills Training, Coaching 1-on-1s, Performance Management, etc.
  • Pipeline
    • Having a big and healthy Sales Pipeline is key to sales success and one of the 2 most important things in sales (the other is People)
    • Manage pipeline effectively
    • Know your “High Probability Opps” and focus on those in your pipeline
    • Monitor your Opportunity Inflow, Pipeline Integrity, Pipeline Flow/Changes, Win/Loss
    • The brutal fact is the number one reason for failure in sales is an empty pipe, and, the root cause of an empty pipeline is the failure to prospect.”  – Jeb Blount
    • align with marketing / lead generation to drive 50%-70% of the pipeline while Outbound SDR/Prospecting will combine to drive the rest (Opps generated Marketing Demand Gen will usually be 1/2 of the sales cycle with 2x the % Win Rate)
  • Execution (i.e. Performance)
    • Execution is a process & Execution is everything – you must execute well irrespective of a great plan
      • Set goals (quota, objectives, KPIs)
      • Focus & Discipline
      • Daily Habits
      • Sales Activities
      • Pipeline
      • Effort
      • Attitude
      • Full Accountability: Self-Accountability & Team Accountability
    • Celebrate Wins:
      • Send “Why We Won” email to the team
      • a brief report with a concise narrative on the win
      • includes insights / lessons so everyone can learn
      • this memo also praises the sales professional and celebrates the win
      • also allows other team members to feel the wins and be inspired by them
    • Create and maintain the “Forward Momentum” and celebrate with the team
    • Work Harder on the Right Things
      • there is a misconception that “working harder” is what will lead to results
        • but “hard work” will not be effective – if you are doing more of what doesn’t already work then that’s a waste;
      • first, fix what doesn’t work and improve what works and do more of what works
  • Analyze Leading KPIs to Be Proactive  – Analytical & Data-Driven Sales Management
    • Focus on the Leading Indicators such as Pipeline Inflow by Stages, or Activity Effectiveness
    • Analyze your key sales metrics regularly and adjust quickly as needed
    • Regularly analyze and look at the data to know your “leading indicators”
    • And understand how to hit your number (this is my 5P Framework that I created) and assess your situation regularly
    • Analyze the activities > pipeline > forecasted deals – there must be execution on activities with a lag time in its affect on pipeline and ultimately affects on forecasted deals
    • Use the 5P Framework to evaluate where you are at and to constantly evaluate how to keep moving forward
    • Optimize
      • Look at metrics for what to “optimize”
      • Bottlenecks/constraints – identify bottlenecks & constraints and look for how to improve here (see “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement” by Eliyahu Goldratt)
      •  have a “Continuous Improvement” mindset (aka famously known as Kaizen in operations and can be applied to Sales Management & Sales Process Engineering)

 

What else?  What are some other thoughts on how a Sales executive leads the sales team to make the number?