Speakers: Eric Vermillion | Greg Alexander, SBI

If you are a recently hired/promoted head of sales and want to avoid common rookie mistakes, hear from one of your peers on how to maximize this time. Listen to this interview with Eric Vermillion, the recently hired SVP of Sales for BlueCat, a software provider disrupting the IP address management category.

 

By listening to this podcast, you will hear from Eric:

 

  • Why the playbook from your previous company won’t work.
  • That hiring “new and better” people does not fix every problem.
  • Blaming the previous head of sales for everything makes you look childish.
  • Putting big numbers up fast sets you up for failure down the road.
  • Changing the compensation plans too early is a rookie mistake.

 

Eric also introduces five other potential missteps you will want to hear about.

Transcript

 

Announcer: Welcome to the SBI podcast, offering CEOs, sales and marketing leaders ideas to make the number.

 

Greg: Hello everybody. This is Greg Alexander, CEO of SBI, a sales and marketing consulting company dedicated to helping you make your number. You are listening to the SBI podcast. Today’s guest is Eric Vermillion. Eric is the senior vice-president of sales at BlueCat, which is a software provider disrupting the IP address management category, enabling its customers to scale its network reliability and security. The company is privately held, has been in business for fifteen years and counts companies such as CSC as its customers.

 

Eric has seventeen years of experience all in the software industry, spending time with global leaders and headlines with an eight year run at Nice Systems, where he reached the position of senior vice president of sales. Eric received a degree in marketing from Purdue University. Eric, welcome to the show.

 

Eric: Thanks Greg, great to be here.

 

Greg: Today we’re going to have a little fun. Our topic the top ten ways a new VP of sales can blow his honeymoon period.

 

Eric: Is this a Letterman tribute?

 

Greg: Something like that. I was inspired by him recently. I asked Eric to join us today because he’s got a great sense of humor and he is right in the middle of his honeymoon period at BlueCat, having recently taken the position. Prior to that, he was the head of sales at Cross Match from 2013 to 2015, early 2015, so he’s been in and out of the honeymoon period twice recently and has lived to talk about it. Eric, you ready to go through the top ten list?

 

Eric: Let’s do it.

 

Greg: All right. Here’s our hypothetical use case that we’re going to follow today to guide or conversation. A company hires a new head of sales. Let’s call him Vic. Vic joins the company and spends six months in his honeymoon period. During this time he assesses his team, meets with customers, meets with channel partners and gets to know the leadership team, learns about the product and the main competitors. Vic then spends the next six months, so this is the second six months, launching a set of initiatives.

 

At the one year mark all the tough questions start coming at him. Where are the results? Are you going to hit the number this month or this quarter? Why can’t you get this done faster? And so it goes. Feeling the heat, Vic panics and starts to look for a job before he gets fired. This job search takes about another six months. Total time in the job, eighteen months.

 

A version of this story gets played out in company after company and it needs to stop. Eric and I are going to discuss the ways our friend Vic blew his honeymoon period, which we will call the first six months. Most importantly, we’re going to kick around some ideas that we can suggest to you to not blow your honeymoon period if you find yourself in a new job. So here we go.

 

Here are the top ten ways a new head of sales can blow his honeymoon period. Number ten, assume your old playbook will work in the new environment. Our friend Vic figures he will do what he did in his last few jobs and it will work in the new job. After all, this is why the company hired him in the first place. The problem is is that this new company sells different products to different customers against different competitors and through different channels. Implementing the old playbook never works. My question for you, my friend Eric, have you ever made this mistake before and how do you recommend people listening to this podcast avoid this mistake?

 

Eric: I think when I joined Cross Match there was a couple of mistakes that I made there. One is I didn’t realize the relevance of industry knowledge and industry experience. I think sometimes when you’re in a spot where that is so relevant to the job that sometimes, especially software guys can tend to overlook it a little bit, so that was not part of my playbook there. I brought in a couple of guys that really didn’t have success there because they had absolutely no knowledge of the biometrics in the security space that we were in and it put them at a pretty big disadvantage. The learning curve to build that knowledge was greater than the learning curve to … It was greater than the amount of time that we needed to start to have some impact on sales. That’s a mistake from my past that I think you really have to assess.

 

The other thing, Greg, is you’ve got to understand what are the important elements of your playbook. If it’s tied completely to the company and to the industry specific, then you almost have to assume that it’s one hundred percent wrong, even if you go to another company in the same space, because people are different. The people you’re answering to are different, the people that report to you are different, and you’ve got to be able to inject that personality and the culture of the organization into the playbook as well.

 

Greg: Very cool. The lesson there for the audience to take is as a sales leader you have your own playbook, and the playbook needs to be divorced from the company that you’re working with so that as your career moves on you can take this playbook with you and it can be applied to new companies and new industries. If it’s completely tied to your current situation, it’s not going to be transferable. That’s great advice for number ten.

 

Eric: It’s a word we use cavalierly in sales as well. Playbook has way too many meanings.

 

Greg: That’s because we’re a bunch of old jocks and we still think we’re playing football. All right, number nine, the number nine way a new VP of sales blows his honeymoon period. He or she assumes the answer to every problem is hire better people. Vic figures fire some bums, hire some As and the number will get met. The problem is A players put into C player performance conditions are going to fail; non-differentiated products, territories with low potential, unrealistic quotas, no tools, et cetera. Eric, have you ever made this mistake, and how do you suggest our listeners avoid making it?

 

Eric: I don’t know that I can pinpoint a situation where I’ve made that mistake. People are different and every situation is different. You’ve got to make sure that you’re setting people up for success. I take the long view when I hire a sales person or put anybody in a role, regardless of whether they’re an A or B player. If they’re a C player, you need to get rid of them as fast as you can anyway.

 

If they’re somebody who’s got a right to be in that spot you’ve got to make sure that you’re helping them build a good story. If you can’t help them build a good story … Sales people are very much free agents and if you don’t put them in a position to write the next chapter in their own autobiography that it looks like it’s going to be a successful one, then you’re setting yourself up to be swapping out a lot of sales people. That is not always financially driven.

 

You’ve got to figure out what motivates people and make sure that they understand that you care about understanding what motivates them and that you have a plan and you’re going to work together with them to make sure that as we make this change and drive this change we’re going to have a good story to tell in two or three years about why you joined this company and what you did while you were here and what you were able to accomplish while you were here. If we do that right, it’ll be a good story and you’ll make some good money along the way.

 

Greg: Great advice. If you’re a new head of sales and you’re listening to this, just be careful. All your problems don’t get fixed with just hiring better people. To use Eric’s term, you have to set them up for success, which is putting them into optimized performance conditions, or you’re going to bring some people onboard and they’re not going to make it. That’s how to avoid that mistake.

 

Number eight, the number eight way a new VP of sales can blow his honeymoon period. This is going to sound self-serving, but I believe it so I’m going to say it anyway, not asking for help. Our friend Vic, a newly hired sales leader, figures he cannot hire any third parties, people like SBI, because it will make him look weak. He figures the CEO will say, “Why do we need them? That is why I hired you.”

 

The problem is Vic has a lot to do. He doesn’t have enough resources to get it done, and he needs to get it done fast. The way to make sure the honeymoon period does not get wasted is to bring in an army of helpers right away and to get the work done fast. It’s about capacity, not necessarily capability. Vic often cannot control his ego so he doesn’t ask for help. Eric, what’s your reactions to this one?

 

Eric: I hope there are some CEOs listening as well. This is one where you’re joining an executive team. You’re joining a leadership team and you’ve got to advertise your desire for help. If you’ve got a good CEO, he’ll respect the request for help. That’s not just hiring consultants or hiring trained folks. That’s a big part of it, but this is … I’ve got a couple of deals right now where my CEO is running point on the deal. He’s doing the job for me because I’m trying to hire fifteen or twenty people in the next month and I’m trying to do a segmentation exercise in the next month and I’m trying to get our own internal playbook developed. There’s a myriad of things, so he’s saying, “Hey, do you mind if I intervene here at this account or that account?” I’m going, “No, absolutely not.”

 

The one thing he said to me is, “This is really strange. Usually heads of sales are really protective about the CEO jumping into the middle of a deal.” You can’t be protective and you can’t be anything less than open with data. I think it’s one of the things that people in the sales field in general tend to try and be a little bit protective of their data because they don’t want other people to draw conclusions. I think as the head of sales it’s really important that you’re extremely open with what you’re trying to do and that you advertising that you’re actively looking for opportunities for people to help, both internal resources and external resources where you need them.

 

Having territories uncovered because you’re insistent on not using outside recruiters, having sales force be a disaster because you don’t want to pay somebody from the outside to help you, these are real shortsighted things that can set you back and really cause you to lose that for six months just trying to clean up tactical messes that really stand in the way of helping you drive your strategic plan forward.

 

Greg: You, my friend, are successful for a reason. You’re modest and humble and self-aware and comfortable in your own skin and you’re not afraid to ask for help. You’re right. If CEOs are listening, here’s a challenge I would give them. Why is it okay for the CFO to pick up the phone and call JP Morgan and ask for help? Why is I okay for the CIO and call IBM for help, but for some reason the poor guy that leads sales, who owns the number, when he wants help you give him a hard time? I don’t understand that. Everyone else on your executive team is allowed to rely on gold-plated trusted advisors. You should extend the same courtesy to the sales leader.

 

We’re going to take a quick break and tell our listeners how to get the latest edition of the SBI magazine. If you’re getting value from this podcast, you will get a lot of value from our magazine. Stick around and we’ll be right back.

 

Announcer: Why is it that senior executives, CEOs, CFOs, have magazines focused on their success, but sales and marketing leaders don’t? General business magazines such as Fortune and Forbes almost never write about sales and marketing issues. At SBI we know sales and marketing leaders have needs that have gone unmet until now. Introducing the SBI magazine, the premier magazine dedicated to helping sales and marketing leaders be more successful. Read captivating articles written by professional journalists about how sales and marketing leaders are making the number. Goes to salesbenchmarkindex.com and subscribe.

 

Greg: Welcome back everybody. This is Greg Alexander, CEO of SBI, and this is the SBI podcast. Today we are talking about the top ten ways a new VP of sales can blow his honeymoon period. Our guest is Eric Vermillion, who is the senior vice-president of sales at BlueCat.

 

We’re on to number seven, blaming the last guy for everything. Our friend Vic, the newly hired sales leader, loves to tell everyone how messed up things are and what an idiot the last guy was. He figures this makes him powerful and authoritative. The problem is the last guy has some allies in the company and no matter how he left he was not a total idiot. Failure has many causes at times. Be careful. This just makes people wonder how you might treat them when when times get tough. Eric, how do you avoid grave dancing and what advice do you offer the listeners?

 

Eric: This is a real simple answer. Just don’t do it. You’re hired to do your job and move the company forward, not live in the past. If you’re doing that in any shape or form it’s not going to serve you well. The only thing history is good for is awareness so that you don’t repeat some of the issues of the past. Living in it, talking about it, throwing people under the bus for what happened in the past is never ever a good solution.

 

Greg: Yeah, I agree. Enough said on that one. Straightforward answer. Makes perfect sense. Let’s move on to number six, the sixth way that VPs of sales blow their honeymoon period. Focusing on putting big numbers up fast. Vic wants to be the hero and save the day, so he jumps on the forecast, spots the big deals, heads out to the field and closes some deals. The numbers look great and the CEO thinks all is well. The problem is Vic has to make the number every month, every quarter, every year. The make it, miss it, make it, miss it approach here destroys credibility. In order to make the number consistently, Vic needs a real sales strategy, not a bunch of short-term tactics disguised as a strategy. Eventually this all catches up to Vic.

 

Eric, I’m going to ask you a big question here and it’s somewhat unfair, but do your best to give me a podcast appropriately concise answer. What is your definition of a sales strategy?

 

Eric: I think you’ve got to assess the world that you’re living in and make sure that it’s something that’s appropriate for the company that you’re a part of. If you’re a part of a three hundred person organization, it’s probably going to look a little different than if you’re a part of a fifty thousand person organization. Beyond that, there’s got to be some core philosophical value. I think this is part of defining for the organization, not just the sales team, what your leadership strategy is. People like to be led, not managed. I used the word leadership very purposely there.

 

If people understand and believe that you’re beginning with the end in mind and the changes that you’re making and the things that you’re doing along the way are serving a purpose to make you the most highly respected company in your space and to be a company that’s defined by excellence and winning everything that’s winnable and knowing how to run from the stuff that not and being an admired and respected sales organization, setting good expectations and developing the mechanics internally to inspect them, and last but certainly not least, having fun, these are some that I stand for.

 

If everybody understands that, then as you make the changes along the way and you can kind of keep referring back to those things that are really important to you as a leader in the organization, people can usually connect the dots and say this stuff is happening for a reason and we understand what the end state is for this. Even though it might be a little uncomfortable or a little bit awkward for me, I know that there’s a plan. People like to know that there’s a plan.

 

I don’t know that that ties directly into how you started this pitfall with jumping into all the big deals and forgetting about strategy, so I want to tie the two together. This is the other place where you get help and you start assigning executive sponsors and asking for help on the big deals so there’s more sets of eyeballs on them than your own. If you just focus on the big deals and you don’t fix the underlying challenges along the way and create a sustainable model, like you said, it starts to fall apart pretty quickly.

 

Greg: That was a great answer and I think it does tie in and your definition of leadership there in contrasting it with management was really helpful. I would add to this conversation a very simple way to remember what sales strategy is. Sales strategy is the allocation of three things, people, money and time. What you have your people working on, where you’re spending your improvement dollars and where the time is being consumed; if you can allocate those things against the opportunity proportionately, that’s a great working model for a sales strategy.

 

Let’s progress to number five on our top ten list of ways a new VP of sales blows his honeymoon period. Number five, buys software tools to satisfy his inner control freak. Our friend Vic feels information is power and he wants to measure everything so he can share fancy slides in his monthly operating review with is boss. He buys a bunch of software, BI tools, marketing automation tools, CRN tools, et cetera, et cetera.

 

The problem is reporting on the outcome after it has happened does not change the outcome. Measuring everything with slick dashboards has never made a Vic successful. It just feels good temporarily. Eric, are you a control freak and how do you keep your inner micro-manager under control?

 

Eric: I’m not a control freak, but I am a data freak. I do like to absorb as much information as I possibly can, so I do tend to like tools and the information that they provide. I’ve got an awareness that the garbage in, garbage out scenario can work against you very often. I’ve had this conversation with my current CEO a number of times over the last forty days. Today is day forty for me.

 

There’s a tool that we’ve invested in that’s really good at rendering a sales forecast and when I dig in started to really look at the numbers behind the sales forecast, the data that’s going into the sales force that feeds this tool is extremely inconsistent because the different forecast categories that were being used are not being followed the same by each and every person within the organization. If there’s no consistency in how the data is being put into the system, you’re getting a really lovely view and good data on the back end, but it’s not good and it’s not consistently good, so the numbers that it produces can lull you into a sense of security that just looks neat and tidy, but the data behind it isn’t good. It’s easy to be lulled into that sense of pretty pictures and pretty graphics.

 

The other thing that I’ve found is the planning exercise when you’re implementing a new tool is more powerful than the tool itself. A lot of times you can fall victim to let’s put this tool in place because this is the right thing to do and it’s going to be really, really cool, but you don’t go through the proper planning cycle and then you end up with a pile of garbage that’s really not useful to anyone.

 

This is not something that … I guess I’m going to go on record. It’s probably not fostering the strength of the software industry, but a lot of these productivity tools, the productivity gain is in the planning, ninety percent of it. The last part of it is the sustained use of it, but you get the biggest bang for your buck just in the planning phase of putting it in, so it’s really, really important to do that right and not just buy some pretty interfaces.

 

Greg: I couldn’t agree with you more. Someone once told me, I forget who, but they said the strategic plan is a commodity but the strategic planning process is priceless, and I agree with that totally. We’ve got to take a quick, short break. We have recently launched SBI TV and my guess is some that are listening to this will want to watch it, but you might not know how to get it. Here’s how to get a subscription to SBI TV. We’ll be right back.

 

Announcer: Tired of watching highlights from a meaningless game on Sports Center? Tired of watching a stock picker on CNBC talk about a company you don’t care about? Introducing SBI TV, a monthly web TV show focused on what you do care about, making the number. Broadcast on the internet, the show features people just like you, sales and marketing leaders trying to grow their revenues. Watch your peers as they discuss their behind-the-scenes strategies for making the number. Finally a TV show for busy executives that won’t bore you to death. Go to salesbenchmarkindex.com/tv or to to YouTube and search for Sales Benchmark Index to subscribe.

 

Greg: Welcome back everybody. This is Greg Alexander, CEO of SBI. This is the weekly podcast series. Today I’m joined by Eric Vermilion, the senior vice-president of sales for BlueCat. We’re talking about the top ten ways a new VP of sales blows his honeymoon period. We’ve gone through ten through five and we’re now on number four, so let’s jump into it.

 

The number four reason why people blow their honeymoon period. They spend money on sales training programs. Our friend Vic just landed his job. As a result, he changed his Linkedin profile. This means every sales training firm under the sun is calling on him. Vic likes being the buyer for a change instead of always being the seller. Therefore he entertains a few training vendors. The sales training vendors are all good at selling. Their courseware demos well, it looks cheap, so Vic buys the latest fad. Can you say the Challenger sale anybody? The problem with this is sales training almost never works because the field is not adaptive and it’s not reinforced. This creates what we call shelfware, which are process workflows and job aids that sit on a shelf.

 

This is a mistake, particularly which is very problematic for Vic, because putting the sales team through sales training is highly visible. If it doesn’t work, the CEO and Vic’s peers are going to know about it. This is usually the first loss of political capital. Eric, have you ever wasted time and money on sales training? I’d appreciate your honesty here because we all have. How can one avoid making this mistake?

 

Eric: We’ll start with the sordid tales, past mistakes, because I already said it’s not a good idea to live in the past. This is one where you’re right. I’ve gotten hit by a ton of them. You’re probably going to change some processes. You’re probably going to change some people. If you jump right into sales training on some tactical element of the sales process like prospecting or closing the deal or the contracts process or negotiation or something like that, you end up driving inconsistency right out of the gate. As you change people and you change your own process but you’ve trained everybody and you’ve spent a lot of money and created a lot of visibility to training on this one tactical piece, it may not fit with your overall strategy. You’ve just created a barrier for yourself and probably wasted a lot of time and money along the way doing it.

 

I think there are a lot of great sales training firms out there and obviously I’ve been a customer of yours in the past, Greg, so I value what you guys do, but the most important part of any sales training exercise is to make sure that you’ve got clear strategy for yourself that your sales team understands, that your management team has bought into and that the senior leadership team of the company has bought into as well. I think one of the fastest ways to make a salesforce.com implementation fail is to not have your CEO, CFO and other members of the leadership team bought in and using it themselves.

 

If you don’t have that support and use training to reinforce it, then you’re just creating almost insurmountable barriers for you to be able to execute on the plan that you’ve created for your organization.

 

Greg: I agree. We’re a big believer in sales training obviously. We’re a sales consulting firm, but we do some sales training. There’s an appropriate time for it, but it’s not the first six months on a job. What we’re talking about right now is the honeymoon period. That’s why I’m calling this number four. Don’t invest in this now. It’s critical that you invest in sales training, but it’s got to be at the right time and we advocate that the first six months is not the right time.

 

Eric: Yeah. It’s a crutch, right? It’s like [inaudible 00:27:26] the dog from the squirrel. Just something to distract from the fact that I’m really, really busy and I can’t figure out which way is left right now, so let’s do some negotiation training.

 

Greg: Exactly. Let’s progress to number three. This is the third I guess most devastating way that VPs of sales blow their honeymoon period. They buy a subscription to one of these advisory services like CEB or Forrester or SiriusDecisions or something like this. Vic realizes that he needs help, our friend Vic, our fictional character here, but he doesn’t want to hire a consulting firm because of the issue mentioned above, which is people asking, “Isn’t that what I hired you for?”

 

He goes cheap, spends fifty grand on one of these memberships to an advisory practice. This gives him access to a best practices portal, attendance to some events and telephone support. This is his do-it-yourself method. The problem with this is that academic best practices with no implementation or execution help has never made a Vic a number. The problems this new Vic is dealing with are hard and they cannot get fixed with some research paper, attending a conference or a few telephone calls. This results in nothing more than distracting the field with some big ideas that lead to nowhere.

 

These advisory practices are really good and those that I’ve mentioned I have a lot of respect for, but again, I don’t believe these are the things you should be spending your time on in the first six months. There’s a time for it, but it’s not the honeymoon period. Eric, what is your opinion on these advisory services and do you think it’s appropriate in the honeymoon period or should you wait?

 

Eric: I think you should wait because the honeymoon period is all about making sure that you’ve got the right people on your team and that you’ve got a good, sound strategy and that you’ve got the buy in of the senior leadership team of the company, that you’ve got buy in of your own management team and that you’ve got the sales team convinced that you’ve got a plan in place and that the actions that you take now in call it phase two are all contributing to make this a better, more fun place to work and to drive that agenda.

 

That’s when you start to invite in some of these advisory type companies or some of the sales training companies, is to support the strategy that you’ve built yourself. It’s not a one size fits all and most of that stuff is backward looking. It’s historical stuff. We live in a world that is changing and evolving so fast that what worked a year ago might not work anymore.

 

Greg: Yep. Very well said. I agree with you a hundred percent. Let’s progress to number two. We only have two more to go. Number two is in attempts to make changes quickly Vic changes the comp plan. Our legacy Vic here, our right out of central casting newly hired VP of sales, still thinks “sales people are coin operated” even when confronted with the mountain of evidence that proves otherwise, so he modifies the comp plan.

 

I call this the orange stick. What do I mean? Vic claims he’s [incenting 00:30:42] people with a bigger carrot, thus the name orange. However, it’s just a blunt force, ineffective, lazy instrument called the stick. When you paint the stick orange, it doesn’t make it a carrot. The problem here is that intrinsic motivation trumps external stimulus every time. If you don’t believe me, read an outstanding book by Dan Pink called Drive.

 

The comp plan change fails to make Vic’s number. Now he’s in real trouble because his bag of tricks is empty. He’s tried everything. Eric, have you ever blown your honeymoon period by changing the comp plan in the first six months?

 

Eric: I made some changes at Cross Match and made it more complicated in an attempt to motivate some specific behavior. When you start to veer into the realm of complicated versus motivational, the confused mind tends to always say no. You’ve got to be careful with comp plans that you don’t create confusion. Here, still in the honeymoon period and at the beginning of the fiscal year where we had the opportunity to change the comp plan, there are absolutely some things that I don’t like about it, but I love the simplicity of it, so I chose not to change anything other than to sort of find a little nugget that I knew the sales team would get excited about. The only real change here is that we’ve taken out something that we know everybody didn’t like. It really wasn’t driving or changing any behavior anyway.

 

As long as there’s not things that are detrimental to the overall financial health of the company, messing around with the comp plan is probably something you want to do in the honeymoon period.

 

Greg: Yeah, I agree. Like some of the other things we’ve commented on, there’s a time and place for it. Having a great comp plan is critical to being successful, but just pulling that lever too quickly, I’ve seen so many guys shoot themselves in the foot by doing that, so we recommend against it.

 

Eric: I like coin operated sales people. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s some great coin operated sales people out there, so it is important to have a good comp plan.

 

Greg: Okay. We’re going to take one more fifteen second break to point to our blog. Did you know that sixty-three percent of the S&P 500’s top [cortile 00:33:06] subscribes to the SBI blog? I obviously can’t prove any causation with this, but I’m going to try to. It’s an interesting fact. If you’re not subscribed to our blog, you should be and here’s how. But don’t go away because right after the break we’re going to get to the number one reason why new heads of sales blow their honeymoon period. We’ll be right back.

 

Announcer: You want to invest in yourself but don’t have time to attend conferences or even read books. I less than five minutes each day the SBI blog delivers a best practice to make your number and accompanying tools to help you implement the idea and mobile optimized ideas you can share easily with your team. Go to salesbenchmarkindex.com and subscribe today.

 

Greg: Welcome back everybody. This is Greg Alexander, CEO of SBI. I’m with Eric Vermillion, head of sales at BlueCat. We’re talking about how not to blow your honeymoon period as a new head of sales and we’re at the number one reason. Before we do that, let’s do a quick recap. I’m going to count down ten to two and then jump in at number one.

 

Number ten, assume the old playbook will work in the new environment. Number nine, assume the answer to every problem is better people. Number eight, not asking for help. Number seven, blaming the last guy for everything. Number six, focusing on putting up big numbers fast. Number five, buy software tools to satisfy your inner control freak. Number four, spending money on sales training programs. Number three, buying a subscription to an advisory member service. Number two, changing the comp plan. This takes us to the number one reason why new sales leaders blow their honeymoon period, and that is this. The new sales leader’s sales strategy is not in alignment with the corporate strategy.

 

What do I mean? The CEO has a strategy and in it he spells out the following things; how the company is going to win, the objectives for this year, next year and several years to come, which markets the company is going to play in, prioritized vertical industries and market segments, the product direction, who the company is going to compete with and how the company is going to win, the buying behaviors of the target audience, the value proposition to the external market, the internal activities that will support this external value proposition, and so on and so on.

 

Sales leaders who blow their honeymoon period operate in a silo. They still think they’re in sales. They don’t realize they’re on the executive team. They do not understand the corporate strategy and have not developed a sales strategy that is one hundred percent in sync with it. This results in a sales force that is very busy with lots of activity, but very little in the way of results.

 

Contrast that with sales leaders who do align their strategy with the corporate strategy. You know what happens to those guys? They end up becoming CEOs because they’ve made the transition from being a sales leader to being an executive. This is the number one reason why we see well intentioned sales leaders who take a job and they blow it because they don’t understand the CEO’s corporate strategy and they don’t take the time to build their strategy around it.

 

Eric, you and I have spoken about this before in the past and you are a CEO in training and I’m confident that you’re going to get there. You’ve made that transition that many listening right now have not, and that is you’ve gone from sales leader to executive. That means you’re going to be able to answer this question. What is your CEO’s strategy and how are you aligned with it?

 

Eric: You want the specific BlueCat strategy or just more of a general answer?

 

Greg: Maybe somewhere in between. Don’t get into too much detail, but enough to explain it.

 

Eric: I think this is one where a lot of sales leaders tend to believe that there’s that repetitive playbook that you do things a certain way and you do things the same way each and every year and fail to realize that that has to be connected directly to the overall company strategy.

 

To me, that is part of preparing your presentation at the beginning of the year, whether it’s at the sales kickoff or however you talk about what are our objectives as a sales organization for the year. The prerequisite to that is that the company objectives and the overall company strategy has to have been communicated and delivered and understood by the sales organization so that when I deliver the objectives for the sales organization for the year, and not just the objective of this is the number we’ve got to hit, but these are the six or seven things that we’re going to focus on this year to help the company hit its corporate objectives, then that disconnect becomes immediate.

 

Those have to be the way you start every quarterly business review. Every time you measure your success throughout the year, you have to look at how are we doing on the corporate objectives, how are we doing on these specific initiatives that we’ve put in place for the sales organization. If we’ve fallen somewhere within a quarter, then we implement on institute something to help shore up the areas that we’re falling behind a little bit. If we’re doing something really well and it’s helping us to kind of move the needle way into the green, then how do we exploit that and really drive that further.

 

If that’s part of something, that you have a regular cadence that you talk about with your sales organization, whether it’s on weekly or biweekly calls with the sales team or quarterly business reviews or midyear reviews with the sales team and the discussions that you have with your management team, all of them have to continually point back to that so that nobody has an opportunity to lose sight of why we exist as a company and what we’re here to do and what we’re driving for as an organization so that they understand why if I’ve asked them to build a pipeline of this size or focus on accounts in this vertical or go after the competition with this message they have a very clear understanding of I know why he’s asking me to do that. That ties to the specific objectives that we have in the sales organization and those things are very directly linked to the overall company objectives.

 

Greg: Let me give the audience a very quick story here. I’m involved in a project right now, we were brought in by the CEO, and this company just spent forty million dollars over the last eighteen months developing a new product. The success of the company is going to be determined by the penetration rate of this new product. The sales leader has a number to make and he knows that number is going to get made or not made within the next twelve months based on the old product, so he’s not putting any resources, people, money, and time, on the new product, and he and the CEO are in a battle over that.

 

That’s what I mean about misalignment. If the company bet forty mil on a new product, you better have a sales strategy to push that new product into the marketplace. You’ve got to be a team player there. Don’t just think about your own number, think about the number of the company.

 

There you have it listeners. If you find yourself in a new job don’t blow your honeymoon period by making these ten mistakes. Eric, on behalf of all of our listeners thanks for your contribution to our field. You are incredibly humble and self-aware and humorous. Thanks for coming on the show.

 

Eric: I appreciate it Greg. Thanks for having me.

 

Greg: Okay. Take care.

 

Announcer: This has been the SBI podcast. For more information on SBI services, case studies, the SBI team and how we work, or to subscribe to our other offerings, please visit us at salesbenchmarkindex.com.