Think about this:
VP of Sales quarterly work schedule:
- 600 hours (50 hours per week x 12 weeks assuming 1 week vacation)
- 16 hours with customers/prospects (2 full days or 4 half days of appointments)
- Less than 3% of total time customer facing
Problem: How can the sales leader make informed, strategic decisions on how to lead the customer facing group (sales) if they are not customer facing themselves? They can’t. And the sales force will see this. The VP of Sales is always under the watchful eye of the sales force, especially the ‘A’ player sales talent. Regardless of the number of levels in a sales organization, the person at the top sets the drumbeat; or fails to.
Impact: Average tenure of VP of Sales continues to be 6 quarters. What’s worse is this pattern is followed by the CSO’s direct reports so when they are vying for the big job they mirror the boss. Or, when they get it, then they do what their boss did. Most people, regardless of intelligence will often times follow what their most recent boss did when they get promoted.
The reason for this time drain: meetings at corporate. Any of this sound familiar?
- Strategy meeting
- Board meeting
- Executive meeting
- Steering committee meeting
- Cross functional meeting
- M&A meeting
- Strategic Initiative Meeting
- Forecast Meeting
- Pipeline Meeting
- Change Mgmt Meeting
- Pre meeting for the super duper big meeting.
- Seriously? The internal meetings that are inward facing reporting on the news instead of being outward facing making the news are stifling sales productivity.
4 Habits To Fix the Problem
#1 – Control Schedule—the best VPs of Sales we met with set their schedule at the start of the quarter. They do the following:
- 3 of 4 weeks in the field every month
- Each week they are in field Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
- Other meetings get scheduled around this schedule first. The CEO will be fine with this schedule if he knows the VP is in the field.
#2 – Optimize Field Time—VP of Sales usually have 6-8 regional sales leaders (Directors, Area VPs). The best VPs travel to each direct report once per quarter. During this, they are observing their directs ability to coach and train the field by engaging in the following:
- 2-3 customer meetings (led by an ‘A’ player sales rep/account manager)
- 2-3 prospect meeting (led by an ‘A’ player sales rep)
- Meet with the local sales team
- Lunch/Dinner with the ‘A’ players
- Review of Core Sales Management Fundamentals with local Sales Manager
#3 – Publishing Failure—the sales force is dying for an authentic leader. They want to know it is ok to make mistakes. To promote this VP of Sales that drive failure based learning via loss reviews/lessons learned creates more loyalty. They don’t give the corporate spin and promote a culture of self-preservation. Once per quarter, walk through the top 5 losses and lessons learned with the entire sales force in 1 hour via a call. Learning and vulnerability in one call will inspire the team.
#4 – Flip the Pyramid—you work for ‘A’ players not the other way around. Too many sales leaders fall in love with their positional authority. The ‘A’ player is your customer. Without them, you have nothing. Lead with this in mind and consult with them. Get to know them. Ride with them and understand them.
Tim Barber, President of Global Sales at Expeditors International, is the best I have seen. Last week he made over 12 customer and prospect calls. He is the leader of a 6B global sales force. When I ask Tim how he finds time, he gives me a blank stare: “what else am I going to do?” Simple isn’t it?
Call To Action— Pick 2 of the above 4 habits and start next week. Our life’s work is always a result of our habits. What habits have you implemented with your sales talent to inspire them? Share them with us.