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Think like a VP of Sales

Have you ever thought of your VP of Sales as a key Buyer Persona?  You should. Your success is tied to his and vice-versa.  Winning the Head of Sales over to your cause should be a top priority. 


Most Sales Leaders are ill-versed in marketing.  It’s not their language.  This puts the onus on you to understand what drives the new VP of Sales and to communicate accordingly.


SBI has worked with and interviewed over a thousand Sales Leaders.  Our work and research tells a compelling story about what makes the Head of Sales tick.



Here are some key insights to help you engage with the new Sales Leader:


Primary Objectives

  1. Make the Number: The #1 goal of a new sales leader is making the in-year number.  Missing it casts a shadow of doubt on him.  The changes in buyer behavior have placed a heavy burden on marketing departments.  B2B companies must learn to sell ‘when a rep isn’t present’.  Consequently, marketing plays a huge role in hitting the growth number.  You need to generate awareness around what marketing can deliver to the sales organization.  Too often I find marketing & sales working independent of each other.  Fight the silo tendency.  Reach out regularly to your sales counterpart.  One suggestion is to conduct joint win-loss interviews with former customers and lost prospects.  You will gain valuable buyer knowledge.  Use this rich data to enhance your content.
  2. Upgrade Team: Every new sales leader wonders whether his team is good enough. If reps cannot close enough deals, their skill level is questioned.  Sometimes this is the case; sometimes it isn’t.  Talent is only half the equation.  The performance conditions in which you place your talent represent the other 50%.  Help your sales counterpart optimize the performance conditions.  Have you developed Personas for each buyer type that a rep can use in their campaigns?  Have you developed persona-driven content for reps to leverage when prospecting?
  3. Ensure Field Execution: One way to impact field execution is through Sales Enablement.  Is your company’s future tied to successfully launching new products? If so, you need to prepare the sales force for a successful launch. Best practice in this area is the Sales Rep Playbook. You must work closely with the sales leader to develop the new product playbook.


Main Obstacles

  1. Marketing Experience/Credibility: Sales leaders lack marketing knowledge.  The good news is that they are beginning to admit their knowledge gap.  They are also starting to realize the need to be marketing lead, sales driven organizations. Moreover, Sales Leaders recognize the importance of Social Media.  They just don’t know how to effectively use it to their advantage.  Invest time in teaching them how to leverage Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.  Teach them how to be Social Sellers.
  2. Prioritizing: Sales Leaders struggle with prioritizing improvement initiatives.  They often implement them out of sequence.  Frequently, initiatives address symptoms rather than the root cause of the problem.  When diagnosing a sales problem, start at the top of the funnel and work your way down.  Issues in sales performance are frequently tied to poor Account Segmentation and Lead Generation. As a marketing leader, make sure you have correctly defined your Ideal Customer and prioritized the market segments.  Without these, the sales leader cannot successfully deploy his resources into the marketplace.  You should also work with your sales counterpart to define what good looks like.  Marketing is often criticized for generating less than ideal leads.  Sit with the sales leader to define a “Sales-Ready Lead”.  Send the reps only those leads that match this definition.  Additionally, implement a Lead Management Process that nurtures early inquiries into sales qualified leads.
  3. Resources: Like you, most sales leaders are resource challenged.  As a result, sales reps are pulled in many directions.  We call this role corruption.  Instead of selling, they spend too much time on ineffective prospecting and lead nurturing.  Fill this gap by investing in a Lead Development Rep (LDR). The role of the LDR is to nurture and qualify leads until they are sales ready.  Sales reps are terrible at lead nurturing.  They focus on hot leads and let the warm ones fall by the wayside.


CALL TO ACTION: If you are working with a new VP of Sales, invest time understanding their priorities.  Year one is critical for a new Sales Leader.  All eyes are on him.  Help him achieve his goals and you have gained a long-term ally.