magazine | March 11, 2016
The Top 10 Ways a New VP of Sales Can Blow the Honeymoon Period
You’ve recently been hired as the head of sales. So has Eric Vermillion, who is in his honeymoon period as senior vice president of sales at BlueCat. In a recent interview, Vermillion walked us through the top 10 mistakes new sales leaders make.
#10: Using Your Old Playbook
Too often sales leaders assume their old playbook will work in their new environment. It worked well before and will again, right? Not so fast. Vermillion recommends understanding the elements of your playbook. If it’s completely tied to the company and industry, then assume it’s wrong. Even if you go to another company within the same space, it’s probably wrong. Why? Because of the people. The people you answer to, the people who report to you, and the culture are all going to be different.
#9: Assuming the Answer to Every Problem Is Hiring Better People
The next mistake new sales leaders often make is assuming that by hiring “better” people, you’ll fix all your problems. “Instead, you’ve got to make sure that you’re setting people up for success,” says Vermillion. Put them in optimized performance conditions, or the folks you onboard aren’t going to make it.
#8: Not Asking For Help
New sales leaders have a lot to do, and not enough resources to get it done. It’s about capacity, not capability. But new sales leaders don’t ask for help. That’s why they were hired, after all—to fix the problems themselves. This is not the way to think, according to Vermillion. “You’re joining a leadership team, and you’ve got to advertise your desire for help. A good CEO will respect the request.” As a sales leader you need to be self-aware and not afraid to ask for help when you need it.
#7: Blaming the Previous Sales Leader
Many new leaders make this mistake time and time again. Vermillion’s advice? Just don’t do it. It’s that simple. You’re hired to do your job and move the company forward, not to live in the past.
#6: Focusing on Putting Big Numbers Up Fast
When you do this, you’re relying on short-term tactics disguised as a strategy. It’s a recipe for failure. Instead, new sales leaders should remember what a sales strategy is. It is the allocation of people, money, and time.
#5: Buying Software Tools to Measure Everything
It’s easy to be lulled into the sense of pretty pictures and graphics with software. But Vermillion claims “the planning exercise when you’re implementing a new tool is more powerful than the tool itself.” He contends that 90 percent of the productivity gain is in the planning, not the tool. New sales leaders need to keep this in mind.
#4: Spending Money on Sales Training Programs
A new sales leader is constantly bombarded with the latest sales training fads. A common mistake is jumping on the bandwagon as soon as you’ve assumed your new role. It never works. The training is not adaptive or reinforced, and becomes shelfware. There’s a time and place for sales training, but it’s not within the first six months of the job.
#3: Buying a Subscription to Advisory Services
Oftentimes, newly appointed sales leaders purchase a membership to get access to best practices, events, and support. It’s a do-it-yourself method with no implementation or execution help. Instead, Vermillion advises, “You should wait because the honeymoon period is all about making sure you’ve got a good, sound strategy and the right people on your team.”
#2: Changing the Comp Plan Right Out of the Gate
New sales leaders make the assumption that “salespeople are coin-operated” and are quick to change the compensation plan. Vermillion made this mistake himself in the past. “I made some changes and made it more complicated in an attempt to motivate specific behaviors. When you start to veer into the realm of complicated versus motivational, the confused mind tends to always say no,” he explains. Instead, he recommends that unless there is something detrimental to the overall financial health of the company, leave the comp plan alone during your honeymoon period.
#1: Not Aligning Sales Strategy with the Corporate Strategy
The CEO has a strategy, but the sales leader still operates in a silo. “This is where a lot of sales leaders believe you do things a certain way, the same way every year, and fail to realize that it has to be connected directly to the overall company strategy,” claims Vermillion. Instead, sales leaders need to be team players. Don’t think about just your number, think about the number of the company.
If you find yourself in a new job, don’t blow your honeymoon period by making these 10 mistakes.
The key to sales greatness is a well-aligned strategy that simplifies the buying and selling process. It’s why “A-Players” love their employers and almost never leave. Turn to page 37 to learn more.
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