Did you know that the average tenure of a Sales VP is only between 24-32 months? They barely have time to unpack their bags and get settled before they are looking for another position. In the meantime, the company has not only lost its Sales VP but probably its best salesperson as well. Why is this? And is there something that can be done to change this dynamic?
It goes without saying that a position responsible for driving company revenues, profits, new customer acquisition, and is under immense pressure to perform, has its inherent risks. But let’s look at some other reasons why this occurs.
First, most Sales VP’s don’t have a documented and institutionalized sales methodology, which makes it extremely difficult to drive and deliver consistent results. Let’s imagine for a moment that your Sales VP speaks English, but the folks on his sales team each speak a different language: Spanish, Dutch, French, or Italian. How can you expect them to communicate accurately, consistently, and be on the same page? You can’t! Think about if your finance department each had their own way of preparing balance sheets and income statements? What a mess that would be.
All sales teams are comprised of different people, from different backgrounds, with different experiences, each with their own ways of thinking and doing. Therefore, unless you have a documented methodology, there will be no consistency in approach, pipeline sales management strategies, forecasting, or anything else for that matter. So, when a salesperson comes back from a meeting and says, “that was a great meeting” that will mean something different to everyone that hears those words because there are no common benchmarks to measure. When you hear your Sales VP mutter that managing his team is like herding cats, you’ll know why!
Another problem is that most Sales VP’s have a revenue goal and maybe even a strategy, but they don’t have individual salesperson behavior plans or actions necessary to achieve these revenue goals. Therefore, they end up managing the numbers (lagging indicators) and not the behaviors (leading indicators). For example, if Bill needs $2,000,000 in revenues and ten new accounts, what selling behaviors/actions does Bill need to execute and be measured on to ensure success? These behaviors might be the number of new prospect meetings, average deal size, closing ratios, etc. These metrics will be more predictive of future results and can be adjusted accordingly during the year to avoid any shortfalls and better ensure success. Furthermore, the Sales VP can coach and develop any skill gaps to help increase Bill’s effectiveness.
Without the leading indicators, most Sales VP’s spend their time in a supervisory role, running reports, adjusting forecasts, and putting out fires, instead of a coaching and talent development role. Gallup research indicates that sales coaching can increase sales effectiveness by 20%. Therefore, a successful Sales VP needs to put a premium on coaching and staff development. First, they need to develop the leading behavior/actions plans, which are used to assess and uncover any skill gaps (every salesperson has them) and then the Sales VP and salesperson can develop a plan to improve upon them.
Since most Sales VP’s come into the position from a successful sales background, they typically tell their teams what to do, but they don’t invest the time in teaching them how to do it. Many times, it’s because they don’t know how to do this effectively. They expect them to do what they did. Unfortunately, this method is not effective at transferring skills, and it is surely not replicable. Remember the language analogy?
When it comes to developing a top-performing sales team, which is the primary role of a sales leader, most Sales VP’s hire on instinct and then leave the new hire to fend for themselves, bad habits, baggage, and all. Again, instead of looking at leading indicators, what is required on the job to be successful, the VP looks at lagging indicators, what they did previously. The problem with this is all companies are different. Have you ever hired an experienced person that flamed out?
Success is going to more predicted by how the salesperson can implement the specific company strategy/plan than it is predicted by experience. As an example, when a professional sports team brings on a new player, they are obviously hiring on skill. The player is required to learn new team’s playbook and executes their system. It is the system which provides measurable behaviors/actions that they can be coached from and evaluated. A talented player without a good system can easily get lost.
It becomes your choice as a sales leader for how you develop yourself and your team. You can wing it, lead with your gut, and set up yourself for less than three-year tenure, or you can learn the proven leadership systems and methodologies to become and stay successful.