“More than 50% of VPs of sales don’t work out. In fact, the majority of first VPs of Sales in SaaS companies don’t make it 12 months,” writes Jason Lemkin, better known as SaaSter. For a CEO, finding the perfect sales executive is extremely difficult and the pressure is on the new hire to perform, in many cases, miracles. So how do salespeople prove to the CEO that they are worth their weight in gold? We’ve scoured the net, listened to countless podcasts, dug through our experiences, and dived into some of the best sales methodologies out there to come up with a list of 5 ways you can impress the the boss.
1. Show off your ROI
Large paychecks, fat bonuses and commissions, expense accounts, its enough to put an accountant into cardiac arrest. Salespeople are often the most expensive employees in the organization. Don’t let anyone think that you or anyone on your salesforce is a cost center. While easier said than done, think of ways to go above and beyond sales quotas, get your sales pipeline more streamlined, shorten your sales cycle, and coach your team so they have higher “close win” conversions. Ask big questions, look for the simple answers, and measure everything. Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured, gets managed.” We couldn’t agree more. If you can’t measure your sales team’s impact on the company, how can the CEO?
2. Be strategic and innovate where it counts
Discuss overarching corporate goals and initiatives. Trying to reach an additional $5M in ARR in the next year? Map out the long term revenue goals and break them down to their most simple steps. Here at CONSENSUS™, we are huge fans of the book The One Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papassan. The book urges that you should ask yourself everyday, “what is the one thing that will make everything easier or unnecessary.” Set a culture in your sales team where they ask themselves, “what is the one thing we do today that will help us hit our revenue goal faster and more efficiently.” Think about how you are measuring the success of these goals. Are you measuring the right KPI’s? Maybe the KPI’s that are most important to achieving success aren’t being measured by other companies. Looking for ideas? We’ve got a model built out for measuring demo costs here. Don’t be afraid to innovate and experiment as long as it doesn’t derail the revenue train. You and your CEO will be amazed at the resulting growth.
3. Build an amazing sales team, especially in the early days
Depending on the size of the company, you, the VP of sales, may still have a sales quota you need meet. How long is this sustainable? Find the best. Hire the best. Get the team that will hit the company’s revenue plan. Referring back to Jason Lemkin, he writes, “Job #1 is Recruiting. Bringing in an amazing team that can sell. And constantly recruiting. Because you’ll need 2 more reps, then 4 more, then 8 and 16 and 64 more reps … to hit your compounding revenue plan. You’ll need the heads. And the great VPs of sales all know this from experience.”
4. Always provide value, but admit what you don’t know
Those familiar with solution selling or consultative selling are pretty familiar with, and probably pretty tired of, the concept of providing upfront value in every conversation you have. People don’t like to be confronted with problems without a possible solution. However, there’s a catch. As Steven Levitt, economist and author of Freakonomics, says, “Within the business world, there’s a general view that your job is to be an expert. And no matter how much you have to fake or how much you are making it up that you just should give an answer and hope for the best afterwards. And I have seen it teaching the business school students, that they are incredibly good — the MBAs — at faking like they know the answer when they have no idea.” If you don’t know the answer, don’t try to pull something out of thin air. Admit to not knowing and give a time-frame for you to do some research and get a real actionable recommendation.
5. Show the fire in your belly
Joe De Sena, CEO of the Spartan Race, recently said in an interview with Tim Ferriss, that when making a hire he looks for people “with passion. With that fire in their belly. I’m always looking for people that outdo everyone, and those that don’t lose that edge.” While not specifically about sales, this is solid advice for anyone. Regardless of your career stage, whether you close the $10k or $100k deals, or if you are growing your business from $1M to $2M or $50M to $100M or beyond, show your eagerness and excitement for development and for delivering solid and consistent performance.
Remember, the VP of sales is always a difficult hire for CEOs to make, but you were hired for a reason. Continue to build and demonstrate value and you are sure to impress the C-suite. We are always interested in learning more about this. If you have any comments or insight into this, post them below.