Published by : Paul E. Lafleur
What differentiates sales VP from their counterparts are the different roles they play in a sales organization.
Before getting into how get better, it’s important to have a good grasp of what a Sales VP's challenges are and a few basic concepts.
The challenges of a sales VP
- Sales Leadership;
- Strategic thinking;
- Personal relationships;
- Accountability and recruiting.
Of course, this always depends on the size of the business, as large enterprises have the luxury of hiring VPs who already have the training and professional experience which are essential to the job.
Leadership vs expertise
This brings us back to the common misconception that VPs must be experts in their fields.
Ironically, this isn’t the case. Say you have a very complex technology that you are selling. The VP doesn’t need to have all the technical details, nor know the ins and outs of the product, to be an effective leader.
A VP must understand how to navigate high-level management, have the capacity to coach their managers and directors, and lead them in the right direction.
A specific amount of time must be spent with the sales manager, focusing on coaching and motivation. The more VPs allot time to their team, the greater the chances of success increases.
This is in no case surprising as the more a person feels supported by their leader, the greater their motivation and desire for success are heightened.
Manage your direct reports
It’s a question of accountability. Is the sales VP supposed to receive direct reports from salespeople? No!
The sales VP should receive, maximum, from 5 to 10 direct reports from their sales managers or directors. Any more than this and you fall into the sales management department.
Why is this an important factor?
As stated above, a VPs role should be focused on direction and strategy, not on management, execution and problem-solving. It’s a matter of time management.
Once again, reality plays an important role.
If the VP is an integral part of an SMB, he or she will have to wear many hats. However, if your business should require the assistance and expertise of a VP, then perhaps the VP should rightfully be allotted their time to strategizing, as is their field of expertise.
How can you improve your VP skills?
- Get ahead;
- Don't expect consensus;
- Sharing is caring;
- Ongoing recruitment;
- Manage your stress.
Reading and learning must remain at the forefront of your initiatives to becoming the best VP you can be. Many resources are available on the internet. My two personal favorites are the Jack Welsh's Management Institute and The Harvard Business Review (although you should always remain critical).
Don’t expect consensus
Consensus is NOT an essential factor in evaluating a VP’s sales leadership.
Most people believe that a failed VP is a VP who’s been unable to meet consensus which isn’t the case. For example:
A sales VP will tell the sales manager to be at a conference in Toronto. The VP knows how to get from New York to Toronto and will give the manager the directions on where to go as well as the why they must be there.
Direction, done. Strategy, done.
The where and the why having been taken care of, the manager can now focus on how.
Don’t manage or lead by consensus. Expect people to follow your directions. A respected leader will not have to coerce his followers; they will follow knowing they are being led in the right direction.
Sharing is caring
An integral part of improvement comes from knowing how to surround oneself with like-minded people.
If by chance, the President of the company is available to coach or advise the VP, then this is fantastic. However, a VP must always be on the lookout for outside opportunities to learn and improve their leadership skills.
Speak with your fellow executives to establish a roadmap for sales directors to use. They, in turn, will use this roadmap to keep their sales reps accountable.
A sale VP must always be on the lookout for new team members.
Don’t wait for the team to fall apart to start the recruitment process. As large corporations do, have the recruitment process be ongoing and keep prospects on the bench.
Always have your eye out for potential new team members. Make sure your recruitment manager has a sound recruitment strategy.
Manage your stress by staying loyal to your strengths
Once you’ve established the skills which make you a great VP, do not, in moments of stress, substitute your strengths for your weaknesses.
Here are a few of the competencies essential to being a good VP:
- Sales leadership
- Strategic thinker
- Develops strong relationships
- Personal characteristics
If you’re at recruiting, remain loyal to this skill in moments of stress, don’t resort to one of your weaknesses instead!
The sales VP is an essential element of a business’s sales leadership.
Like generals to their soldiers, a sales VP’s most important role is to provide trust and guidance to sales managers and directors, who, in turn, provide trust and guidance to the sales representatives.
Salespeople, as a team, must be guided by a vision and mission. This mission must align with the company. The VP of sales is the guiding missile.