Published by : Paul E. Lafleur
An essential element to consider when evaluating a sales VP’s leadership quality is how they got to that position in the first place. How they became VP is usually the significant difference between the sales VPs of small and larger businesses.
Let’s examine some of the challenges VPs encounter depending on their work environment.
8 challenge areas for Sales VPs
A sales leader like a VP will experience challenges in one of the following 8 areas:
- Sales Leadership
- Strategic thinking
- Personal relationships
- Accountability and recruiting
Depending on whether they work at an SMB or Large enterprise challenges with anyone of these competencies will manifest themselves differently.
Owners of SMBs often fall into the position of sales VP by default. Being entrepreneurs, they somehow manage to finagle their way through it, even without any proper training and lacking some of the required strengths and characteristics. While an essential aspect of leadership quality is instinctive, VPs must make an effort to find out what their weaknesses are.
So, a sure-fire way for a sales VP to evolve in a leadership position is to analyze how they compare with the best VPs in the world and, in turn, expose their strengths and weaknesses.
Another possible situation in SMBs is wherein a very successful salesperson gets promoted to sales VP. However, this does not guarantee that they possess the leadership qualities needed to be a successful VP.
The importance of proper training
As with salespeople, most VPs and directors haven’t had much training. They don’t know the amount of time to spend with their sales directors, on coaching, on establishing a strategy, etc.
They also often get stuck when facing a new situation. VPs challenged with a hurting economy, or a flourishing one will be at a loss because they weren’t taught the detailed analytical process needed to understand the inner workings.
For example, a VP who tends to fall back on recruiting to grow can mask an important issue - they don't believe they can expand from developing their people because there could be an issue with either their recruiting process or selection criteria.
More specifically, say a VP has been in this position for a year. They’re given a significant, 15 to 20% increase. They must figure out how to manage this situation and establish a strategy. This strategy must include how to achieve goals at a high level, as well as pass it down to sales directors.
Sales VPs must focus on their weaknesses, not avoid them. For example, a VP who’s personable and easily builds trusting relationships with their representatives and sales leaders must also know how to hold them accountable and how to develop strategies. They must ensure all these elements work together to benefit the company.
To do so, they must know which skills and weaknesses they possess, because very rarely does a sales VP have all the necessary leadership qualities. A sales leadership evaluation provides a clear picture of the competencies and weaknesses a VP should address.
VPs of large enterprises have usually undergone periodic and human resource evaluations. These assessments are fine for basic skills, but without a proper sales evaluation, it can all fall apart. This evaluation must focus on leadership qualities specific to sales.
Usually, in larger organizations, there will be a discussion with the CFO in which they will set up a negotiation process. There are two levels of the resulting strategy. At one level, the VP will be relating downwards what their terms are for the upcoming year. At the higher-level, tying what strategies will be implemented for their sales managers.
Provide direction to the sales team
Sales VPs must motivate and inspire the people reporting back to them. Often in larger companies, the sales VP will be excellent at managing up and convincing the higher levels. They demand reports, ask where the numbers are, collect the data, etc.
All this is great, but it doesn’t provide the orientation to the people beneath them need. Direction does not equal dictatorship. Being directive is about giving the proper tools for salespeople to go about their daily tasks.
Great sales VPs are the ones that do whatever is needed to make their team perform. Direction is not autocratic; it makes people want to follow you!
How to address challenges of Sales VPs
Coaching remains the principle way to deal with a VP's challenges.
No one is perfect, and most sales VPs have with their unique set of problems. However, it’s not because they’re higher up within the organization that they have to deal with their shortcomings themselves.
Some shortcomings will be more challenging to address than others. Like with salespeople, sales DNA issues are harder to address. For example, a sales leaders with the right Sales Leadership DNA but few skills always outperform sales good skills but less than desirable Sales Leadership DNA.
- The first step is to get your VP evaluated – whether through an individual evaluation or as part of a more extensive sales force evaluation.
- Once you understand your VPs own strengths and weaknesses, you need to find a coach. That coach can be internal – President, CEO, CRO – or they can be external. Prima Resource, for example, coaches many sales leaders to help them lead their sales organization
A great sales VP has empathy for what sales managers are going through. It’s an essential quality, among many others. If your VP has been catapulted into a leadership position, Prima Ressource can help you understand the personal strengths they can rely on and the weaknesses they need to improve.
With desire, engagement and intelligence, nothing is unattainable. The key is to use the proper, available tools, and this no matter the size of the organization!