Harvard Business Review is arguably the most prestigious publication for business leaders and management thinkers. Here’s one of my recent Harvard Business Review articles about synchronizing sales and marketing
The vice president of sales is one of the most important people within a company because this person is in charge of an organization’s most critical assets: customers and the revenue they generate. However, the senior leadership team that must hire a new vice president of sales is a collection of diverse individuals with backgrounds in finance, marketing, engineering, and manufacturing. Since they lack sales domain expertise, there is a higher probability that the team members will not select the right candidate for their particular sales environment. Here are two important factors that the senior leadership team should consider when selecting a vice president of sales.
Sales Management Style
Just as people have different levels of gregariousness, assertiveness, and action-oriented tendencies, VPs of sales have different sales management styles. The five most common sales management styles are called mentor, expressive manager, sergeant, overconfident manager, and micromanager.
- Mentors are charismatic leaders and sales experts who measure their success by exceeding revenue goals and fostering an environment where the entire team can succeed. Mentors tend to have a hands-off management style and firmly believe in the consultative selling approach.
- Expressive managers are charming and gregarious individuals who have a natural ability to put people at ease. They are likely to become bored with mundane tasks because they would rather be in the field closing big deals with their sales reps.
- Sergeants develop an intense loyalty to their team, perhaps even greater than their personal loyalty to their company. They are hard workers who are constantly worrying if their “troops” are okay.
- Overconfident managers are on the opposite end of the humility spectrum from sergeants. They build a sales team of fighting gladiators who possess extraordinary will power and mental toughness.
- Micromanagers are organized and methodical and have a strong sense of responsibility to their company. They hire salespeople who they know will carry out their instructions to the letter.
VPs with each of these management styles build a unique sales environment by hiring their “type” of salespeople and establishing a culture based upon their belief systems. Does your sales situation require a hands-on micromanager who knows the details about every deal? An authoritative mentor who leads by example? Or a leader with the supreme confidence to defeat your archrival?
Sales Organization Stage
Most companies focus on a candidate’s industry expertise, job experience, and track record during their selection process. They believe the person is a great hire if he or she knows the technical jargon of the industry and has a deep network of business relationships. While it is normal to assume that a person’s history is a good indicator of future performance, many companies have found out the hard way that this isn’t necessarily true. A vice president who was successful at one company can fail miserably at another. Unfortunately, most companies neglect to consider the stage of their sales organization.
Every sales organization can be classified based upon its size (small, medium, large) and whether it is in a “build,” “compete,” “maintain,” or “cull” stage. In the build stage, the organization is adding new sales teams and new product lines to establish a market presence. In the compete stage, the sales organization is engaged in daily head-to-head battles with a variety of enemies. When product market space matures and the market share between competitors becomes fixed, the company enters the maintain stage. The sales organization is in the cull stage when it passes the tipping point of efficiency and sales effectiveness.
Running a medium-sized fifty-million-dollar sales department in the compete stage requires a much different skill set than leading a large billion-dollar sales organization in the maintain stage. Culling an inefficient organization requires a specific management style. Nowhere is the sales leader’s impact greater than in start-ups, where the vice president of sales must single-handedly build the sales model, recruit the team, and personally persuade customers to buy.
The sales organization is a reflection of your company’s culture, professionalism, and development stage. The VP of sales plays a key role in determining your company’s success. Therefore, hiring the “perfect” vice president of sales on the first try is imperative.
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