I've been a VP of Sales 4 times and have worked under some great leaders. They had different management styles but shared a similar framework.
In today's issue, I'm going to teach you how to manage a VP of Sales.
With the right management process, you won't have to micromanage. You'll have a line of sight into the health of the sales department and will build trust with your VP.
Often, VPs of Sales are either left on an island to figure it all out or have to report every detail they're doing.
With the right management process, you'll get:
Here's how to do it:
The VP of Sales needs to understand the company's vision and short and long-term goals. This will serve as their north star when they build their plan.
Likely, this started in the interview process, and now you're going deeper. For example, if it's a venture-backed company, you'll want to go into detail on the funding strategy. Is the goal to raise capital in the next 12 months or get to cash flow positive? If you're going to fundraise, when will you start fundraising? What will the company need to look like from a product and numbers perspective to be competitive?
Having these numbers helps the VP begin with the end in mind. Using a goal-setting methodology such as OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System), or Gazelles (Rockefeller Habits) can help this process tremendously.
When a VP of Sales is given a number to hit and is only asked for a headcount plan to hit the number, they will fail. Headcount only tells a small piece of the story.
A good VP will take what's been done and build a plan based on what they see as possible. They will compare that with the company goals and inform the leadership team if there's a gap.
If there is a gap, they should be able to tell you what must happen to close it. For example, a new product feature is needed that unlocks part of the market. Or they need additional leads from marketing to close the gap.
Planning works best when the entire leadership team is building it together. There is going to be a give-and-take for resources within every department. Once the plan is in place, you'll meet quarterly to make updates and set goals for the quarter to hit the annual plan.
It's important that a VP can tell you why they are (or are not) hitting the goal. A great VP of Sales can tell a story with data. The KPIs objectively back up the story they are telling.
There should be a set of KPIs for short-term, mid-term, and long-term sales health. This works best when they are in dashboards and the leadership can access them. Reviewing them in the leadership meeting is essential so the team can react and make changes.
Examples at each stage:
The last step is establishing a check-in cadence. This is where you build trust and give support to the VP.
Start with the weekly one-on-one. Have the VP complete the agenda 24 hours before and work through their topics. This will significantly reduce the number of Slack messages and ad-hoc meetings.
With Sales VPs, the annual review is often a formality because they are measured on their ability to hit a goal. That said, annual 360 reviews can benefit the VP's growth as a teammate and leader. It's also an invaluable way to gather feedback from them for your own improvement. Ensure both sides have completed their review before the other side can see them.
Lastly, get in the field from time to time. Participating in a ride-along with the VP gives you a direct view into the challenges they are facing. Often, things become crystal clear when you see them firsthand.
There isn’t a better investment you can make in your VPs than meeting either once a week, or at least, once every 2 weeks. Get it on the calendar. - Jason Lemkin
By using this management process, you'll build a great relationship with your VP of Sales. You'll build trust but also have a way to verify what's said. As a result, you'll move much faster.