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The Six Real Reasons to Fire Your VP of Sales
By Steve Martin, Author, “Heavy Hitter Sales Wisdom”
It can be well-argued that the Vice President of Sales is the most
important position within a software company since their words and actions
impact the organization’s most critical issue – generating revenue. However, the
average job tenures of Vice Presidents of Sales in the software industry is now
at an all time low of less than eighteen months.
Obviously, one of the main reasons VPs of Sales at software companies are fired
is because they miss the revenue target. However, with the economy in the tank
this traditional measuring stick doesn’t tell the entire story. In fact, many
VPs of Sales are being ‘let go’ at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons
today. Quite often the CEO mistakenly believes the grass will instantly become
greener with the addition of a new sales leader. Unfortunately, this tumultuous
changing of the executive guard can do far more harm than good in both the short
and long term. With this in mind, here are the six real reasons to fire your
Vice President of Sales.
Inability to Recruit ‘A’ level Talent
Outside of revenue generation, the most important task for every Vice President
of Sales is to attract, hire and retain top-level talent. In other words, the VP
of Sales must present the compelling closing arguments to ‘A’ quality
salespeople as to why they should join the company. More importantly, the VP of
Sales should be able to recruit high-quality ‘A’ level managers. Because, ‘A’
level managers hire ‘A’ level salespeople and ‘B’ level managers hire ‘B’ and
‘C’ level salespeople. The cascading effect of diminishing talent kills the
competitiveness of the sales organization. This is particularly true for smaller
software companies that must compete against a gorilla (Oracle, SAP, Cisco,
etc.) in their industry.
Wrong Sales Culture
The sales organization’s culture dramatically impacts the ability to achieve
revenue. Three of the worst sales cultures are based upon secrecy, dominance or
submission. A secretive sales culture is one where there is a conscious effort
to withhold information from the rest of the company. As a result, there is a
black hole of customer information and engineering and marketing are always
guessing about what they should do next. A dominant sales culture takes bullying
to the extreme. They condescendingly steam roll the other departments of the
company to get what they want and cut corners wherever possible. At the other
end of the spectrum is a culture based upon submission and inferiority. Think
about it for a moment, if the sales organization doesn’t have enough backbone to
fight internal battles inside their own company how can they be expected to
vanquish the competition in the field?
Does the VP of Sales have the pulse of the sales organization? Does he look
through rose colored glasses over-optimistically at the forecast or with so much
pessimism that it is impossible to decipher what business is real? Is he
well-versed on the major deals and close enough to the salespeople to discern
unachievable pipe dreams from real pipeline? Are there continual surprises and
is bad news continually delivered at the last possible moment? Remember what
Machiavelli said, bad news should be given all at once and as soon as possible.
Executive Team Combativeness
Since the sales function relies so heavily on the other departments
(Engineering, Marketing, Customer Support, etc.) to achieve success, it is
completely natural that friction develops between members of the Executive Team.
And, the VP of Sales who tenaciously fights for his department’s causes should
be respected. However, a change is warranted when this turns into a personal
vendetta against other executive team members.
Is the VP of Sales a Strategist?
Can he create a competitive sales strategy based upon marketplace realities
(and implement a process to execute it)? Does he aggregate meaningful product
feedback and articulately represent the customer’s experience? Does he help
advise Marketing as to which programs to pursue and how best to spend their
precious dollars? Most of all, can he dovetail his sales philosophy to the
company’s ever-changing strategic direction?
Does He Add Value in C-Level Executive Customer Meetings?
One of the most critical and often overlooked aspects of the VP of Sales job is
his ability to participate in C-level customer meetings and convince company
leaders to buy. Does your VP of Sales sit in the safe confines of the ivory
tower at headquarters or is he able to make a direct impact on the most
important deals in the field?
I remember hearing a Vice President of Sales publicly pronounce that all his
problems would be solved if only he could, “make the monkeys climb higher in the
trees.” His tongue-in-cheek criticism was the topic of conversation within his
sales force for months. To his salespeople, it was just another example of a
management style that they found to be repugnant. Anyone who creates an
environment like that should be fired.
Conversely, I have had the pleasure to work with many very talented sales VPs.
They are great recruiters, masterful forecasters and serve as mentors to sales
managers and salespeople alike. They are charismatic leaders who measure their
success using three criteria; meeting revenue goals, creating an environment
where the entire team can succeed, and helping the entire company realize its
potential. While they are not perfect, they are well-liked and a unifying force
for the entire organization.
Steve W. Martin is author of Heavy Hitter Sales Psychology:
How to Penetrate the C-Level Executive Suite and Convince Company Leaders to
Buy. The heavy hitter sales philosophy has helped more than fifty-thousand
salespeople become top revenue producers at leading technology companies
including IBM, Akamai, and McAfee Software. For article feedback, contact Steve