Why Fear is Stifling the Careers of Sales VPs

By Matt Sharrers, Sales Benchmark Index SJ Daily Blog Pix

Fear is preventing you from reaching your goals. As a VP of Sales, your fear of failure is holding you back.  You have sales productivity problems that are causing you to miss the number. Will you get a leg up on your peers if you solve the problem? Yes. Will you expose yourself to undue scrutiny if your solution is wrong? Maybe; so you avoid the risk. Try this Agile Solution tool.  The tool helps you overcome fear. It helps you diagnose the first problem to solve. It helps you solve these problems quickly. You don’t waste time or resources.

What is Agile – Agile is a flexible and collaborative approach to solving problems.  Its requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between teams.  It promotes adaptability and encourages rapid response to change.

Why Use Agile – The only way you separate yourself from your peers is delivering better results.  What stands in the way of results?  The ability to rapidly respond to sales problems. The Agile approach is problem focused. If you can solve problems that impact results faster than your peer you win. If your region can evolve faster, you win.  If you can’t, eventually you will be branded as a blocker. Your boss will describe you as a “steady performer” or “good solid culture fit”. Control your fear or it ends up controlling your career.  Agile is an iterative method that allows you to test solutions with user groups. It reduces the risk of “final solution”.

Who Uses Agile – Assemble a small project team (1 Director, 2 Managers 3-4 reps).  By involving people at all levels you develop a team discipline for problem solving. These types of activities are great career development opportunities for your top performers. They enjoy the additional responsibility and you get your best minds engaged.

How Agile Works for a VP – The goal is to identify a gap that you can make an impact on in 90 days. The way you use Agile starts by grouping the two main process areas you control:

  1. Opportunity Management—converting opportunities into customers.
  2. Account Management—executing retention, cross-sell and upsell inside the customer base

Look at these two processes by examining the 3 levers that drive their success. (Process, People,Content).  An example is below:

Agile example

In this example you see the process area highlighted. Specifically the lead to opportunity handoff.  People was also a problem. Why wouldn’t you tackle this? Replacing reps takes longer than 90 days. VPs often shy away from disruptive change. The goal of Agile is to rapidly deploy solutions. It is done with minimal disruption.

Once you identify the source of your problem, follow the Agile Solution 4 step approach. This approach is executed over one quarter-

  1. Validate Problem and Working Sample (3 weeks) – the goal of this step is to frame the problem. You want to use multiple forms of evidence (data, customer feedback, ride alongs, rep feedback). Sketch out what the project team feels is a potential solution. Once you gain consensus on a potential solution, progress to step two.
  2. Test Working Sample (8 weeks) – the goal of this step is to test the new approach. Because you have involved people at each level, you have your test group. The test group is providing weekly feedback on the sample. They are identifying quick wins and leading indicators of success. You are making real time changes throughout the test phase. This way you have multiple data points and versions.
  3. Field Rollout (2 weeks) – the goal of this step is to roll out the new approach. Your entire sales force will be executing this new behavior.
  4. Support – this phase is about operationalizing the new approach into the organization. This is happening while you are beginning to tackle the next problem. Your front line Managers can be the leaders of this change. They drive adoption.

Will Agile Control Fear – You might be saying “this is unreasonable, too much disruption”.  Disruption is relative. If you never drive change in your region, it will be. By testing with your project team, you don’t alienate yourself. Multiple stakeholders are involved in the solution. More internal ownership reduces risk. This will help you control your fear.  If you adopt this approach every quarter, you will make progress. You will attempt  to solve 4 problems in a year. Maybe you only bat 50%. That is 2 more than your peer who is waiting for corporate. Ironically, because you use agile, you can recover from a mistake faster.

Agile Success – Mike Balow is a great example. I watched Mike implement an agile approach. It was critical in his ascent rom front line sales management to VP. Mike modified his existing sales process where he saw gaps each 90 days. He modified his channel partner methodology every quarter by using a flexible framework. He took a new product to market by executing his own aggressive strategy. He made mistakes along the way. While he was making those mistakes he skyrocketed past his peers. They commented on why Mike was moving so fast. Why was Mike “upsetting the apple cart”. Now Mike is their boss.

Now What

  1. Download Tool here
  2. Determine the area of focus for Q1 area
  3. Control Your Fear
Agile Solutions Tool

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