by Your Deal Source Consultant Member John McCleod, MBA, CSL
Many small and medium-sized business owners can have great frustration over their sales results. When they learn about a sales builder who can help, like myself, they are curious to learn more. During our initial conversation they often have the following two reactions.
First, they recognize that my diagnosis of what’s causing their sales to underperform is different than the symptoms they’ve been chasing for years. Then, as they learn about the root causes of their issues, they feel a sense of relief. They grasp the solutions I outline that other businesses have applied to convert into a predictable sales environment.
Second, they become curious- sometimes skeptical- about how I can be effective as a Fractional VP of Sales on a part-time basis when previous full-time sales leaders were unable to achieve growth targets.
What they don’t understand yet at this early stage is that my role is one of transformation, followed by implementation of a dedicated resource that I help them put in place. There is very deliberate purpose and timing for our varying roles in order to prepare the organization for growth and to ensure long-term sustainability.
To help satisfy the common curiosity around our model, this article provides first-hand insight into how my colleagues and I go about driving change, adoption, and sales effectiveness in the trenches.
It’s important to note that a key factor in our success as Fractional Sales Leaders is understanding that the “operationalize” phase of our involvement comes after we have conducted proper discovery and taken action to implement a best practices sales infrastructure. This creates a solid platform to drive results upon.
HIGH IMPACT SALES LEADERSHIP
For context, I’ve outlined a real-life sales department scenario that represents the common settings I’m brought into in my small and mid-sized business focus area.
Common Sales Challenges:
There is nothing cookie cutter about how we operate in the trenches due to our hands-on role in wildly varying client settings. Being adaptable is an essential skill given how much in-stride work tailoring is needed to effectively align to each clients’ unique growth journey.
That said, there are certainly common challenges I encounter over and over again such as:
• The owner has been spread too thin by managing both their executive duties and sales, leaving them exhausted and unfocused.
• An unpredictable sales forecast makes proactive business planning nearly impossible.
• The company is vulnerable with 80% of revenue coming from just 15% of its customers.
• The sales team performs inconsistently. Their newest reps are struggling to hit quotas even after 2 years on the job.
• The sales pipeline is not even close to being full enough to achieve the company’s revenue targets.
When I take on a full-function Fractional VP Sales role, I usually allocate 1-day/week on average to a client. This schedule can range up-and-down based on the number of salespeople, key initiatives that require my leadership, growth trajectory objectives, etc.
I partner with my client sponsor to design a coverage plan that may involve on-site interaction, virtual engagement, in-field activity, or a mix of all these approaches.
The most valuable asset I bring to every partnership is my deep and broad experience that I gradually developed over decades. I leverage this experience to locate and focus on the primary dials and levers that will have the greatest impact on my client’s sales results. I am equally focused on not getting hung up in the small things that consume precious time.
I immediately begin the process of creating a sales culture of accountability and high performance. The common activities I implement are:
• 1-on-1 meetings with each seller on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, depending on the number of revenue contributors and other varying factors.
• Monthly sales team meetings that are designed to be high-impact group activities.
• Leadership team meeting participation to play an active role in overcoming selling obstacles through effective inter departmental teamwork.
As we firm up the plan for my involvement, what becomes evident to the top executives who have been “covering” sales is that they have only been scratching the surface. In most cases, their schedule demands only allow them to invest 10% of their week running the sales department. They recognized my involvement will bring dramatically more focus, skill development and accountability.
Operationalize with Adoption:
In our pure Fractional VP Sales role, we don’t “consult” and leave you with a 3-ring binder to implement on your own after we’re done. We roll up our sleeves and work directly with all revenue contributors in a client’s environment.
We don’t leave until the new method of operation functions smoothly through a series of daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly habits.
Here’s a sample of the diverse focus areas that may come into play to fulfill the direct revenue responsibility we take on.
Sales Coaching & Talent Management
• 1-on-1 sales process coaching to fix conversion rate discrepancies
• Review the sales pipeline and develop strategies to move deals faster
• Design and facilitate skill development workshops
• Engage in customer meeting role-play and live/virtual settings… win more deals!
• Oversee and guide the seller’s individual sales plans
• Strategic account planning
• Talent Management – capture new talent & grow talent assets
Sales & Marketing Integration
• Value proposition development to improve competitive differentiation
• Deploy vetted lead generation services to increase sales funnel volume
• Lead process mapping to streamline MQL to SQL hand-off and key accountabilities
• Design and implement prospecting outreach strategy and messaging
• Create sales enablement tools to heighten sellers’ professionalism
• Develop sell-through incentives and contests
• Create pricing parameters (with guard rails) to empower sellers to move more quickly
Leadership Team Involvement
• Executive sales contribution in company-level strategic planning
• Partner with Leadership Team partners to increase operational efficiency
• Leverage and negotiate strategic partner relationships
….. and so, so much more!
I won’t say, “I’ve seen it all”, but I can say, “I’ve seen and navigated most of it!”.
Business owners are usually industry or product experts, entrepreneurs, or former CFOs, but it’s uncommon that they are former Heads of Sales. This results in most of them having very limited, first-hand sales leadership background with their experience coming from figuring things out on their own.
Having led sales teams in a variety of company sizes and industries, my exposure and background has conditioned me to quickly adapt in new environments. In the rare case that I encounter an unfamiliar setting, I have a close-knit network of 200 Fractional VP Sales colleagues across the US that help me swiftly fill in the gaps.