Overcoming the Growing Pains That Every VP of Sales Faces Today
The vice president of sales role is undergoing some growing pains, and digital disruption is largely to blame.
Digital has removed barriers across sectors, shortening the shelf life of any product’s competitive advantage and making it easier for competitors to steal customers. What’s more, buyers are more informed than ever before. They have endless product options and can complete much of their research online – without speaking to a sales rep. Many sales professionals don’t know how to react to the buyer’s newfound control, and they are overwhelmed by the glut of new channels and ways they can communicate with their buyers.
Needless to say, all this has complicated the lives of VPs of Sales. While the role of sales leaders varies across sectors, here are four competencies that every VP of Sales needs to master in the digital age.
Design the Right Strategies to Engage Buyers in a Multichannel World
Clear insight into the customer journey must be a top priority for sales leaders. A better understanding will lead to an increase in sales productivity. However, it won’t be easy. The customer journey is often complex. Even simple tasks often involve multiple steps and channels.
A customer may fill out a form to see a demo, jump on a discovery call with a salesperson, open a follow-up email from the sales rep, connect with a salesperson on social, click on a piece of content that a rep shared on Twitter, discuss vendor research with colleagues in an in-person meeting, go silent for a few weeks, reappear by texting a sales rep, jump on another sales call…
Let’s face it. The bichannel world of phone calls and email is long gone. Sales leaders need to design a consistently positive, rewarding experience across multiple online and offline touch points. And they need to recognize that doing so requires them to be attuned to their customers’ needs, which brings me to my next point…
Create a Culture Focused on the Customer
Sales teams know what they want: they want to get their products in front of their customers as quickly as possible, and they want to crush their quotas.
Unfortunately, that’s not want buyers want. Buyers want to educate themselves, create informed decisions, and avoid sales reps whenever possible. At least, that’s what Forrester’s research shows:
Why are buyers reluctant to engage sellers? Largely because sellers have not adapted to the new buying dynamic. Sales reps continue to pounce and pitch and push, which annoys buyers. Instead, sales reps should be helping buyers do their research and acting as trusted consultants.
To win over buyers in today’s world, the mentality of sales teams needs to shift. Reps must go from a “Sales reps are in control” mindset to a “Customers are in control” mindset. They must move from an “Of course, customers want to see my product” mindset to an “I need to gain my customers’ trust before I show them my product” mindset.
It’s up to the VP of Sales to set the tone and model the mentality that sales reps should adopt.
Exercise Diplomatic Muscles
Talking about being customer-centric is trendy right now, but the implications of being customer-centric are often overlooked. To attract, retain, and upsell customers, sales leaders must act diplomatically and learn how to partner internally.
To put it differently, today’s sales leaders need to develop their soft skills as much as their hard skills. They need to forge strong working relationships with the C-suite, be transparent, and build processes that will be mutually beneficial for themselves and other leaders within the organization.
After all, the customer’s journey crisscrosses several departments – from marketing to sales to customer success. Delivering a consistent and rewarding experiencing across all customer touch points requires the input and buy-in of multiple stakeholders. Gone are the days when sales teams could be siloed off from the rest of the company.
Truth be told, silos have hurt sales reps. Many times, sales teams are holding back their companies from truly embracing the new customer journey. By and large, marketers have adapted to the modern buyer, with CMOs often being digital change agents within their companies. Yet, many sales teams have not followed suit. They remain relatively digitally immature and continue to engage buyers on their preferred channels – not their customers’. As a result, sales reps’ tactics are largely ineffective and inefficient.
VPs of Sales have the opportunity to learn a lot from their marketing counterparts. Writing about the digital transformation of sales, Peter O’Neill of Forrester advises:
Choose Technology That Serves Sales Reps – Not Management
To state the obvious, sales tools have evolved over the last decade. However, Accenture’s research shows that many reps see sales technology as a barrier to performance.
In part, this is because sales management has selected technology that serves their needs. 58% of sales professionals believe that their sales tools are used for monitoring them rather than improving their performance.
Sure, from the perspective of a VP of Sales, the need to monitor reps is an understandable concern. There’s one of VP of Sales, and there are hundreds – if not thousands – of reps. Sales management needs analytics and reporting to make sure that sales reps are doing their job and doing it well.
That said, every VP of Sales needs to ensure that the team’s tool set does more than spit out reports. Their technology stack needs to support sales reps as they help buyers on their journey and engage with customers in a multichannel environment.
Are You Ready to Adapt?
The need to adapt to the new digital customer places a lot of pressure on the VP of Sales. But the growing pains are worth it. Sales leaders who create multichannel playbooks for their teams, learn about their customers’ needs, build effective bridges across the organization, and give their teams the right technology will see their sales increase.