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AEs: If you could give a VP of Sales one piece of advice, what would it be?

No wrong answers.

Share your advice below.

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    • 3
      Profile picture of Macky Bradley
      @mackybradley
      ( 14.4k POINTS )
      11 months, 2 weeks ago

      Hello Amy @amyhre

      If I could give a VP of Sales one piece of advice (I have given them more than 1 piece of advice on several occasions – LOL) it would be: put yourself in your reps shoes. Sure, you are a VP now, but you always were not. Perhaps you started as an SDR, or AE.
      Do not make us sell products that are not good for our customers or our corporate image. If the new software or platform is junk, be strong and tell upper management that it stinks. No bueno.
      Don’t be hung up on metrics- they are different for everybody. What works for one, may not work at all for the other reps. Judge them on their success at the end of the day/week/month/year by quantifiable, measurable means that you both agree upon and understand explicitly.
      Spend time weekly, suggest 1:1 with discussion topics/ results/etc., recorded weekly.
      Most importantly, be authentic. If you say you are going to do something, do it!
      As the VP, you are the sales reps “backup” “friend” “coach” “leader” You are there to serve and protect.

      Yep- put yourself in their shoes!

      Thanks for the question, hope this helps!

      Macky

      • 0
        Profile picture of Amy Hrehovcik
        @amyhre
        ( 4.1k POINTS )
        11 months, 2 weeks ago

        YES, @mackybradley. Thank you for kicking us off! Perhaps I should do the same.

        Favorite line: I have given them more than 1 piece of advice on several occasions – LOL

        You and me both. :: insert crying laughing emoji::

    • 2
      Profile picture of Sherdah Moca
      @smoca
      ( 210 POINTS )
      11 months, 2 weeks ago

      Amy,

      If I could give one piece of advice to a VP of Sales, that would be to make sure that your company sets up culture so that the teams work well together, and not against each other. If the team by design is set up so that the SDRs, BDRs, and Account Reps are in competition for leads and accounts, it will only lead to division. Well defined territories and teams are important, otherwise, individuals will do what is best for themselves, not what is best for the teams and the company in the long run.

      Also, I agree with Mackybradley, a VP of Sales should be there to support the team, and shouldn’t take accounts away from them, and sell against them. When that starts to happen, sales team members see the VP of Sales as another competitor and not an ally. They don’t know when their accounts might be taken over by the VP, and are less likely to ask advice. It leads to complete disharmony in the team and doesn’t improve sales productivity at all. Anyway – that’s my advice. 🙂

      • 0
        Profile picture of Amy Hrehovcik
        @amyhre
        ( 4.1k POINTS )
        11 months, 2 weeks ago

        You are spot-on, @smoca. Thank you for weighing in with this phenomenal piece of insight.

        I worked at a company that had two competing account manager functions once. The AM team and the Customer Success team. The role overlap/ambiguity caused MAJOR problems!

        Plus, it’s so simple to avoid. Scope those job functions, VP’s. Leave zero room for misinterpretation.

    • 1
      Profile picture of Toby Yoder
      @toby-y
      ( 280 POINTS )
      11 months, 2 weeks ago

      Don’t skip 1:1s, and don’t move them around. There’s good content about how to run them, but be respectful of your AE’s time.

      Also, help your forecast by helping your AEs uncover what the real compelling event is for their deal. A compelling event is not that “they want a new xyz system this year”. The CE is something that is driving the close date in your CRM. e.g. incumbent tech, your competitor, is up for renewal on x date. new regulation on x date is requiring a new solution be in place… etc.. If you don’t have one, the only compelling event is you dropping your price at month / qtr end. Therefore, teaching your AEs to do thoughtful discovery really pays off. e.g. the gap sale framework or challenger sale. this way when the prospect pushes back, the AE or the VP if they have been engaged can come back and enumerate all the reasons they need to procure a solution in the timeline you’ve set forth.

      • 0
        Profile picture of Amy Hrehovcik
        @amyhre
        ( 4.1k POINTS )
        11 months, 2 weeks ago

        Truth, @tjyoder58. Thank you for weighing in!

        To your point about compelling events, I’d like to add two quick things.

        1. While it is possible to manufacture a compelling event, it is significantly easier to align with one already taking place on the client’s side.

        2. Assuming product trials are a thing, clearly scoped/defined trials are phenomenal compelling events. As long as you…

        Have the executive sponsor(s) articulate what a successful trial entails, in advance, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

        Ask the question: *When* the trial is successful, will your team be ready to pull the trigger?

        Put both items in writing.

        Also @tjyoder58, we don’t talk about effective forecasting nearly enough. If you’re down, I’d love to see you start a discussion about it for the AE channel. Cool either way, obvi.

        • 0
          Profile picture of Toby Yoder
          @toby-y
          ( 280 POINTS )
          11 months, 2 weeks ago

          agree 100% – trials are a great way, especially if you provide resources to ensure a great trial, and qualify success and next steps up front. If you know you have a great product and can get more people to touch it during the trial where it adds value, it just makes it easier with ground swell while you work top down. A POC is another topic altogether. without some $ on the prospect side, and resources on both sides, those are tough. I like to use references instead of POCs.

          I’ll take a look re the forecasting discussion – I’m new to these discussions and SH. 🙂

          • 0
            Profile picture of Amy Hrehovcik
            @amyhre
            ( 4.1k POINTS )
            11 months, 2 weeks ago

            It’s a new community, @tjyoder58. We all are. More notably, the AE channel is a #mistakefriendly zone.

    • 4
      Profile picture of Belal Batrawy
      @belal
      ( 640 POINTS )
      11 months, 2 weeks ago

      Allow reps to vent.

      There’s this ridiculous stigma that anytime a salesperson vents they’re whining. As if somehow, the person who spends all day with people that either become customers or choose not to wouldn’t have valuable product feedback and insight straight from the target market. When you let reps vent, amazing things happen:

      1) You help them destress, and sales gets pretty stressful

      2) You might hear a common theme from the reps, which then let’s the manager do their second most important job: knock down barriers to success.

      3) You have to manage the person, not the quota. This is a huge mistake of ‘dashboard managers’. They think only of the numbers, not the people.

      4) If you’re not venting to a manager, it’s either getting bottled up or reps will vent to each other. Either way that’s toxic.

      Unfortunately, I’ve only had a couple managers that thought this way. There’s a perception that when a sales rep vents, they’re making excuses.

      No way… Part of having a positive mindset and having tenacity is balance. Try facilitating venting instead of suppressing it.

      • 0
        Profile picture of Amy Hrehovcik
        @amyhre
        ( 4.1k POINTS )
        11 months, 2 weeks ago

        Wise words, @belal. As usual. Thank you for weighing in.

    • 0
      Profile picture of Ariane Craig
      @arianec
      ( 250 POINTS )
      11 months, 2 weeks ago

      Spend time weekly: 1:1 discussion Topics/ Whiteboard/Roadmap (vision board) together.
      Listen to your team when obstacles are presented. Be present and engaged…

    • 1
      Profile picture of Dae Kang
      @saleslearner
      ( 2.3k POINTS )
      11 months, 2 weeks ago

      Amy, fantastic question!

      I would say clear communication. Whoever’s in charge of sales MUST cast a clear vision and communicate that effectively to their team so that there’s unification. I totally believe that unification is more important for one individual to be right. With clear communication, it means in writing, the plans for execution, and boundaries set in place. Nothing is more of a time-waster than when everyone is doing what they think is right, and they all come together to have different things to discuss… OUCH!!

      Amy, a question back to you is, how can an Individual Contributor approach their own VP of Sales if they’re experiencing such a situation – Is that something you’d suggest?

      • 0
        Profile picture of Amy Hrehovcik
        @amyhre
        ( 4.1k POINTS )
        11 months, 2 weeks ago

        Well written, @saleslearner. Agreed on all counts.

        And a phenomenal follow-up question, I may add. I’d say it would depend on the context, but taking the time to gather data and present/package it well is a must regardless. This way what you bring to the table is based on logic and evidence.

        Anyone else care to weigh in on how to approach your own VP of Sales?

    • 1
      Profile picture of Antonio Carlos Machado
      @antoniocarlos
      ( 630 POINTS )
      11 months, 2 weeks ago

      Focus on strategic relationship (CxO level) to open doors for account team. During these opportunities, VP will share values, culture and ethics added with short and long term view.

      • 0
        Profile picture of Amy Hrehovcik
        @amyhre
        ( 4.1k POINTS )
        11 months, 2 weeks ago

        What an interesting thought, @antoniocarlos. Thank you for weighing in.

        Admittedly, this one contradicts my own preferences/experiences which skew HARD towards:

        Teach your AEs how to interact at the C-level *on their own* rather than continue to do it for them. Same goes for all aspects of an enterprise sale including interactions with legal/contracting, security reviews/IT, etc.

        Give a human a fish, they eat for a day. Teach a human to fish, they eat for a lifetime.

        That said, I think this one is worth its own discussion thread. Would you care to post it or shall I?

        • 0
          Profile picture of Antonio Carlos Machado
          @antoniocarlos
          ( 630 POINTS )
          11 months, 2 weeks ago

          Hi Amy, thanks a lot for your comment and feel free to start a new brainstorm about it. indeed AE needs to interact with C-level, talk about strategy and business outcomes, on the other hand, in some industries we can find old school, where C-level from Customer wants to talk with C-level from your company, as a 1:1. So, AE needs to be prepared for both scenarios.

          • 0
            Profile picture of Dae Kang
            @saleslearner
            ( 2.3k POINTS )
            11 months, 2 weeks ago

            Very interesting- curious to see the new thread!

    • 1
      Profile picture of James Coelho
      @jamescoe
      ( 610 POINTS )
      11 months, 2 weeks ago

      Hello Amy,
      I would recommend that a lot of thought goes into finalising the annual/ quarterly/monthly numbers. Review it in every which way and ensure that there is ‘stretch in the game’. Now here’s the important bit, once the numbers are indeed set, these should NOT be changed. This sets discipline and culture, that sales numbers need to be driven every week of every quarter.
      Depending on your sales team size and your product mix, its great to have 2-3 teams driving specific verticals or product offerings . Keep the target audience more focussed. Especially for IT solutions, helps build deeper connect while talking the customer’s industry language.

      • 0
        Profile picture of Amy Hrehovcik
        @amyhre
        ( 4.1k POINTS )
        11 months, 2 weeks ago

        Assuming I understand you correctly, @jamescoe, you are absolutely right. Do not change the target on your players mid-game.

        (Or their territory/accounts, in my opinion.)

    • 2
      Profile picture of Bryan Whittington
      @brywhitt
      ( 821 POINTS )
      11 months, 2 weeks ago

      Practice the 3 P’s of leaderdship:
      1. Protect the reps – bosses, peers, clients, and sometimes themselves
      2. Provide – training, tools, help, being human
      3. Promote – the culture that they were promised when hired

      • 1
        Profile picture of Amy Hrehovcik
        @amyhre
        ( 4.1k POINTS )
        11 months, 2 weeks ago

        Love that third P, @brywhitt. So true and a welcome reminder. Thank you.

      • 1
        Profile picture of Dae Kang
        @saleslearner
        ( 2.3k POINTS )
        11 months, 2 weeks ago

        Love the third P as well!

    • 1
      Profile picture of Constantin Fink
      @constantinfink
      ( 290 POINTS )
      11 months, 2 weeks ago

      If only one: lead frontstage AND backstage…
      Else: less is more, data beats opinion, 5 KPIs thoroughly chosen will do the job, the CFO should be your best friend, metrics-based selling beats art, give freedom within boundaries, focus on early stage opportunities for pipeline coaching, leverage the full potential of social selling, the CMO is your favourite and valued sparring Partner, Always talk to your clients & customers, especially the hard/demanding ones, and LBNL be curious, demandingg and always be learning!

      • 0
        Profile picture of Amy Hrehovcik
        @amyhre
        ( 4.1k POINTS )
        11 months, 2 weeks ago

        Spoken like a true sales operation professional, @constantinfink. Thank you for weighing in!

      • 0
        Profile picture of Dae Kang
        @saleslearner
        ( 2.3k POINTS )
        11 months, 2 weeks ago

        This is AWESOME! I really love your comment, ‘5 KPIs thoroughly chosen will do the job.’

        Noobie alert: what does LBNL stand for?… haha

        • 0
          Profile picture of Amy Hrehovcik
          @amyhre
          ( 4.1k POINTS )
          11 months, 1 week ago

          Quick point of clarification:

          KPI stands for KEY performance indicator.

          It speaks to logic that the more KPIs you carry, the less KEY they become. Five is a lot. Three is a better number. Also, feel free to adjust those KPIs quarterly.

          For my all-time favorite meme, a meme about metrics (yes, I need to get out more), run a google image search for:

          “If it won’t change how you behave, it’s a bad metric”

    • 0
      Profile picture of Charles Moreton
      @cmoreton
      ( 790 POINTS )
      11 months, 2 weeks ago

      I have 2 thoughts
      1. Structure your 1:1’s. Don’t just focus on pipeline or activity. Spend time talking about personal areas of training as well as touching on career and personal development. If an AE wants to be a VP, show them the path. Highlight the skills they need as an AE to get to the VP role and make it a constant conversation. They will work harder for you knowing you care about their growth. Let them vent as well – this shows you where they are in their emotional range as a seller and can be eye-opening as these traits may be something they show in deals they are losing.
      2. Get in the trenches. As CRO’s/VP’s, we are busy BUT never too busy to dial with our team for an hour, jump on an early stage call to be a sounding board or for the coaching of new reps, sit with them while they update CRM notes so you can truly learn how they think, etc…. A rep knowing you get their world and are there to help them every step of the way is critical to them respecting you, their role, and their outcomes.

      Top level results are what we need but small, individual actions are what get us there.

      • 0
        Profile picture of Dae Kang
        @saleslearner
        ( 2.3k POINTS )
        11 months, 2 weeks ago

        This is cool – I like your 1st thought a lot, more so than just pipeline/activities (since that’s in our contract anyways, haha).

        Interesting perspective, gauging their emotional range as a seller – can you please expand on this?

        • 0
          Profile picture of Amy Hrehovcik
          @amyhre
          ( 4.1k POINTS )
          11 months, 1 week ago

          While I can certainly make a few educated guesses, I second this request, @cmoreton.

          I’d love to hear more about your system to baseline a seller’s emotional range. Perhaps even start a discussion? Either way, that’s some next-level performance coaching right there!

          Also, THANK YOU for touching on the power of observation. Particularly as it relates to technology. Not only is this a critical step that most skip, but it can and should be modeled by the sellers themselves during their own sales motions.

          Said another way, take the time to observe your prospects trying to do (manually) what your tech solution purports to address.

        • 1
          Profile picture of Charles Moreton
          @cmoreton
          ( 790 POINTS )
          11 months, 1 week ago

          OK taking a deep breath… Always happy to hop on a call around this as well but i’ll do my best here.

          Emotional range helps us understand how a seller reacts to situations they find themselves in. These can be good/bad situations they created, the prospect created, our company created etc… Basically – they can come from anywhere, just like life 🙂

          In sales, especially as it relates to coaching/development of our teams or ourselves, it’s important to get a baseline of our teams and the individuals.
          Example:
          Joe has a call with a prospect. Prospect says “no” to buying. Joe gets pissed off and fires off slack messages to the team or manager saying things like “prospect totally didn’t get it. they are dumb. not worth my time” etc..
          Conversely – Prospect says “YES” to joe. “I love you Joe”. I can’t wait to do business with you JOE!!” – what is Joe’s reaction then? Does he get so high that he forgets critical parts of the sales process therefore potentially losing the deal, delaying a deal, not maximizing pricing of a deal? – bad things can happen from good calls too.

          The right coach needs to be able to identify how high or low a rep gets relative to what’s happening so that their behavior stays even keel.

          Sporting event commentators give us really bad advice here when it comes to this. They say “oh he got angry and look how he just dominated the game”. Being a former pro athlete, this is not at ALL what happens. The reality is the athlete got focused. they balanced their emotions to regulate the ups and downs. They may outwardly LOOK mad/happy but internally, their heart rate is measured, their brain is focused and they have zoomed into the critical aspects of their performance to successfully execute the goal in front of them.

          The TLDR here is:
          Reps lose ~70% of the time and in prospecting, they lose 90%. That breeds a very negative mindset for 99% of reps and we wonder why they only achieve 56-60% of their quotas.

          Working with someone to learn how to coach your team to mental strength will uplevel them tremendously!

          I do consults on this all the time all over the place – I’d be happy to chat 1:1 if you want to dig in deeper.

          I hope this helps.

          I have carpel tunnel after writing this but that’s the high level aspect of my approach.

          Hope you enjoy!

          • 0
            Profile picture of Amy Hrehovcik
            @amyhre
            ( 4.1k POINTS )
            11 months, 1 week ago

            @marygreencny, meet Mr. Charles Moreton ^. @cmoreton

            Five-star expert right here.

            • 0
              Profile picture of Mary Green 🔹
              @marygreencny
              ( 7.6k POINTS )
              11 months, 1 week ago

              What an excellent answer @cmoreton. I was just commenting on another thread about the importance of mental strength. Maybe we can get you to do an AMA (ask me anything) here on Sales Hacker?

              • 0
                Profile picture of Charles Moreton
                @cmoreton
                ( 790 POINTS )
                11 months, 1 week ago

                I’m 100% up for that – ping me and help me get it set up?

          • 0
            Profile picture of Dae Kang
            @saleslearner
            ( 2.3k POINTS )
            11 months, 1 week ago

            Whoa, this is awesome. I love that you’re gauging your reps based on their emotional quotient/activities. I understood this concept as it pertains to myself, but not from a coaching perspective.

            Do you have recommended exercises, or ways to develop a tougher mentality? I just finished a book, “Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holdings who teaches on this topic. No exercises, except sheer perseverance through Discipline of Perception. 🙂

            • 0
              Profile picture of Charles Moreton
              @cmoreton
              ( 790 POINTS )
              11 months ago

              The reality is, when it comes to emotional strain, sales is the hardest job in a company….by far. We lose 70% of the time. If that isn’t enough, bad management then asks us WTF happened and makes us feel worse, then we see dashboards that might show us at the bottom of the pile and then we go home and get asked “how was your day” which causes us to relive the negativity.

              Think about that for a second. Holy crap! So much negativity!

              If you’re even a half-decent leader or company, you need to be aware of this and understand that sales teams are very fragile. The things leaders say, the way they say it, and, the execution that follows is a gentle organism of thought.

              When coaching, you HAVE to understand what drives your team, down to the individual. How are they motivated, how do they learn, how do they retain, how do they persevere? This is done by simply asking them those questions and tailoring your coaching to what drives them! Bonus: it’s also how you learn to understand where they need development – more to come on this when I launch my new company in November. 🙂

              An example of this:
              A team is way behind quota. The manager steps up and says something like “we need more. it’s going to cost you jobs if this doesn’t change. the company can’t afford to do this poorly. Look at your numbers. they suck. what are you going to do about it?” – all of this is complete crap and totally demoralizing and not constructive.
              The proper way to handle this would be something like “team, selling is tough and that’s why you’re all here. I believe in you and you need to believe in yourselves and each other. Here’s what lies ahead if we can band together (list some cool things that happen if you get to the number). I know these goals are important to you because of XYZ. So, let’s talk as a team and come up with a plan together to crush the rest of the quarter/year/etc… (Listen to your teams ideas, dig into why they fell this will work. Get them to commit to a plan you all come up with. if they buy in, they will succeed. if you talk down to them, YOU will fail).”

              Congrats, you just created an emotionally bonded team who just created goals to get you (leader) where you need to be and it was done using ideas THEY own and are positive about. Good Job!!

              Emotional coaching is only hard for leaders who don’t understand what leadership it. Leadership isn’t looking at dashboards and yelling. Leadership isn’t managing from a pedestal.
              Leadership is getting in the trenches with your people. Cold calling with your SDR’s, doing demos with your sellers, closing with your closing team, onboarding with your CS team etc…

              If, as a leader, you’re not spending 30+% of your time doing the job of your direct reports, how in the world will you ever understand their challenges?And yes, as a leader, you have the time to do this because it’s revenue-generating work.

              This is why most leaders are terrible yet they think they are good because they hit quota. Who cares about quota if your team doesn’t respect you; if you don’t know what it takes to scale your people properly.

              Find some empathy, find someone who will mentor you. Spend the money on a coach.

              • 0
                Profile picture of Dae Kang
                @saleslearner
                ( 2.3k POINTS )
                11 months ago

                This is awesome. I super appreciate you, @cmoreton taking the time to share your expertise and insight.

                ALSO, CONGRATS ON the UPCOMING LAUNCH OF YOUR NEW COMPANY in NOVEMBER!!

                Reading your example, I’ve definitely experienced both. 🙂 I HOPE we all have, so we can know the difference.

                I really like that you mention leaders are in the trenches with their reps. Best leaders are servers and vice versa. To your point, the impact, if done right is that it creates an emotional team bond – I like that.

                • 0
                  Profile picture of Charles Moreton
                  @cmoreton
                  ( 790 POINTS )
                  11 months ago

                  my pleasure!

    • 0
      Profile picture of Ruthie Nissim
      @ruthie
      ( 410 POINTS )
      11 months, 1 week ago

      Remove any / all roadblocks and obstacles to enable us to do precisely what we were hired to do: Sell.

      • 0
        Profile picture of Amy Hrehovcik
        @amyhre
        ( 4.1k POINTS )
        11 months, 1 week ago

        I love this, @ruthie. Super simple which is great. I am going to push back a little though.

        The challenge with super-simple is that it leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation. Too much room.

        I could be wrong, but I’d think most managers are down to remove “roadblocks”. To your point though, if the roadblock is not removed, I’d bet it’s a lack of alignment around what the roadblock is OR what constitutes a successful “removal”.

        Ideally, both parties firm up both factors prior to executing. A conversation that would take place within a healthy, functioning one-on-one. (A topic that picks up with the discussion link below…)

        https://www.saleshacker.com/community/users/amyhre/activity/54558/

    • 0
      Profile picture of Stephanie Lippincott
      @slipps
      ( 2.8k POINTS )
      11 months, 1 week ago

      Don’t just say you have an open-door policy and open communication, model it. Regularly cast vision and create a culture of safety. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a sales leader tell me I can come to them with anything but the culture feels anything but safe.

    • 0
      Profile picture of Oliver Harris
      @olyharris91
      ( 290 POINTS )
      10 months ago

      Don’t ask an AE to do a job that you wouldn’t do yourself.

      Context: The beginning of COVID created a lot of diary gaps for the team so it was decided that the AE’s would weigh in with some cold calling outreach. The VP of Sales however simply wouldn’t join in (despite having several free diary gaps as well).

      It would have been useful for the team to listen to and study his approach to cold calling as the most senior and experienced sales person. My interpretation was that he felt he was ‘beyond’ this approach which made me feel quite disillusioned!

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