A couple of years ago we published an e-book called A Sales Leader’s First 90 Days. It was inspired by the classic Michael Watkins book, but tailored specifically for Sales VPs, SVPs and CROs who had recently taken over a new organization. (For broader context on our Sales Leader's First 90 Days program, check out our introductory blog.)
Since so many companies have either re-organized or are in the midst of doing so, we find many of our "First 90 Days" principles relevant as established sales leaders plan their next 90 days.
We’ve condensed 90-day lessons into four key questions sales leaders can ask themselves as their companies undergo shifting strategies. Which of these challenges pertain to you and how can you address them in the next 90 days?1. Do You Have Any Customers or High-Performers at Risk for Defection?
Eight months into the pandemic, it should be clear whether you have either customers or high-performing sellers at risk for defection. Presumably these have been identified and dealt with. If, however, you’ve just inherited a new sales organization, double check to ensure both are secure.
Conversely be on the lookout for opportunities to cultivate prospects who may be open to making a change from a competitor.2. Have Your Internal Stakeholders Changed? Who’s New?
If your company has reorganized, the key stakeholders you had past relationships with may have changed. These are the company leaders, business unit VPs, functional VPs, peers, etc. you relied on to – and this is the key phrase – get things done. There are three actions to consider.
First, make a list of any new stakeholders you don’t have a relationship with and get on their calendar.
Second, if your management stakeholders have changed, don’t fall into the transition trap of assuming their expectations for your performance are the same as their predecessor’s. If these haven’t been made clear, make an appointment with leadership and ask the question directly. Don’t forget to clarify the time frame for achieving objectives and the metrics by which you’ll be measured.
Third, if you’ve inherited a new team or direct reports, do the same for them. The firefighting may be over, but overall company strategies are still fluid as economic conditions change. It’s OK to set a direction for your sales team and then have to revisit it.3. Do Major Accounts or Territories Need To Be Reassessed?
Like you, your customers are undergoing shifting priorities. Therefore, you may need to re-segment your strategic accounts or redraw your territories. This is a matter of both goal achievement and cost of sales.
Let’s take accounts segmentation first. If your customers have undergone significant change, account planning must be done to reassess the revenue potential of each strategic account. You have a revenue target to achieve, and you must be crystal clear on where the revenue is going to come from. This is no time for hope to be your strategy.
One client in an industry that’s severely impacted by Covid-19 took the action of removing dozens of accounts from its “strategic” segment. If an account isn’t going to produce revenue, don’t over-invest. Do maintain relationships, however, and keep your eye on their recovery so you know when to resume prospecting.
As for territories, again planning is a must. Analyze whitespace realistically and determine how much seller coverage you need to achieve your territory potential. See our Guide to Sales Resource Optimization if you have serious adjustments to make:4. Has Your Company Re-org Triggered Alignment Issues?
Be on the lookout for alignment issues, i.e., any situation you’ve inherited that’s going to cause your sellers to behave in a manner that’s contrary to the objectives set by management.
A classic example is the misalignment that happens when companies consolidate two or more sales teams with different variable comp structures. A related alignment issue happens when management changes its focus to a new metric, say revenue recognition, but your sales team is still compensated on bookings.
Alignment issues don’t get better with age. If you have one serious enough to impact your ability to achieve revenue targets, ensure management understands and is willing to take steps to fix it.
Finally, there is at least one kind of alignment issue that has nothing to do with any reorg. It’s the skills gap some of your sellers may be experiencing in the virtual selling environment. We’ve been listening to clients tell us that some top performers, those who never leaned into technology, are now struggling. Don’t underestimate the need for remediation and upskilling, particularly since we expect sellers to operate in at least a “hybrid” fashion for years to come if not permanently.
Whatever Your Challenge, Keep These Things in Mind
Regardless of the challenges you face in the next 90 days and beyond, keep the following in mind:
- Clarify management’s objectives and expectations; don’t make the assumption you know what they are, especially if you’ve had a change in leadership
- Make sure you cultivate strong relationships with the people you need to help you get things done, especially if the players have changed.
- Know how strategic accounts and territories are going to contribute to your revenue target. Hope is not a strategy.
- As always, rely on performance metrics, not your gut, to inform decisions. Continually ask yourself whether you’re making an assumption without actually knowing.
- If you find yourself in a new position, we suggest downloading the entire Sales Leader’s First 90 Days eBook and toolkit, especially the section titled “Learn and Take Action for Early Wins,” which you can also read in blog form here
Just interested in setting longer-term sales strategy? Check out either of these blogs, which are part of the Sales Leaders First 90 Days series: