What Boards of Directors Really Want From Their VPs of Sales
- If they are not forthcoming about issues affecting the organization and don’t act as business leaders, sales leaders quickly lose credibility with their board of directors
- Boards of directors want their vice president of sales to be proficient in articulating an overall model for success that demonstrates they are architecting a revenue engine that will scale
- VPs must deliver a board deck that is simple, consistent and shows progress from quarter to quarter
The relationship a sales leader has with his or her company’s board of directors is critical to his or her success and longevity in the role. Surprisingly, there has been little research on the expectations boards of directors have toward their VPs of sales. What are the big mistakes that sales leaders make that get them into trouble and should be avoided? What does a good board presentation look like from a board member’s perspective?
SiriusDecisions recently completed research into what boards of directors want from their sales leaders by interviewing 30 board members who had collectively participated in 100 boards. Our key findings included:
- Understand the dynamics of the board. VPs of sales must complete an analysis of their board similar to how they would complete account mapping for a strategic customer. Who are the most engaged board members that have the biggest influence over the board? What are the functional backgrounds of the various members?
- Credibility with the board is critical – once it’s lost, it’s hard to recover. Board members emphasized how important it is for sales leaders to be forthcoming on the key problems in the business – tell, don’t sell!
- Take a critical view even if performance is good. Board members want sales leaders to demonstrate that they are continuously looking for ways to improve results, even when they’re making the number.
- Act like a business leader.Boards of directors value sales leaders who can take ownership over the business instead of just demonstrating mastery of the sales function.
- Understand the model for success and articulate clearly and simply. Board members are constantly trying to ascertain if a VP of sales made the number because of dumb luck or an end-of-the-quarter “diving catch” deal, or because of a management system they’ve put in place that leads to predictable, repeatable results.
- Ensure that board presentations are simple and consistent. Use a small set of leading and lagging data indicators to demonstrate the progress being made against the model for success and consistently highlight them during quarterly board presentations.
Based on the findings of this research, the SiriusDecisions B2B Board Interaction Framework was developed to help VPs of sales successfully manage their relationship with their boards. There are three components of this framework:
- Pre-meeting: What are the board dynamics? How should VPs of sales prepare for a board meeting?
- Meeting: What are the attitudes and the approach that VPs of sales should utilize during board meetings to build credibility?
- Post-meeting: How should VPs of sales interact with boards in between board meetings?
After using the B2B Board Interaction Framework, sales leaders can use these candid insights gained from board members to strengthen and build upon their relationships for the future.