The Six Skills of Great Sales VPs


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The newly promoted manager repeats behavior that made him successful as a rep. He neglects his skill development and sales initiatives. His team flounders. He tries to do it himself. Before the year is over, he’s back in the field or on the street.

This role confusion doesn’t stop at the manager level. Frequently, the top manager gets the nod for the VP of Sales. The thought is that he has the right skillset. He turned a struggling region into the anchor. However, we frequently see Sales VPs still stuck in the sales manager mindset. This can have catastrophic consequences. An ill-prepared sales manager damages his region. A Sales VP focused on the wrong things can ruin the entire company.

See if you have the focus needed to be a Successful VP. Get a copy of our 6 Sales VP Essential Skills Scorecard when you register for this event: How To Make Your Number in 2014: A Sales Strategy You Can Execute.

Here’s a sample of three skills (ouf of six) that the scorecard addresses:

Department Alliances:

Sales managers live in the sales silo. They cross collaborate with manager peers, their reps, and the VP. But they are limited to these relationships. Cross collaboration with outside departments is scarce. HR may receive feedback on a candidate. Marketing might be called in for a presentation design. However, the majority of internal company time is within their department.

The successful Sales VP spends a lot of time outside of sales. She evaluates skills and backgrounds of successful reps. Then she creates ideal candidate profiles with HR to get the needed talent. She works closely with marketing to enable her team with content and leads. Finally, she embraces conversations with the CEO about strategy and goals. Then she aligns her projects to these corporate initiatives.

Day to Day Activities:

The successful sales manager is out in the field 50-75% of the time coaching reps. He is getting in front of prospects and valued customers. He helps the new reps ramp up quickly. He provides individual coaching on a weekly basis. He establishes a presence at the largest opportunities to show the company’s dedication.

The successful VP of Sales spends about 25%-40% of his time out in the field. However, he can’t spend time with every customer. Instead, he’s working on current projects. He builds tools and systems to ensure his managers execute these projects. He’s looking at compensation analysis, territory design, and sales structure. In short, he’s thinking 6-9 months ahead. He expects his management team and reps to execute day-to-day sales activities.

Skills Training:

Unless directed, the sales manager takes an ad-hoc approach to skills. She finds gaps in a rep’s skill set, and creates an action plan to improve individual behavior. She follows up to ensure skill building activities are completed. She recommends reading the latest books or product training. However, once the activity is completed, there is little continuing reinforcement.

The successful VP of sales takes a systematic approach to skill development. He studies the skills needed to execute in the field. Then he assesses the entire department based on these skills and competencies. From this, gaps are identified and a training program is constructed. The program has defined skill building activities, and a reinforcement calendar. He expects managers to execute these activities. Skills are reassessed at the end of the program to ensure success. Reps that fail are re-trained.


For new Sales VPs the hardest change is letting go of previous role responsibilities. Great Sales VPs operate differently than managers. They create a strategic direction for their department. They identify roadblocks and opportunities. Then they build plans to eliminate or capture them. They trust their managers to execute. Afterwards, they measure to gage success. Download our 6 Sales VP Essential Skills Scorecard to determine if you are operating like one.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Drew Zarges
Drew Zarges serves as a Senior Consultant at Sales Benchmark Index (SBI). Drew helps sales and marketing leaders hit their number through extensive work within these disciplines: Lead Management, Demand Generation and Campaign Planning, Compensation Planning and Specialties.


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