I've had the opportunity, over the years, to provide my opinion to CEOs, CFOs, boards of directors, investors, and venture capitalists about what was really going on with their companies' dysfunctional sales departments.
In cases like this, it's around month 13 that I've gotten called in. It doesn't take me long to figure out what's really going on. I know what questions to ask and what the answers should be.
Here is how I start: I'll ask the VP of sales to talk to me, in depth, about a few selected critical opportunities their team is pursuing-deals forecasted to close within the next two months. The VP's response should convey a comprehensive and objective assessment of those situations, not gut feel or wishful thinking. A strong VP will know, at a minimum, (1) when the customer (I want to know the name of the decision-maker) will buy, (2) what products or services they will buy, (3) what business issues or opportunities are causing them to buy, (4) how much they will spend, (5) what could prevent them from buying, and (6) precisely what will compel the customer to buy from that VP's company.
How do I know whether they're telling the truth? Experience, very careful listening, and having been on the wrong side of that discussion.
There is a wheelbarrow full of other questions-questions about process, qualification, measurement, competitive intelligence, strategies and tactics, territory assignments and management, tools, coaching, alignment with other corporate functions, and so on... But if a sales VP in their job for a year doesn't know, without notes, what I consider to be vital information about their two most important deals, they fail the test.
You might wonder who is responsible for this all-too-common, Groundhog Day situation. It's the person who continues to hire the wrong VPs of sales.
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