a person having administrative or supervisory authority in an organization.
of, relating to, or suited for carrying out plans, duties, etc. Dictionary.com
Full disclosure, I used to be one of these Executives. I’m not going to tell you that there aren’t bad executives out there. You know the ones that are coming to trip you up or try to prove that they are a better sales rep than you are. Yes, they do exist. I’ve worked for a few of them. It’s not fun. I’m not going to tell you there aren’t people out there who have worked for me that won’t feel that way about me. You can’t be liked by everyone.
All that being said, I did try not to be THAT kind of executive. Here’s my mental encapsulation of what I was looking to do when I came to town:
- I want to meet you.
It is really that simple. You’re a name on a org chart. How emotionally involved can I get in your success if I don’t put a face to a name? I want information on how to motivate you, retain you and reward you. I need to understand who you are, for those times when you have a problem retiring quota. I need to reasonably assess whether it’s you or your territory. More importantly, when your boss is talking to me about you, I have at least a shot of having a good conversation. I’m also evaluating your manager while I’m doing this, and for that I need to know you. If we already know each other, I’m looking to learn more. Attracting and retaining talent is priority number 2 of an executive’s real job. The first is to define and communicate a vision for the future of the team. Which leads us to bullet #2.
- I want strategies.
I worked for a company once who used a fleet car. I used to call it “strategy by sitting in Ford Fusions.” As the executive I tried to be, all of my best ideas came from the field. You may not realize it but your ability to effectively communicate your experiences provides incredible value to the executive management team. It’s often not the specific detail you shared, but the idea, the notion, that golden nugget that comes through in a discussion. Of course not all suggestions are truly executable. However, don’t underestimate the value of your ideas. The discussions I’ve had in cars have led to new compensation plans, new deployment plans, new sales training, new organizations and new demand generation activities. None of these were my ideas, they all came from a someone slogging a briefcase in their territory. As you read this, try to appreciate how you can help the exec combine the simplicity of a simple chat with the farther reaching value that the dialogue provides. The best strategies are simple in concept and complex in execution. Since you can’t control everything everyone does every day, it’s much better to have an understandable and relatable strategy that people can turn into execution in their backyards. This comes from using their ideas, and getting buy in both from above (corporate management) and below (local sales management).
- I want to know what I can do to improve your productivity
It is an opportunity for you to constructively and succinctly communicate your ideas. I wanted to hear about things that take time away from being with customers. Don’t tell me that you don’t want to do paperwork or work with the CRM system. This is not an invitation to whine, unless I bring cheese (the old ones are the best). If you have an idea to make things more streamlined, feel free to share. One thing I used to do was talk about the “sanctity of the car”. I wouldn’t edit what I said when I was on the phone (so you got to listen to one side of every conversation I had and glean a few tidbits) and you could say anything you wanted, positive or negative, without repercussions. I can tell you there were times when I nearly regretted that, but they were massively outweighed by all the good ideas I got. Remember your Executive is on a number just like you. Sometimes it’s just the aggregate of you and all your peers’ numbers. Sometimes it’s a little different but either way the exec can’t be successful, unless you are. It’s a bond.
- I want to know that you can define a role for me on the sales call
As intimidating as the boss’ boss might be, he or she isn’t always the best sales rep on the team. That’s not why we got the job (or it shouldn’t be see “Differentiating Sales people” https://t.co/ArZsOq9Jil). Can we handle ourselves? You bet we can, although if I’m doing the selling, it’s costing the company way too much money to get the deal. I can probably make it up as I go along and make it look pretty smooth. However, if you need something specific like the name of a person who is key to the decision-making process, or maybe the order of certain steps, leverage my participation to find that out. Give me a role. Define that role clearly. Tell me what to do. Show me you’re in control. A great role for an executive is to open up a new opportunity either by building rapport with another executive or uncovering a project. This gets you more than a new opportunity – you might even learn something new. I love it when I get into the car and the rep starts with “So this is the way I’d like it to go down…”
On the flipside here’s what I don’t want:
- Don’t expect me to close the deal
- Don’t expect me to save a deal that is dying
- Don’t expect me to give less of discount
Of course I can do all of those thing. Just don’t wait till I’m coming to town and spring it on me. Using your executive to close a deal, save a deal or modify the financial details are all very reasonable things to ask for, even expect, but should be part of the deal pursuit. Call me and schedule the trip. Ideally this should be part of a close plan that has been developed and communicated as part of the sales Inspection process. (Hint: see https://t.co/xKCkyzc0CO)
If any of those things formulate your answer to topic number 4 above, give me a role. Just make it prescriptive and part of a plan. Do not expect miracles. They might happen, but it tells me something about you, and generally not something you want me to know.
In some of my executive jobs, I spent a lot of time with my team in the field. In others, I should have spent more. I’m human. I spent time with people who followed the first 4, mostly naturally. I spent less time with the people who focused on the second 3 even after they were told. It was pretty simple.
I hope this helps to remove some of the anxiety you feel when an executive comes to town. If you’re an executive, hopefully this will give you food for thought. With this checklist, your team should not have trouble finding things to fill your time, and get the most out of it.
Good Luck and Good Selling.
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