How does a newly appointed or aspiring executive drive incremental growth and win right now with their commercial team? A former client and newly minted CEO of a large multi-national company recently posed this question to me. He candidly admitted that he (like many new executives) knows how the supply-chain, operations team, finance and strategy functions work—but not where to focus with the commercial team. Specifically, he wanted to know, “What are the things I should look for immediately from my sales, marketing and product teams?”
There are five “DO NO HARM” actions that every new executive should take to grow revenue in their first year on the job.
1. Confirm Growth Strategy
First, visit your top 10 clients with the seller(s) and sales manager who own those accounts. Listen to the client to understand their business and what value you contribute to their success. It is important to understand how your company’s value links to what makes your most important customers tick. Second, listen to your first line sales managers (FLSMs) and sales team on how they interpret your strategy. The link between your customers’ points of view and your sales teams’ interpretation will help you understand if your sales team has continuity in the message and delivers differentiated value.
2. Appraise Current Value Propositions
Scorecard the top 10 value propositions for your product and services, along with your marketing and product leaders. This will help you identify gaps in both product and delivery. As a new executive, consider the following:
3. Inspect Both Pipelines
New executives often do not realize they have two, interconnected pipelines: (1) an opportunity pipeline and (2) product development pipeline.
All executives need to review their opportunity pipeline on a regular basis to ensure they have rigor in the measurability and believability of the true potential. After all, this is the source of their first few quarters of growth. It is important for a new executive to be a part of these pipeline reviews in order to gauge the team’s perception of opportunity and their ability to deliver.
The second, often overlooked, pipeline is equally important. A robust product development pipeline ensures sufficient new ideas on the horizon that connect value to actual buyers.
Connecting both pipelines drives a message to the leadership team that they must focus on organic growth, while winning today.
4. Evaluate Talent of the Front Line Sales Managers
The FLSM is the most important job in the entire organization. Recognize that these leaders are the connection between the company’s strategies and execution in the field.
A new exec may be able to transform the organization with mediocre sales teams, but it is impossible to successfully set a new growth-oriented vision with mediocre FLSMs. After conducting a fair and thorough assessment of the FLSMs, it is appropriate to shake up the system and replace those who either cannot continuously improve nor have the capability to connect a new executive’s strategy to action.
5. Fix the Parts of Sales Compensation That Are Broken
Know that sales incentive compensation is one of the most powerful and dangerous alignment tools in the new exec’s kit. Used properly, it ensures strategies and jobs align to seller behavior. If there are obvious broken elements (e.g., artificial pay caps or inappropriate metrics) in the current plans, use this tool to send a signal to the salesforce that sales compensation matters and that you are investigating things that are broken.
However, use caution. Sales incentive design is complex and easy to over-engineer. The best time to employ wholesale change is after you develop your own strategy in order to align future sales compensation structures to the behaviors you want to reward. Because plans will likely change, remember the axiom when delivering any near term adjustments: commit to the money, but plans will evolve.
Done correctly, these five key actions will drive incremental growth and define the role of the commercial team as an integral part of your business.