I talked to a great client today about how to have conversations about your “sales engine” with your board. I serve on boards, and the best CEOs I know use a few key tactics when managing their boards:
1. They are consistent. One of the things I did wrong (a long list) in running my first company, and thus managing my first board, was to report different things to the board every month. Why did I do this? Because I wanted to emphasize the progress we were making, and often the progress was in different parts of the organization. This is an honest – but stupid – mistake. The best CEOs gain the board’s agreement on what sales metrics they will track, and then they give us clear guidance on how these are changing – good or bad – every month. This allows a board to see patterns, and be more helpful in crafting solutions.
2. They are data-driven. One great thing about sales is that you can measure everything (and the best sales people WANT to be measured). The best CEOs walk into a board meeting and report on how they are shortening the time-to-conversion, reducing attrition, qualifying harder and getting to “no” (or “yes”) more quickly, etc. All of these things require data.
3. They provide feedback. In order to “tune” a sales engine, the best CEOs pick out pieces of the sales process to focus in on in a given time period and then they wring it out. Whether it be time-to-proposal, seeding objections, or the cold-calling script, the best CEOs focus on one challenge and then give direct, honest feedback to each sales person on how they can improve. Over time, and with consistent attention, this focus increases skill and discipline and by extension, performance. All things a board loves to hear..