Three Secrets How a Sales VP Can Manage Their Boss

January 23, 2013 at 7:00 AM

how to manage my boss vp salesSales VPs consistently ask me: ”How can I control my boss?”

You can’t.  But you can manage him. 117 Chief Sales Officers gave us feedback.  Download the Sales VP Relationship Assessment to get questions we  created from that feedback. You can answer these questions to assess your current relationship and find gaps.  Gaps you can then begin to fill. It’s stated in the book Success for Dummies.  “Be successful by doing what your boss wants you to do.” “This person can make you succeed or hinder your ability.”

The impact of not managing them can be significant.  Have you heard about the ‘Sales VP’ who makes his number but is uncontrollable?  Who they say not to get rid of until he misses quota? Has been passed by for promotion numerous times?  These are all the results of a poor relationship with your manager.

Understanding them is the first step before managing them.  Your boss can be categorized into three major buckets:  Control Charlie; Delegate Danielle and Micromanage Mark. 

  • Control Charlie: He doesn’t micro-manage you but tries to control the way you work.  He asks for reports on your activity, sometimes daily.  Gives direct feedback, almost to the point of authoritative. Strictly adhering to a process, Charlie rarely allows any deviation.  Building trust is key.
  • Delegate Danielle: Rarely hearing from her, she expects the sales strategy to be deployed by you.  At first, she seems like the perfect boss.  However her ability to delegate even the smallest task can prevent your development.  Missing quota causes broken trust and her pointing fingers at you.
  • Micromanage Mark: He wants to be informed about everything.  Often calling you daily, Mark is involved. He questions your decisions often challenging even the mundane.  He contacts your direct reports without you knowing about it.  And tries to sell accounts from a distance.  The pressure on you is intense.

Once you have ‘bucketed’ your boss, you can begin to manage them.  Here are three overall ways to do it.  The overriding theme is to please him/her. Why?  They are trying to please their boss.   You need to apply these to your type of boss and adapt for each situation:

  1. Have an Accurate Forecast.  This keeps everyone up at night.  Your ability to accurately forecast your sales entrusts you to the boss.  Big companies put equal weight on pipeline accuracy as they do making quota.   Why? Being predictable infers control.  “I know he is close to his number. But he nails the forecast each month.  He is on top of his business” I heard a CSO say recently about one of his Regional Sales VP’s.  How accurate should you be?  Above 90%.  Click here for help.
  2. Request Their Presence.  Getting them with you and in front of your team is critical.  87% of all communication is non-verbal.   Exposure to your process, tactics and best practices allows them to coach you.  Their coaching might be good or bad.  But this coaching will endear you to them. You also get to show off your results.  But remember, discuss tactics first then strategy.  CSO’s have a big ego.  They have to respect and trust before they will accept ideas on sales strategy. 
  3. Bring New Insight.  Discuss with them emerging thought leadership on sales and marketing.  Find out what his objectives are and help solve them. Send blog posts, Twitter feeds, Linked In discussions… anything that shows insight about emerging trends.  Show artifacts from your work and peer work.  Tap into sales consultant’s for information.  He will steal your stuff and make himself look good in the company.  Oh, and you will look good too.

The best sales manager I have seen accomplish this is Tony Valli.  What does Tony do?  He embraces his boss, no matter whom or how long they managed him. He diligently asks for them to visit the team.   Asks them to spend time with his reps.  He consistently offers thought leadership.  Consistently challenges conventional wisdom.  Helps coach or mentor his peers.  He asks for extra work.  And although he didn’t always make his number, nailed his forecast.  Tony is regarded as one of the best sales managers in his company.  Why?  He does all the correct things while managing his boss. I know-I was once his boss!

Call to Action:

Managing your boss is tough.  But take a few easy steps and you can be in control.

  • Build and Capitalize on Trust.  It is built over time through transparency.  Don’t hide anything from them.  (They hate surprises just like you).  Trust prevents micro-management.  Broken trust gets you fired. 
  • Do what your boss wants you to do.  What’s important to them is important to you. Know what his goals are and how he or she gets compensated. Then help them maximize their comp.
  • Assess your Relationship. Understand your current situation and uncover the gap.  CSO’s objectives can range in scope. Some are making the number, upgrading the team or pleasing his boss. Figure out your boss’s objectives

Leave a comment and help expand the list.  Or let me know how you are managing your boss. It is the intangible in a world full of big company politics.

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Topics: Talent Management, Sales Leader, Director of Sales Resources

Posted by Dan Perry

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