This post is written for sales leaders who have been passed over for the SVP job at a new company.
Interviewing externally is very different from the internal opportunity. When sales leaders interview for the SVP job at their current company, they have the following advantages:
Culture—You know the culture. You can speak to it.
Strategy—You know the strategy. You know why your predecessor was or was not successful in driving it through the sales force.
Influencers—You know who carries the most weight and how to position yourself to each.
Results—You have internal results that everybody can see. Nothing beats proof of field execution.
Politics—You know how to get things done to make the number.
You don’t have these advantages when you interview at a new company. You need to provide proof in your answers. You need to sell the way the customer buys. Your 'customer' is the CEO. Yes, his direct staff will be involved. But they will be your peers. Make no mistake about it, the CEO's influence trumps all else. Your ability to connect with the CEO is the single most important thing you do.
Our firm conducts 25-30 SVP searches each year. Below are some recent numbers:
34 candidates match the job spec and are interested. Market is flooded with candidates passively searching for new jobs.
15 candidates make it through the first 50% of the process. This includes background, industry, compensation, experience, accomplishments. A lot of candidates appear to be a match.
7 candidates make it to interviews with members of the executive team, including the CEO.
85% of the time a single candidate is emerging as the only choice. 6 out of 7 candidates are deemed not ready. Some of the reasons why are shocking. The skill gaps would surprise you. Click here to read what they are. More importantly, you will receive suggestions on how to bridge them so you don’t miss your chance.
Below are three of the shocking reasons sales leaders get passed over. These are gaps that hold Sales VPs back from getting hired at a new company for the SVP job.
Why this matters—You will get asked to describe your approach to hiring and developing winners. CEO's are constantly asking themselves "is my team good enough?". You need to be able to prove that you can address this question if selected.
How to handle— You need to share quantitative results on a qualitative subject. This will demonstrate mastery of a problem that every sales force has. For example, be able to clearly define A/B/C performance for each selling role. Be able to articulate the accountabilities and competencies for each. Come prepared with the sales management promotion criteria you developed and drove. CEOs know that the SVP of Sales needs to be an execution machine via his talent.
#2 - Trust You to Hit the Number
Why this matters—CEOs have to keep the board happy. They want to know you have a track record of doing what you said you were going to do. If you say you will deliver a 200MM Q1 will you do it or will you surprise him with “I didn’t see it coming”. A CEO does not have time to micro manage his sales leader.
How to handle— You need to show proof that you have driven relentless field execution. You deliver the number via repeatable process. You have a sales management cadence that you follow starting on Monday morning and ending on Friday. You conduct field visits through a defined methodology and teach your team how to do the same thing with their individual offices.
#3 - Ability to Drive New Capabilities into the sales force
Why this matters- CEOs have recognized that buyer behavior is shifting at an accelerated pace. They can’t afford to have sales leaders that are not on the bleeding edge. You will get asked how you kept your sales force relevant through best practice execution.
How to handle- You need to drive at least one new initiative per year. It must bring a new selling capability to the sales force. CEOs want to know how you have kept pace with a changing buyer landscape. Or what did you do to adopt social selling? How did you implement an effective inside sales team to respond to increasing cost pressure in the market?
What Should You Do—Do you have any of these gaps? Your initial reaction may be no. Does the market think you have these gaps? And if tested, could you prove you don't have these gaps when it counts? Your ability to listen to the market as a sales leader is critical. The market is the CEO's you want to hire you. Dan has spent 20 years coaching sales leaders on their way to the top job. He can augment the advice in this post. It may be as simple as how you tell the story. Or it may be helping you develop these skills. Share a comment below if you can add to the list. Your peers would enjoy hearing from you.