It’s quite common for sales leaders to get invited to board meetings. So, what do you do when called in to present your sales strategy and report card to the board? At Nektar.ai, we spoke to 72 professionals who have been Board members, VP Sales, Founders and CEOs and asked them this very same question. This playbook is a result of those responses and best practices.
Just like for any deal in your CRM system, where you define your sales process, you need to break your board interaction as well into logical stages.
- Pre-meeting: What’s the construct of the board? Research about the board members and the role they play. What’s the preparation required for the board meeting?
- In-meeting: What’s the approach one can take to handle the board meeting successfully and build one’s credibility?
- Post-meeting: How should revenue leaders engage with boards and their CEO post-board meetings?
- Understand the dynamics of the board. A VP of sales must analyze his/her board similar to how they would draw an account plan and relationship map for a strategic prospect. Eg. Which board members are very involved in the strategy side and carry a big influence on the board? Which members are functional experts and tend to get operationally involved? What are the backgrounds of the various members? What role do they play?
- Know what matters. Spend time in advance or at the beginning of the meeting asking the question “What are the top 3 things you want to know about our sales strategy?” Going prepared with an answer to this question will help you to save a lot of time and trepidation.
- Begin with the end in mind. Before you begin, understand what they want. It can be tempting to spend a lot of time to prepare for every possible scenario of what they could ask for. You should know that there are probably only a couple of key things they want to know.
- Keep it contextual & crisp. They will never have the context, but you do. When you share your strategy, you need to meet them at their level. Most investors usually fly around 30k feet & do not have the time or interest in coming down. They need to be able to grasp your strategy easily & not get over-involved in a barrage of details. Remember, Less is More!
- Use frameworks. Your strategy needs to be at a framework level. The key question to answer is, can this strategy be applied to ‘N’ number of different companies or scenarios? A framework always helps!
- Articulate clearly and simply. Board members generally try to ascertain if the sales leader delivered the quarter because of some lucky save or it was a quarter-end “home run” deal, or because of a predictable sales playbook that’s well integrated into the revenue management system that is put in place leading to repeatable results.
- Build credibility. Building credibility with the board is important, once it’s lost, it’s hard to recover. Sales leaders should be forthcoming on the key problems in the business. You should be willing to tell and not just sell!
- Be critical: Even if it’s a great quarter, a VP Sales must take a critical view on what could be the areas of improvement. Board members want sales leaders to demonstrate that they are continuously iterating and finding ways to improve results, even when they are hitting the quota.
- Be a business leader & not just a functional leader. Boards of directors value sales leaders who can take ownership over the business instead of just demonstrating mastery of the sales function.
- Keep the presentations simple and consistent. Use a small set of leading and lagging data indicators to demonstrate the progress being made against the intended benchmarks and consistently highlight them during quarterly board presentations.
- Be prepared to wear a suited armor of data, trends, insights and examples to handle the spear-shaped questions thrown at you like –
- How do we win in the market? Why do we lose deals? What are the win/loss reasons in each deal?
- What is our action plan to fix the reasons we lose?
- What are the biggest objections we get from potential customers? How often do we hear them? Is our sales team enabled with the battle card responses to these objections? How do we train our reps to respond?
- Where conversations are going off the track during the sales process?
- What discovery questions should we eliminate or add to qualify the prospect better?
- Do we identify and engage the right influencers and decision-makers in the opportunity?
- Have we identified the Ideal Customer Profile and do we sell to the right persona?
- Why are you waiting till the end of the quarter to make the changes to the sales process? Why not do them earlier?
For you to be prepared with these responses, you must have a well-defined sales process and playbook. If implemented and tracked well, the sales playbook and the deviations to the same will give you enough insight into:
- Why sales reps go off script during the calls?
- How do prospects respond to the discovery questions?
- When prospects ghost you during the sales cycle?
- Which reps are single-threading on key deals? or
- Which deals are at risk even though the internal effort on them is already higher than the deal value itself?
Now imagine, if you can operationalize and track your sales process and usage of the winning playbooks, the answers to the probing questions with data-backed responses can be like:
- Based on the 15 deal reviews, we found a trend in discovery calls going off-script when sales professionals get to budget-related conversations. To fix this, we have modified our calling script to help the sales team be more confident when talking about our pricing and value delivered.
- We have identified the top 3 objections during the sales process, and they are usually asked after the proposal is sent. We have started to address those objections during our first call itself, and we have also helped our sales reps with messaging, so they can confidently navigate even the toughest questions. Since adopting this new strategy, we’ve seen a 60% decline in objections.
- Based on the last 2 quarters lost deal analysis, we have identified three common factors that were present in all the losses A) Champion not identified B) Lack of an urgency or decision trigger, and C) No decision maker meeting in the last stages. Based on these findings, we have trained our sales team to address these factors early on in the sales process and this quarter’s win rate is already 15% higher.
- Connect formally and ask for help when needed. The majority of the board members like to engage more with the leadership team in between the board meetings to help.
- Get an endorsement from the CEO. You should speak with your CEO and understand more about what you can do during the interactions and build upon a common narrative and strategy.
- Focus on what specific projects or initiatives might be good for you to take help from relevant board members and collaborate with them. Eg. new accounts, introductions, hiring etc.
- Keep your CEO in the loop on any outside queries or interactions you have with the board.
The Board members play an important role in organizations. They provide great advice and of course, they apply pressure and ask tough questions. For sales leaders, those questions can be quite intimidating. Many times, the answers lie in their notepad or are buried deep in CRM reports, or are based on hunches or anecdotes from conversations with their sales team.
Whether sales leaders like it or not, they must be able to articulate (or even proactively provide) data points to the Board that will help their team make adjustments based upon factual data and insights. However, attaining those helpful data points is much easier said than done and one needs to get the playbook right. I hope the above playbook will help you to navigate your next board meeting successfully!
Sales teams have one job – to hit sales quota every quarter. However, more than 50% of teams out there are unable to do it. Nektar.ai is on a mission to make every rep successful in meeting their quota.
We are reimagining the future of modern sales by building a first-of-its-kind AI assistant that guides sales teams towards smashing their quotas and will help them to win bigger deals faster. It also helps sales managers to provide an ‘Always On’ coaching to their sales teams and helps in operationalizing the successful playbooks at scale across the team. Register to be on our early access list.