Sales Execution

Shifting from Sales Leader to Business Leader

Headshot photograph of Holly Procter, SVP - Global Head of Sales at Clari

Holly Procter
Vice President of Sales at Clari



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Photograph of a person's hands holding a mug that says Like a Boss
Photograph of a person's hands holding a mug that says Like a Boss

As we face unprecedented uncertainty, the role we play as sales leaders needs to evolve. We have to be utility players, we have to be business leaders, we have to be aware of the impact of our decisions, and the consequences of our performance.

The result has been a shift from simply "rolling up a number" to having a deep appreciation for how that number fuels our operating plan.

Our leadership is needed far beyond the sales team if we’re going to achieve revenue confidence for the entire company.

Here are three ways to evolve from sales leader to business leader:

1. Understand the impact of your number (good or bad)

The forecast is the most important number in the entire business because it helps determine the operating rhythm of the company. Accurately forecasting gives you the confidence you need to make informed decisions earlier.

Can you do something today based on what you believe is going to happen tomorrow? You can accelerate or decelerate the things that matter most by accurately calling your number.

The impact of missing your call can be material for your organization.

Some hard costs to coming in under your number include:

  • A decrease in company value
  • Reduced cash flow
  • Missed/delayed fundraise
  • Layoffs and inventory issues (too much or too little).

Equally harmful is coming in over your number, including:

  • Missed opportunity to accelerate hiring, marketing, GTM programs
  • Downstream crush on post sales departments
  • Inventory issues, leading to customer satisfaction issues
  • Inefficient "late spend" profile

Meanwhile, some soft costs include:

  • Eroding investor confidence
  • Exec team credibility
  • Employee productivity/morale and impact on recruiting

It’s not just your credibility on the line, the company’s operating plan is at risk.

2. Accept that not all deals are good deals

In an environment where every dollar counts it can be tempting to just get the deal done even if it means making material concessions, but I would caution you against pursuing quick wins just for the sake of getting a contract signed.

How do you know which concessions are good tradeoffs in a negotiation and which are actually bad deals for the company?

Bad deals are those that either put the company at risk or have hidden costs that reduce the margin of the deal to below profitability.

Risk comes from allowing concessions on key terms like liability or termination clauses, while diluted profitability comes from extreme discounts and/or freebies, which often include things like implementation or customer success packages. This results in giving away labor hours that are costly for the company and erode the real margin on the deal.

Be weary of a quick path to getting a deal done if it means potentially introducing risk and resource burn.

3. Pause the hunt, protect the base

While every sales leader loves the thrill of a big whale hunt, now is the time to double down on current customer satisfaction. Do your customers love you enough to weather this storm with you? What if there’s wind, rain and hail?

If you don’t have a passionate group of customers willing to renew through the good times and the bad, your whale hunt won’t matter. You’ll have a leaky bucket instead — and fixing a leaky bucket in the rain is a futile exercise. Three simple ways to invest in your customers are:

Executive outreach. Have your executives reach out and let your customers know that you truly value their business, especially in times of uncertainty. Today’s environment calls for customer appreciation days, all day every day.

Build value. Offer ways for your customers to get increased value from your team or your product without increasing their price. Can you share expertise that is valuable to them? Can you connect customers to one another who might benefit from the relationship? Can you give them early access to beta products?

Lead with empathy. Understand which of your customers have been adversely affected by COVID (those experiencing headwinds, not tailwinds) and apply compassion and empathy. Send the gift card, leave the voicemail, write the note — be there for them when their business expands and contracts.

Invest in your customer base, the return will be paid in gold.

I’m putting my business leader hat on. What about you?

These times we’re in may be unprecedented, but I’m confident in our path forward. What we do and how we lead our teams is more critical than ever before, not just for this quarter’s bottom line, but for the future of each of our companies.

If you’re feeling uncertain, don’t worry, you’re not alone. But luckily we can help. Right now, we’re offering a free Revenue Confidence Assessment. Learn more here.