Why is it that CEOs rarely invite the VP of Sales to strategic planning sessions? The most common reason is the fear that the session would distract them from their primary job, sales. I think this is very shortsighted. I ran a strategy session this week with a CEO and his whole staff including the VP of Sales. At the end of the day the CEO told me how valuable it was to have the VP of Sales bring his experience to the table. Here are reasons why you might have the sales executive join your next strategy meeting:
* Spends more time with customers than any other executive, and will hear about emerging market opportunities first.
* Understands better than anyone else the customers’ buying process, decision-makers, and stakeholders.
* Conveys customer pain points most accurately rather than being colored by what the company’s solutions can do.
* Acutely aware of competitors’ strengths and weaknesses based on win/loss data, and can ground VP of Marketing claims of differentiators.
* Balances the VP of Marketing when it comes to discussing competitive pricing.
* Questions the validity of value propositions created in an exuberant executive planning session.
* Understands best the customer adoption rates based on “bottom up” understanding of customer potential not “tops down” forecasts based on spreadsheet calisthenics; questions the critical assumptions.
* Knows best what the sales channel can and cannot do; most forecasts make far too unrealistic assumptions on what VARs, resellers, distributors, etc can do to drive sales.
If you’re the VP of Marketing perhaps you might feel a little intimidated to have your peer voice opinions on the very topics for which you are the presumed authority. I would say to you that it’s better to debate all the topics above openly rather than having to deal with a VP of Sales later who is clearly not bought in on the strategy session outputs.
If you’re the CEO, I hope you found the reasons above to be compelling enough for you to invite your VP of Sales to the next planning session. You’ll be glad you did.
And if you’re the VP of Sales, do what you do best. Sell. Sell your CEO on how your experience in the strategy session is far more valuable in the long run than a day or two in the trenches selling.