Revenue leader’s guide to successful board meetings!
It’s pretty standard 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.
Like any deal in your CRM system, where you define your sales process, you need to break your board interaction 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 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 their Board, similar to drawing an account plan and relationship map for a strategic prospect. E.g. Which board members are very involved in the strategy side and significantly influence the Board? Which members are functional experts and tend to get operationally active? 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 to answer this question will help you save a lot of time and trepidation.
- Begin with the end in mind. Before you begin, understand what the Board wants. It can be tempting to spend a lot of time preparing for every possible scenario they could discuss. You should know that there are probably only a couple of key things they want to know.
- Keep it contextual & crisp. Your Board members 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 grasp your strategy quickly & not get over-involved in a barrage of details. Remember, Less is More!
- Use frameworks. Your strategy needs to be at a framework level. A framework always helps! The critical question to answer is, can this strategy be applied to the ’N’ number of different companies or scenarios?
- Articulate clearly. 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 necessary; once it’s lost, it’s hard to recover. Sales leaders should be forthcoming on the critical 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 of Sales must take a critical view on what could be the areas of improvement. Board members want sales leaders to demonstrate that they continuously iterate and find 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 demonstrating mastery of the sales function.
- Keep the presentations consistent and straightforward. Use a small set of leading and lagging data indicators to demonstrate the progress against the intended benchmarks and consistently highlight them during quarterly board presentations.
- Be prepared to wear a suited armour 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 most significant 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 are conversations 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 do 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 to confidently navigate even the most challenging questions. Since adopting this new strategy, we’ve seen a 60% decline in objections.
- Based on the last two quarters lost deal analysis, we have identified three common factors 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 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 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 shared narrative and strategy.
- Focus on what specific projects or initiatives might be good for you to help 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 essential role in organizations. They provide excellent advice and of course, they apply pressure and ask tough questions. For sales leaders, those questions can be pretty intimidating. The answers often 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 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!
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Originally published at https://nektar.ai on October 2, 2020.