Want to make an impact as a Sales leader? Think transformational not incremental

Feb 10, 2022 | Business Development, Sales, Skills

According to the OECD, the definition of a scale-up business is: 

‘A company that has achieved growth of 20% or more in either employment or turnover year on year for at least two years, and has a minimum employee count of 10 at the start of the observation period.’ OECD.

How does it feel to be a sales leader in that environment? What is it like to be in the hot seat?

I’ve been in the fortunate position of being in that seat on more than occasion. I have also seen it happen to good friends in several places over the years (some of whom are now quite literally chilling by the pool – well done them).

What is it like then? First of all, forget all that BS about fast paced, work hard play hard, run as a pack type stuff that can get spouted in job ads. In my experience, scale-up is a really supportive environment because everyone is going through the same thing and for many in the crew it’s their first time. Companies that do well tend to be those which look after their people. Funny that.

The one word answer to the question is this: Exciting. 

The feeling of being on the runway and things taking off is exciting. Leading a sales team through that is exciting. Being part of the wins, seeing targets get demolished is exciting. It’s all good stuff. 

So everything is sweet then?

Well, not quite. As the sales leader, what can catch you out is actually not all that obvious. 

The challenge is getting sucked into the day to day. The danger is not placing effort behind what could really add value. The threat is thinking incrementally.

Let me explain. Inside the scale-up there is no shortage of tasks the sales leader could choose to take on. And because it’s all go, it’s very likely there will be a high degree of autonomy to make the decisions. This can lead to some questions which have an equally high degree of consequence… Should you create that pitch deck? Do you need to sign off the roadmap collateral? Should you be on the discovery call? Or what about Tuesday’s pitch call, the one for a potentially really big client, you should be on that one, shouldn’t you? Really?

There’s more of course. Let’s not neglect the team. Where do you strike the balance between supporting and mentoring the commercial team and doing ‘your own BD?’ (Because it’s pretty damn likely you’re still carrying a quota).

And hey, we are the sales lead here. We’ve got reporting to do with the monthly numbers and quite possibly 10 minutes every quarter with the board which needs to be absolutely on point every time because you want to impress the big dogs.

A missed opportunity? Think transformational

You can see how it would be very easy to fill up a week of being a busy sales leader. But is it time well spent? In being the very busy sales lead, you just might be missing out on the biggest opportunity of all. 

We’re only on this planet for a short while and there are only so many shots at doing something a bit special. If your own ambitions are so inclined and you have a vision for your future of being one of those SVP’s of a mega corp then making one change might help you get there. 

How about you take time out of your day and ask this question:

What would we need to do, to go 10x from here?

This isn’t incremental thinking. This is transformational thinking.

  • Concentrate on these 10 accounts and we could go 10x
  • Launch in Germany this year ahead of the others and we could go 10x
  • Extend the app to connect with that platform and we could go 10x
  • Use this reseller channel we and could go 10x
  • Re-platform in multi-language and we could go 10x
  • Stop selling into SMB’s, focus just on enterprise and we could go 10x
  • Have every rep around Europe hitting target and we could go 10x
  • Increase our subs, halve churn and double our win rate and we could go 10x

Simple eh? Well of course figuring out the answer and then putting together the building blocks to implement the plan is probably not going to be totally straightforward. After all, if it was THAT easy it would probably already be happening. (I say probably because what if the answer is easy, just no-one had taken a moment to think it through – now that is exciting!)

A mindest shift in the sales leader

This mindset shift could make all the difference. Imagine if you took a day out to ponder the question and then came back in with ideas to present to the founders.  

Surely this has to be a day better spent than being sucked back into lower value tasks. Ask yourself what could make the bigger impact; reviewing web copy for some minor product pages or coming up with a market strategy that could generate seven, eight, nine figure revenue? Time to put our delegation skills to good use.

Delivering the answers is a job for many hands. Do not try to take this on solo. If the organisation is going to go through truly massive growth then no matter how good you are, this is not going to be all down to one person.

A lone wolf can add significant revenue to the business, a transformational sales lead can influence to create many multiples of revenue.

This project could become your thing. You could get the backing of the board and with it, your own journey awaits. The experience in itself will be something to learn from and in terms of personal brand, well the next thing you know SVP land comes calling, champagne and unicorns for everyone…

OK OK, of course it’s going to take some work and there’s the small matter of actually delivering.  

But if you don’t ask the question, how are you ever going to get there?

Are you nodding along while reading this?

Well, why not get in touch and see if Make the Break might be able to help you out. What have you got to lose?