When we talk about the keys to success when implementing a new sales performance management system, the issue of executive sponsorship always comes up. It is critical to ensure that organizations are aligned across business functions (covered in this blogpost - http://bit.ly/vHkO5P ) but also that organizations are aligned vertically throughout the organization.
This week I was talking with Mark Coleman, Managing Partner of Compensation Analytics (www.compensationanalytics.com) about some of the great research they are doing and the topic of executive sponsorship for Sales Performance Management (SPM) projects came up. Our mutual experience has shown that spending time upfront to make sure executive sponsor's needs are well understood is critical. These will be things like aligning sales performance management capabilities with business strategies and providing sales management with the information they need to be more effective. Getting in to the weeds too quickly (on a topic as complex as sales compensation) can result in your sponsor missing the value of SPM – it’s best to save the discussions on error rates, dispute handling, and pipeline processing for the subject matter experts.
When talking with executives it is important to understand their priorities and perspectives. The following is a sample set of questions that will help guide an executive meeting. Some of these are higher level and more strategic, and some of these are more tactical, but all of them are geared towards gaining insight as to where improve sales performance is on the executive sponsor's list of priorities. These are intended as a guideline and should be tailored to your specific organizational needs.
1. What are your top priorities and what do you need your sales force to do differently in order to achieve these goals?
2. From your perspective, what is broken with sales compensation? Why? What do you think are the underlying root causes behind these issues?
3. What strategic capabilities do you think you’ll need in a few years that you do not have today?
4. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the performance culture of your sales organization (1- what is performance management?, 10 – high expectations, active performance management)
5. If you had 3 wishes for capabilities that would improve your sales performance, what would they be?
6. After being out of the office for a while, what is the first Sales report you look at upon your return? Why?
7. What’s the number one thing you would like to know about your current sales performance that you don’t know today?
8. If you could enhance the information you now receive to improve its value to you – what would you change?
When should the executive meetings/interview happen?
Some people advocate that you get all of the research done, figure out potential solutions and answers to these questions before meeting with executives. You will have to judge your own organizational dynamics and culture, but I believe that you should go in early with these questions. It’s only once you have the executive perspective that you can really go out and research potential process, organizational and technological improvements.