How Sales Should Respond to the Board of Directors

The Board of Directors serves an incredible purpose in organizations: they provide council, they instruct, and of course, they apply pressure and ask some (very) tough questions. For sales leaders, those questions can be extremely daunting. Many times, the answers lie in post-it notes or in Word doc blue sheets, are buried deep in Salesforce reports, or are based on hunches or anecdotes from conversations with sales professionals.

Whether sales leaders like it or not, they must be able to 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.

Why Board Members Dig Deep

Board members have a tendency to use their expertise to ask the probing, root-of-the-issue questions that are very difficult to answer – even impossible without data. But those deep probing questions are vitally necessary to the business’ success and ability to pivot when needed. Board members tend to ask questions like:

  • Why do we win? Why do we lose? What are the win/loss drivers in each deal?
  • What are we going to do about the reasons we lose?
  • What are the biggest objections we’re getting from prospects? How is the team responding to those objections? How should they respond? How frequently do they hear those objections?
  • Where are conversations going off the rails during prospect calls?
  • What discovery questions should we eliminate or add?
  • Are we talking to the right decision makers and influencers? Are we selling to the right personas?
  • Why are you waiting until January to make changes to the sales process?

There are few things that can make a sales leader more uncomfortable than being asked questions that they should have quantitative answers to – but don’t. When leaders have to manage their teams by relying on Salesforce deal mechanics without insight into why sales professionals go off script during calls, how prospects respond to discovery questions, or when prospects go dark during the sales cycle, how can they be expected to articulate responses to the Board?

In order for a Board of Directors to be effective in their mission to help the organization improve, they need to see data, trends, and reports that reveal actual findings – not assumptions or guesses.

Breaking the “My Guess Is” Cycle

When asked any one of the above questions, sales leaders often fall back on a trusty safety net, responding with phrases like, “based on what I’ve heard from my sales team, my guess is….” or the other favorite, “from the data I’ve gathered, my assumption would be that…”.

Guesses and assumptions aren’t enough of a basis for making broad, sweeping changes in a sales organization. And there’s no faster way to frustrate sales professionals than to adopt a new process or methodology based on hunches. In order to break that vicious cycle, sales leaders need to adopt an agile sales process and methodology that will provide them articulate hard and fast data points.

Rather than get caught up in the spiral of assumptions, sales leaders who have adopted an agile process can proactively share cumulative reports and insights with Board members – even ahead of upcoming meetings or in real-time after a revealing prospect conversation ends. Instead of taking a reactive approach, sales leaders can address problems head on, make slight changes to the sales process or discovery questions in real-time, and measure with accuracy what’s working and what still needs to be iterated upon.

An Agile Sales Process = Sales + Board Alignment

Board members rarely have the capacity (or desire) to sit with sales professions or attend weekly team meetings to see for themselves how prospect scenarios play out. So when they make recommendations to the executive team, their suggestions are typically based on what they hear from sales leadership and what they’re able to gather from data points they can get their hands on. Most of the time, what’s provided to the Board isn’t enough, and can cause a tense relationship between sales leaders and Board members.

With a deal management platform in place, however, sales leaders can confidently adopt an agile sales process. This simultaneously helps sales professionals follow a consistent methodology while sales leaders and Board members gain a much deeper understanding of business mechanics, leading to a true, eye-to-eye partnership between the two groups.

Data, data, and more data. Without actual insights into what goes on during the sales process, it’s impossible to articulate a “good enough” answer. Sales leaders who have adopted an agile sales methodology can respond to the probing questions with data-backed responses like:

  • According to 25 call reviews, we see a trend in discovery calls going off-script when sales professionals get to budget-related conversations. To combat this, we’ve tailored our scripts to help team members have more confidence when talking about our solution pricing and packaging options.
  • We have identified the top 5 objections during the sales process, and they are usually asked after we send the proposal. We’ve started to address those objections during our first call, and we’ve helped our sales professionals with messaging so they can confidently navigate even the toughest questions. Since adopting this new strategy, we’ve seen a 45% decline in objections.
  • We’ve taken a look at the past quarter’s losses, and we’ve identified 3 different factors that were present in one or all of the losses 1) No clear internal champion 2) Lack of a compelling event, and 3) No business driver identified. Based on these findings, we’re helping our sales professionals by iterating on their discovery questions earlier in the sales process, and this quarter’s win rate is already 20% higher.

What sales leader wouldn’t want to be armed with those types of data points and resolutions when walking into a Board meeting? From our experience, not many. Fortunately, any sales leader can adopt an agile sales methodology to proactively have even the toughest Board-level conversations – and respond confidently with data and insights.

Frank Dale
Frank Dale
CEO & Co-Founder

Frank Dale is the CEO and co-founder of Costello. Prior to that, he was CEO at Compendium, which was acquired by Oracle. Costello helps you be great in the sales moments that matter. Instead of saying "I'll do better next time," have the right conversation on the call the first time around. Costello helps sales professionals navigate calls, gives managers visibility into the quality of each deal so they can help sales professionals win, and helps vice presidents understand what’s working and what’s not, all while integrating with the solutions you already use like CRM.
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