June 9, 2022

Sales VP: How Do We Combine Performance and Positivity?

Anthony Poyac
VP of Sales at Letsignit
Whether you are a team manager or a top leader in an organization, we all need to deal with a major challenge: learning to balance performance and being positive with our teams.

Over the last 20 years, I have held several different sales manager positions in the tech sector – both in big companies like Microsoft and ADP, and in start-ups. In July 2021, I decided to come on board at Letsignit as VP of Global Sales.

In case you haven’t heard of it: Letsignit is the French market leader in managing email signatures.

These days I head up a sales team of 16 people in EMEA and North America, as the team has doubled in the last six months!

When I first arrived, I was given 4 challenges:

  • To make our approach to sales more professional, with more rigorous methodologies and processes,
  • To provide better business visibility and forecasts,
  • To bring my experiencing in handling large accounts,
  • To incorporate actively chasing business into a strategy which had previously been based 100% on inbound marketing.

The idea behind all this was to meet two objectives:

  1. To consolidate our position as leader in France (winning over new key accounts),
  2. To significantly strengthen our position in the U.S.

You’ll agree that this is a real challenge, which also comes with its fair share of pressure. You’ll also need to be able to filter that pressure to get the best out of your team.

The first challenge of a sales manager:
meeting the predetermined targets.

As VP of Sales at Letsignit, the company is of course relying on my team to meet its ARR objectives (annual recurring revenue: the measurement of software-as-a-service or SaaS companies). This commercial success is fundamental for the business, because it ultimately assures its future.

In order to hit these targets, I often say that we need to combine three elements:

  • Methodology,
  • Creativity,
  • Adaptability.

In a context of sales of key accounts, as is the case with Letsignit, we’re working on complex deals that require a degree of patience. Yet the VP of Sales and their team live with pressure on figures every quarter, every month.

So, it’s my role as VP of sales to know how to handle that pressure.

On one hand, I need to make sure that I put the right level of pressure on my team members (you know, the positive kind of pressure that allows us to smash our targets).

On the other hand, I need to adjust the level of this pressure just right for each salesperson because they will react differently.

The second challenge:
create a positive atmosphere

Over the last few years, we’ve heard a lot, and rightfully so, about well-being at work, and even more so since COVID. As VP of sales, I also need to work with a new model: the hybrid work (home office / office).

What’s more, the labor market candidates for sales in tech has been admittedly tough for the last few years. Therefore, at Letsignit, we’ve created the option for sales teams to work remotely two days a week.

It’s vital to consider new work methods and the preferences of team members while providing a positive work environment that will make them want to go the extra mile for the company—and above all, make them want to stay with us.

Naturally, this involves a positive culture.

If you manage to create a genuinely positive atmosphere, your employees will feel fulfilled. And I must insist on the genuine aspect of positivity, in order to avoid what is sometimes called nepotism.

As managers, our job is not simply to make our team members happy. We also need to make sure that we provide the best conditions so they can find fulfillment in their work. That’s how I define a positive atmosphere.

As managers, our job is not simply to make our team members happy. We also need to make sure that we provide the best conditions, so they can find fulfillment in their work. That’s how I define a positive atmosphere.

My 20 years in managing sales teams has led me to draw one very simple conclusion: when teams feel good, they perform better.

Indisputably, both elements are vital. The problem is… they seem to be pretty paradoxical.

Performance and positivity: two concepts that don’t mix?

When you bring both challenges together, you run into the following questions:

  • Is it possible to get the best performance out of people in a climate of positivity?
  • Can you get the best combined performance from a team without a certain level of pressure?
  • Does positivity always have to go hand-in-hand with laxism?
  • Is it realistic to think that we can protect our employees from all pressure?

We could ask ourselves questions like this for hours and hours…

To help you to better deal with these questions, I’d like to present some of the things I’ve introduced to you and take the opportunity to debate them with you.

Training to defuse the negative pressure of performance data.

In order to be profitable, and above all to grow, a company must make some investments. It’s clear that nearly all investors expect a return. As a manager, you need to learn to manage this pressure that filters down from top management or investors.

The first thing I learned is how to absorb this pressure myself.

But I also need to openly explain these issues to my team. Collective pressure is healthier because people then better understand why they need to meet their commitments. The best people will be able to transform this pressure into motivation.

It’s also my role to make sure that the whole team has a healthy and motivating environment. How do you accomplish that?

And it is also my role to put the whole team in a healthy and motivating environment. How do you accomplish that?

By sharing successes to create a positive sales momentum!

I know sales inside out. It consists of typically little day-to-day victories that feel perfect: a lead who gets back to us (at last), managing to secure a strategic meeting, and so on. Some successes are bigger than others, like getting a new client or closing on a big deal. But it’s important to celebrate each of our successes.

Team building is key.

By spending time with the whole team, we create a rewarding climate. At Letsignit, we work on several levels to maintain this environment:

On a company level:

  • Two annual kick-off days for all departments mean that the strategy and direction chosen for the company are shared uniformly with everyone. This is all about empowerment, to encourage people to work together.
  • In the same vein, but much more frequently as they are monthly, we organize what we call #wefeedback. The idea behind this is to share with all team members from all departments: strategic business and product vision, monthly results, investments made in each department, and problems encountered.

The purpose of these two campaigns is to ensure that everyone is aligned when it comes to strategy, and to share news about our results so that everyone remains aware of what is at stake and how interconnected we are.

No product = no sales.

No sales = no clients.

No clients = no product.

On the sales team:

  • Monthly meetings with the whole commercial division allow us to share our successes, best practices, and feedback. This is all about motivation, and the goal is to create a positive group vibe.
  • Along with these monthly interdepartmental meetings, another meeting has become essential to managing the sales team: the monthly sales/marketing meet.

Even though the relationship between marketing and sales is often thought of as conflictual, at Letsignit, alignment of sales and marketing is at the very heart of our growth. More than just meetings to review stats, they allow the marketing team to share upcoming campaigns, review current campaigns, and note feedback from the sales team on campaigns that have ended.

This feedback is highly valuable as it ultimately enables us to drive campaigns with a more critical eye and deal with new incoming leads more effectively.

On an individual level:

  • Weekly follow-up to measure overall well-being,
  • Follow-up of current business topics,
  • Discussing of future prospects.

Pretty well organized, huh? Yet individual success of an employee is not automatic.

There’s more to life than figures

First and foremost, bear in mind that figures are not the only indicator of the success of a company, as our CEO Damien Neyret explains in his recent editorial on the (real) backstage of Letsignit.

Although we need to remember the vital importance of reaching our objectives, if some members of the team find themselves in a position of failure, it’s essential that we don’t forget to deal with that positively.

And I mean genuine positivity, based on honesty, understanding, and leniency.

When employees don’t meet expectations, we need to sit down with them and analyze the reasons: analyze their approach and identify any potential gaps in skills. If the sales team members don't search for answers, and then we bring our analyses together, we can often overcome the difficulties they have—whether they involve figures or not.

A positive approach must help the sales team members to move from a situation of failure to one of success.

So, we have clearly established that a positive approach is a necessary trait for managing situations of failure. I believe it’s also an excellent trait to get the most out of situations of success, too. I think of a positive approach as not just a foil to setbacks, but above all, an ability to bring out the best potential in everyone.

After all, isn’t that the ambition of any team manager or leader?

About the author
Anthony is the VP of Sales at Letsignit. As a mentor to the sales team, he does everything in his power to contribute to the company's development on a national and international level. For over 3 years, he has spared no effort to enable salespeople to thrive in their work and achieve their goals. Accessible, he makes sure to create proximity with his teams and regularly visits our dear American collaborators! Aware that our salespeople love challenges, Anthony frequently organizes culture quizzes and blind tests. An effective way to get them in shape before a meeting!
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