It’s rough out there in the tech world in 2023.
Banks are crashing, huge companies are firing people by the thousands, and CFOs are shutting down potential purchases left and right. It’s a lot.
Sales teams are caught smack in the middle of all of this. They have high quotas that seem impossible to reach. They have the threat of being laid off hanging over their heads. Worst of all, they now have to work even more closely with marketing teams to align their priorities, strategies, and workflows.
And everyone knows how annoying it is to work with marketing.
As a sales leader, your numbers may be down, your pipeline may be bone dry, and your hair may be turning grayer as we speak. Which I get. So keeping your composure may be really tough—especially when your company’s board is breathing down your neck.
Getting through a board meeting as a sales leader in 2023 is not a simple thing. But don’t fret.
01. Prep them
Nobody wants to be surprised with a shitstorm.
If your numbers are disappointing, the first thing you need to do is make sure that your board is aware of this BEFORE they actually show up to the board meeting. Because however sucky it is to present a lack of success to the board, it’s even worse to present it to them when they are sitting there with their mouths hanging open and imagining what it would be like to have you fired right then and there.
Speak about the numbers with your CEO and make sure that either you or they communicate the current state of the company to the board privately. If you have a relationship with the board and want to share it directly yourself, great. If not, put it on the CEO to do the dirty work.
02. Tell a story
The board wants to see the numbers—that’s for sure. But there’s sharing the cold, hard numbers, and then there’s sharing the numbers as part of a broader story.
And everybody loves a story.
When presenting your results of the quarter, tie your learnings to your long-term plan and your overall outlook. Nobody knows the company’s sales strategy better than you, so make sure you communicate it well. Then explain how the quarter’s results fit into your broader story for the organization.
Use this opportunity to mention the parts that have been successful in your strategy and how the areas for growth are surrounded by areas that are promising and positive. If you came in behind your quota, explain how your strategy will allow you to make up for it in the future. Offer a strategic perspective on how to incorporate this into your company’s trajectory and how your long-term plan will lead to success.
03. Avoid excuses
Nothing is more annoying than someone who makes lame excuses. So don’t bust out a “the dog ate my leads” to explain why you only hit 50% of your target.
As tempting as it may be to blame the government, the alignment of the stars, or even the Illuminati, it’s important to take ownership of your results so that the board can trust that you are on top of your job.
Own up to the challenges you faced, the mistakes you made, and the lessons you were forced to learn. Even if the numbers are disappointing, owning it will help inspire some confidence that you will be able to steer the team through it.
04. Have a plan
If you got yourself into a mess, you sure as hell need to have a way out of it.
Do your homework and come to the meeting armed with a thorough plan on how to fix whatever issues came up over the last quarter. Be ready to explain exactly how you plan to move forward and recover from the issues you faced.
Ideally, you should be explaining how you are already mitigating your mistakes. Show even small areas for hope. This doesn’t mean you should gaslight your board members into thinking everything is positive when it isn’t, but it’s important to explain how the company will recover in the short and long-term.
Because everything will be ok in the end! Right? RIGHT?!
05. ABM (Always Blame Marketing)
When all else fails, it’s time to pass the blame along to someone who really deserves the heat: marketing.
They literally sit in the office drinking fancy lattes and playing on Canva and somehow SALES is the problem? It’s time that smug bunch of art-school dropouts finds out what it’s like in the real world.
So tell your board that the real problem here is that the marketing department is wasting precious resources on renting squirrel costumes and filming TikToks. Tell them all about the huge amount of time they spend creating memes and photoshopping their teammates’ heads onto silly pictures.
Do I sound bitter? Can’t be.
The truth is that I personally never had to actually use any of these tactics because ever since I started at Walnut, I have always reached my goals (allegedly). But regardless, these are realities that no one can ignore in today’s market.
Surviving board meetings during a downturn can be a daunting task for any of us. That’s why it’s important to remember to focus on the facts rather than the opinions, to be honest about your learning, to stay positive, to show leadership, and to, of course, blame marketing.
Now, just so you all know, I would never dare to apply the last tip since our marketing team kills it, and without them, I probably wouldn’t be here to write this article. In fact, it might even have been a brilliant marketer from the company who translated my ideas into words. You will never know.
But one thing is certain—this was not written by AI.
(Humans, surrender peacefully.)