Sales is a process, especially in a consultative sales environment. CEOs often step in to control or manage the sales process, particularly when sales don’t happen. I have seen it all. CEOs doing the sales training, CEOs being on first sales calls, CEOs coming to the rescue. It usually causes panic and fear and utter confusion.
So here is the scenario. Sales don’t come in. The CEO panics and thinks he/she needs to take control. As a result, the sales people fear that they might lose their job and/or that they won’t make money.
The sales managers do both. They panic and fear, both for their team, for their compensation and for their reputation.
Here are 7 reasons why CEOs should not be involved in the sales process:
1) CEOs should lead the company, not the sales process
CEOs are charismatic leaders who have a vision for their company and the future of the developments, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should run every single department and be in charge of every detail.
2) CEOs know how to sell to investors, but sales is a process
Clearly, most CEOs know how to sell, but their audiences are different. They know how to sell to investors or shareholders, but sales is a process and most CEOs don’t have a background in sales.
3) Your company will look small when the CEO sells
Imagine, you sit in on a presentation from a vendor and the CEO is sitting there next to the sales person. I have seen it happen. It doesn’t leave a good impression and it makes your company look small. There is nothing wrong with the CEO coming in at the end of the sales process to impress the prospect, but everything wrong with him/her leading the sale.
4) CEOs have a strong ego and sales is about the prospect
CEOs love their company, as they should. That often means that they come from a place of vanity rather than a place of meeting the prospect’s needs. They like to talk about their company, the history, the people because they are proud of their achievements, but in a consultative sales environment the prospect is king and everything should be about their needs.
5) Sales managers get intimidated when the CEO starts meddling
Once CEOs start getting involved in the sales process it usually means that the CEO doesn’t trust their sales managers any more. Why else would they do it. So there is two scenarios. You can fire the sales manager or give him room for improvement. Getting involved will just lead to the sales manager being nervous.
6) Sales people lose respect for their sales managers
Sales people get confused once they get different messages from the CEO and their sales manager. They don’t know who to please and the results are disappointing at best. Once a CEO steps in to control or manage the sales process it’s usually a desperate measure and it leads to confusion.
7) Shouldn’t the CEO be doing other things?
Last, but not least. Shouldn’t CEOs be doing other things than selling? CEOs are in charge of thought leadership, innovation, driving the company to success. Sales should be left to the professionals, whether it’s an in-house sales staff or an outsourced solution.
Here is a message to CEOs:
Hire a sales manager or somebody who will lead the sales process and step away. Let them work their magic. There is many experts out there who can lead a successful team and put revenue on the books. Another big advice. Leave your ego at the door! It’s not about you, it’s about the end result.
Here is a message to sales managers:
I have said it before and I will say it again. Sales is a process and a process needs to be documented and communicated. Invite your CEO to your sales planning sessions, explain your strategy (if you have one!) and manage expectations. If you do that, your CEO (if he/she is wise) will move out of the way and leave you do your thing. If he/she doesn’t, think about moving on because a CEO involved in the sales process hardly ever leads to success. So, you will have to move on either way, on your terms or the latest when layoffs happen due to the lack of sales.
Here is a message to sales people:
Be mindful who you work for. If you don’t, you will not be successful and end up changing jobs every 6 months (I have seen it). If you do however understand your craft, manage up, help your sales managers be successful, provide insight into your work and supply reports of your progress. With clear communication and market research results (e.g. we are targeting the wrong people for our service offering!) you will be able to get support from your managers and you will succeed.
But only, if everybody leaves their EGO at the door.