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Sales Wolf Blog

If You Want To Fix Sales - Fix The C-Suite

Posted by Chris Young

Sep 6, 2013 12:30:00 PM

Always remember... All problems start at the head and all problems walk on two feet.

I paid a coach a lot of money to share this wisdom with me and it has served me well. It is burned into my soul.

If you want to fix sales - the C-suite - you, the CEO must take charge and commit to doing so.

Interested people do what is convenient.  Committed people do whatever it takes.

Now the important question...  Mr. or Miss CEO, are you truly committed to improving your sales? Will you do whatever it takes to hire the best salespeople and put the best sales processes in place? Or will you guard the status quo?

Unfortunately, most CEOs are interested in improving their sales and are committed to the status quo.

I know from experience.  It sounds so counterintuitive. When I studied economics in grad school, it was assumed that people are rational.  It was assumed that if you provide solid tangible proof, people will take the obvious appropriate action to protect their economic interests.

The sad fact is many people will not. People are often married to the root causes of their problems.

Ten years ago, when I began using personality assessments to help companies hire the best salespeople and predict future sales performance, I naively thought, "All I need to do is present the evidence that we can predict future performance and CEOs will buy our solution in droves."

I did serious research (and continue to do so). I found a personality assessment instrument that was and still is leagues ahead of others in depth, breadth, and accuracy.  I created a sales personality assessment algorithm, tested it, and have refined it several times.  I have the evidence and it is glaringly obvious yet most CEOs do nothing - they take no action to improve their sales team and sales performance.  This is especially the case if the company is enjoying significant profits.If the CEO wants to fix sales they need to commit to doing so.

When I look at the job fit of a sales team, what the data screams about their potential says a great deal about the CEO.

CEOs are human beings of course. Following are six reasons why I have found that CEOs do not fix their sales team...

  • CEOs are habitually married to their problems.
  • CEOs are married to their people - especially their salespeople.
  • CEOs do not know what they do not know about the potential of their salespeople.
  • CEOs sometimes know they need to do something but are scared to mess with the "secret sauce" of their "sales success".
  • CEOs do not know the cost of the problem - the cost of doing nothing - the status quo.

CEOs are habitually married to their problems. Like everyone else, CEOs have habits - patterns of thought that create the same results again and again. Until the pattern is broken, the habits will continue. Habits are difficult to break unless there is a very strong catalyst requiring change.

CEOs are married to their people - especially their salespeople. CEOs have a difficult time parting ways with people they like. Relationships are formed and cemented in the early days of a company. Extraordinary feats are accomplished thorugh the power of pure, intense beleif. As the company grows, and new talent is added, distance is often put between the CEO and early-hire salespeople. The result is sales performance drops.

CEOs do not know what they do not know about the potential of their salespeople. Everyone thinks their baby is cute. Without being open to an objective, third party perspective, CEOs often have a better-then-reality perspective about their salespeople.

CEOs are afraid to start over with new sales talent. It can take six months to over two years to develop a new salesperson to their full "cruising altitude". CEOs naturally are averse to replacing talent and having to invest in training, development, and onboarding compensation.

CEOs sometimes know they need to take action to improve but are scared to mess with the "secret sauce" of their "sales success". When an entrepreneur becomes successful, it is amazing how staunchly they will defend their existing business model. CEOs naturally want to protect their "recipe for success" - afterall, "if it is not broke, why fix it?" So many CEOs fail to make changes until it is often too late and costly - particularly if they lose a Customer or a competitor comes into the market. CEOS should aspire to do what Apple does (or did anyways) - be your own competitor. Furthermore, CEOS should realize that their actual product / service / brand is probably selling a whole lot more than their sales team actually is.

CEOs do not know the cost of the problem - the cost of the status quo. Most CEOs have some degree of "business acumen" or they would not be successful. They can identify "obvious" problems that could hurt their bottom line. The challenge is the problem must be obvious and it must have a cost. Smart CEOs are always analyzing the cost of the status quo and identifying ways to improve before they are forced to.

CEOs must change their mindset in order to fix sales. Afterall, if you want to increase revenue, there is only one way - increase sales.

What can you, the CEO, do right now?

  • Know the cost of the status quo - particularly the cost of low-performing sales people and poor sales processes. Most CEOs have some degree of "business acumen" - they can identify impediemnts to taking the business to the next level if they are obvious and believable.  If a CEO actually has strong business acumen, when they actually see what low-performing salespeople are doing to their Customers and bottom line, they are much more likely to make real change.
  • Be hungry. Stay hungry. Steve Jobs said, "Stay hungry. Stay foolish." at the 2005 Stanford University commencement speech. This is sage advice. The CEO must remain constitutionally dissatisfied with the status quo or it is a matter of time until they and their product / service become irrelevant. The CEO must not be afraid to "burn the boats" - compete with their own products and services - get rid of old strategies - drive their own innovation. By doing so, the CEO takes control of their own destiny and shapes it purposefully rather than allowing market forces to do so for them.

If you are afraid to make the necessary changes to drive sales, it is a matter of time until your company is in trouble - if it is not already.

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