The CEO and the Sales Call
Here's a familiar scenario that is happening more and more these days. Company CEO's are now more active than ever participants in the company's sales process for retaining current customers and developing new business. The most common form is the "joint call" with the salesperson in the account.
Whether you are a CEO or a salesperson here is a short list of guidelines (there are more) for a joint call that includes the sales organization's CEO.
1) "Plans are worthless but planning is everything."
You may be familiar with this Dwight D. Eisenhower quote. The critical thinking and discussions that occur during a pre-call planning session prior to a sales call are more valuable than the plan that emerges. Obviously, you won't need to do this for every sales call but if you are pursuing a 'whale', exercising your planning muscles before the call is indispensable. Take the example of a PGA golf professional. What do they do during the week of a tournament? They play a practice round to find out how the course is 'playing' to determine what it will take to shoot a competitive score and win the tournament. It may rain the third day of the four day tournament and playing conditions may change completely. Because they went through the planning process (the practice round), they will more easily be able to adapt to a new approach and still be successful.
CEO Tip: Allow your salesperson to lead the planning process. It will not only help them take ownership of the plan, but it will give you a measure of their strategic thinking capabilities as well.
2) Define what success will look like.
Too many salespeople don't have a clearly defined goal for the sales call. This is usually revealed in the pre-call planning session. If a formal planning meeting wasn't done, perhaps because of the size of the account, the lack of a specific meeting outcome will then become known during the car ride to the call when the CEO asks, "So why are we seeing this person today?" What he will hear is some vague, ambiguous response about how the salesperson thinks that it's a good idea for the customer to meet the CEO.
I may be exaggerating, but not much.
CEO Tip: As CEO, consistently ask your salesperson what the goal of the call is and don't accept anything less than a clear, concise action step to be taken by the customer.
3) "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players."
Maybe Shakespeare was a sales leader at one time as well as a writer. I can't stress enough how important it is for the CEO and their salespeople to be on the same page and know what their roles are in the sales meeting. Is the CEO there as a presence for the company, to share the company story or conduct part of the call? There should be no mutual mystification here.
CEO Tip: Remember the 4 W's: Who will say What to Whom When?
4) Follow your process.
Dave Kurlan of Objective Management Group reports that 91% of the companies OMG has evaluated since 1985 (covering 500,000 salespeople) do not have a formal, structured sales process. That is an amazing number. If your company currently has an effective sales process, congratulations! Make sure that you and your team stay focused in it and execute it consistently! If you don't, I'll remind you of W. Edwards Deming's thoughts on the subject: "If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing."
CEO Tip: Because you wear seventeen hats and all before noon, it's not necessary that you have the same mastery of the company's sales process as ideally required of your salespeople. However, you should have enough knowledge of it in order to recognize that it's being implemented effectively in the field and to be able to ask great coaching questions in your sales call de-briefings with your salespeople.
5) Be prepared to be unprepared.
A sales organization can faithfully follow all of the above guidelines and somthing totally unexpected may still occur during the sales call. Anyone who has been in sales for awhile has experienced one of these moments. Embrace them! They are tests of how well you and your sales team have developed their competence in executing your sales process, it's concepts and strategies. Learn to use these episodes to learn a lesson that will enable your people to react better in the future and improve their effectiveness.
Sales organizations that follow these guidelines for CEO involvement in the sales process will see significant effectiveness in their sales results!