Just like the salespeople who work for them, CEO's come in all different sizes, shapes, styles and flavors. As you can imagine, those variances influence the outcomes of sales force evaluations, sales infrastructure, sales and sales management development and sales recruiting. Here is a sampling of how some of the CEO's react to what I tell them about their sales force:
#1 - "Thank you for your advice. I'm not comfortable with that". Who says that YOU have to be comfortable? You have to do the right thing for your company!
#2 - "I'm not quite ready for that. How about if we do that in six months?" A less honest version of #1 - at least be straight with me!
#3 - "Whatever you say. You're the expert." This tends to work out a lot like #1. Yes, they agree with whatever I say but are no stronger with management than with me and can't drive change.
#4 - "This is B*ll S*it. They're just going to have to do what you say, right now, or they're gone." That's the spirit, but it isn't driving change. You can't pound people with a sledge hammer to drive change, you have to inspire them to change.
#5 - "Let me see if I can get some consensus for this." Oh-oh, this isn't going to work. You never get consensus from people who don't want change in the first place!
#6 - "OK. Let's talk about how we're going to accomplish that given our challenges." Much better! At least we're going to talk about how we can implement...
#7 - "Great - can YOU deliver that message FOR me?" This is even worse than #5!
#8 - "I'm not going to drive this. One of my senior managers will have to drive this." OK, how many years are you willing to wait to find a genius who finds value in this AND isn't threatened by it or me?
#9 - "Why aren't my people doing what they're supposed to do?" Because you have to be strong enough to tell them that it's a condition of continued employment rather than quietly sitting there, without saying a thing, and expecting something to change!
#10 - I don't want to do it your way. I think it should be done my way instead." Ah, excuse me, but isn't that the same way you were doing it for the last 10 years - and it didn't work then either?
I don't mean to paint a picture that depicts CEO's as the problem, but in some companies, they are the problem. In 9 of the 10 examples I described above they were the problem but unlike this article, it happens in only about 50% of the cases, not 90%. So if you are a CEO or know one, what should you do when getting help for your sales organization?
The change begins with you, not us. We'll help you change your culture and your results, but you have to show your people your commitment to that change by setting your expectations and holding the organization accountable. If you aren't strong enough to drive the change, don't even start. In most companies where the CEO is the problem, it's either because the CEO is fearful of confrontation, or the CEO mistakenly believes he/she is a sales expert and has all the answers. If you have an open mind, are committed to change, and can drive the change in your own organization, that is all you need in order to achieve significant revenue growth as a result of working with an experienced, talented, practical sales development expert.