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5 Ways A CEO Can Drive Sales

CEOs are the driving force behind creating and implementing the company's vision. They are responsible for the overall success of the company, leading the development of the company’s long- and short-term strategy, and for making top-level managerial decisions. They may ask for input on major decisions, but they are the ultimate authority in making final decisions. However, most CEOs did not come up through sales, which can cause tension. So, if you are a CEO wanting to learn how to drive sales, here are five ways to do that. 

Align with Your Sales Leader

To drive sales you must be aligned with your sales leader. One of the toughest challenges CEOs face is finding effective ways to align teams and maintain alignment as their company grows.

Alignment problems start at the top with senior executives. This can happen when they do not entirely agree on the top priorities or core purpose.

This lack of alignment then drips down to each department, like sales, marketing, etc., and they begin to form their own agendas. As teams such as sales, get vested in their own plans, it becomes increasingly harder to attain alignment and shared purpose.

This can lead to leaders and employees receiving distorted messaging, causing wasted time and energy as different teams struggle with conflicting goals. So, to drive sales, get aligned with your sales leader.

Hold the Sales Leader Accountable

Leaders do a pretty good job of coming up with strategic goals for growth and defining what success looks like in metrics.

However, most strategic plans fail to due to the lack of accountability when it comes to following up on the actions it takes to make the initiatives happen. According to The Predictive Index, "holding people accountable is difficult—even for leaders who head up companies. 18% of the CEOs we surveyed cited "holding people accountable" as their biggest weakness."

In your weekly one-on-one, make sure you explain your expectations and review your sales leader's goals, plans, and execution.

Onboard the Right People

Hiring the Right Sales Leader

Most often, CEOs will see if the sales leader candidate knows their industry and has a track record of being a "good" sales leader. That is typically reflected in their previous company's sales numbers and growth. CEOs also look to see if the sales leader has contacts, can ramp up quickly, and then they will hire based on whether they like that person/they interviewed well. This is a typical approach, but not always the most effective.

Have you thought about the size of your sales team? The team's receptiveness? What is your company's culture is like? Is there a certain level of authority you want your sales leader to have? What role do you need them to fill within the company? These are all critical things to know when you are looking to hire a sales leader.

Onboarding the Right Salespeople

Finding the right salespeople can be challenging - there are many different types of salespeople. Even if your hiring process is bringing in top-tier talent, you cannot expect your new salespeople to be successful without an equally impressive onboarding plan.

According to Hubspot, "27% of companies don't have an onboarding process for salespeople. Of new reps that did go through an onboarding program, only 26% said their training was effective."

When it comes to effective onboarding, not only do you want them to review your employee handbook and attend orientation meetings, but you'll always want to incorporate clear expectations and resources that can help them complete the 'assignments'.

You will also want to include a timeline of when things need to be accomplished and critical skills they will need to demonstrate that are tied to a performance plan, to track and monitor progress.

Drive Behavior Change

To drive sales, you need to drive behavior. When it comes to change, failure continues to be more common than success. According to a study of 3,000 executives about the success of their enterprise transformation efforts, McKinsey discovered the failure rate to be higher than 60%.

Harvard Business Review  also concluded that "70% of enterprise transformation efforts fail." These very high percentages are linked to a lack of acknowledgment and reinforcement by leadership.

Leaders, especially CEOs, must examine their behaviors to bring about changes necessary to innovate and influence best practices and behavior. It would be best if you uncover your own actions that undermine organizational flexibility and innovation. For example, you may strive for perfectionism and avoid trying something new that may fail.

When you identify these behaviors, you open yourself up to change, setting the stage for behavioral transformation across the entire company, thus driving successful change.

After discovering toxic behaviors, you can then reinforce more positive and effective behaviors among your teams which can ultimately drive sales.

Know Your Words Carry a lot of Weight

The influence of you, the CEO, on your teams is invaluable. Chances are if you are doing well, then it is likely that your team is doing well. Likewise, if you are doing poorly, your team will likely suffer. As the CEO, you are the ultimate decision-maker.

Have you noticed that your words carry a lot of weight? For instance, have you ever been in a monthly leadership meeting or strategy meeting, and you bring up an idea or a design about something you read relating to say, decadent ice cream? Then at the next monthly leadership meeting, your team explains how they are trying to influence local ice cream shops to carry gourmet flavors? What you say to your team matters and continuously influences them.

In The End

Sales can be a slippery unknown territory for CEOs. To drive sales as the CEO, you need to align with your sales leader and hold them accountable. Make sure you hire the right salespeople and effectively onboard them. Keep in mind you drive behavior and realize your words influence further than you think.

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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