Embracing the unofficial role of the CEO as a sales strategist as you develop the team that will run your Playbook

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CEO Mike Hoffman oversees operations and aligns business functions with SBIbusiness strategy to achieve scaled growth and customer success

The list of successful CEOs who started out in sales is long. Howard Schultz, Mark Cuban, and Warren Buffet are just a few examples of salespeople who have become CEOs. This is because CEOs who have the most success driving growth are those who understand their customers’ business drivers and the associated value of their product or service.

While some are natural extroverts, others are introverts who had to train themselves to be engaged and attentive. Whether instinctive or self-taught, CEOs need to be able to connect with their customers and listen to their needs. They must be able to build strong relationships based on trust and be good researchers who can discover the needs of their customers and find opportunities to provide solutions that create a win-win situation for both companies.

The CEO should be actively involved in closing major deals and building high-level relationships. I’m not saying the CEO should lead the roadmap alone. Every business after the startup phase should have a team of salespeople who know business sales and have deep networks. For this quarterback/head of sales analogy to work, you need to be a CEO who is at the forefront of interacting with customers. Equally important, the CEO needs to be surrounded by a team of people who can pull in deals on their own and take every ball that comes their way and run with it.

Nothing is more important to sales and go-to-market success than the talent of your sales team, so prioritize finding your official sales manager while continuing to play the unofficial role of sales quarterback. This means identifying and nurturing people for the role who bring a strong network that can be built even further to maximize your sales channel through the following steps:

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1. Keep expanding your network.

CEOs need meaningful, outside guidance and must constantly try to expand networks to both appear bigger and achieve growth through connections. This is more difficult for small businesses, but innovative CEOs will forge strategic alliances, forge partnerships, attract influential members to their board of directors, and generally broaden their sphere of influence to drive sales.

2. Always communicate.

You have to be a road warrior and meet important clients in person on a regular basis. Maintaining these relationships will help you understand why you win, lose and how you can improve. It also develops customer loyalty. You should always know why a customer would buy your product or service as opposed to the competition’s.

3. Understand your target prospect and market.

As a CEO, if you are not consistent in your go-to-market strategy and customer segmentation, you cannot expect your salespeople to be effective in their efforts. You’d be surprised how many CEOs I’ve heard of who describe their clients as Fortune 500 and then reveal the techniques they use, which are designed to target much smaller companies.

4. Know your limitations.

Be realistic about your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Conducting a talent assessment is critical to building and developing your sales force. Once you’re clear on your team’s shortcomings and key capabilities you’re missing, you can strategically pursue people with those skills. Every company has room for improvement. The hardest part is pinpointing exactly where you need to improve so you can hire and develop people for long-term growth.

5. Enable external sources.

Board members or consultants who know your industry and competitive landscape can identify the specific execution areas you need to strengthen and provide expertise to rise above your weight and achieve growth goals. Some consultants can go beyond product, strategy and data to dive deeper into your organization and tell you what talent-cultivation strategies you should use to optimize growth and execution.

Conclusion

The importance of sales must be driven from the top down, but CEOs can’t do it all alone. To be successful, CEOs must stay engaged and gather external resources and internal talent to achieve their GTM goals. This means driving the process by leading from the front in networking initiatives for customers and prospects, while using outside expertise to identify resources and additions to your team.

Think of it as a combination of strategic players and “special teams” that can provide the strengths you may be missing and expand your network and outreach initiatives to create a force multiplier for executing your playbook and maximizing your sales channel.


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