Many CEOS Want Better Sales Forces?

If I ask your CEO if he is happy with sales performance, what would his answer be?

In a recent BLOG at ( written by George Colony (CEO), he explained that he has been interviewing CEOs to learn if they are satisfied that their sales force is advancing their strategy.  Their answer has been a resounding “No!” They give it a C- grade.

Here are the problems, according to the CEOs he talked with:

1) “Speed.” The sales force is always 12 to 18 months behind strategy.

2) “Calling too low.” Sales reps aren’t getting to power.

3) “The sales force can’t tell the story.” The focus is on price and not on the full value and quality of products.

4) “We have the wrong people.” Not smart enough not tuned in to the market.

Mr. Colony suspicion is that speed may be the driver of this situation. Technology change is running at unprecedented levels — and sales forces are not keeping up. There is turbulence ahead for many sales organizations.

Perhaps speed may be the culprit, but my initial reaction is that the angst the CEO is voicing is really more concerned with the fact that the organization is not maximizing sales revenue and the sales force issue is really just an underlying symptom. Perhaps it is not simply a sales force issue.

Maximizing sales revenue requires three key elements to be managed including:

        Sales Force Optimization

        Marketing Alignment

        Customer Intimacy

Often, each of these elements is managed by a different person (could be the CEO in small companies) who rarely communicates or attempts to understand his/her participation in the larger strategic picture with the other organizations objectives. Often these teams are at odds with each other and sometimes blame the others for their lack of success.

In the near future, you will begin hearing more and more about a position known as the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). This position is the person responsible to work with all three of these elements to maximize sales revenue.

The CRO will need to understand and communicate the CEO’s corporate strategy and then to provide continuing coaching to make certain that the sales organization is optimized and aligned with marketing and customer service, all of which own the total sales revenue objective.

Alignment has proven very valuable in the organizations that have done the hard work of going through the process. A recent report by the Aberdeen Group has demonstrated this success in which many aligned companies are seeing increases in sales revenue approaching 50%.

Additionally, the CRO position can often be outsourced and used to focus solely on the hard work of aligning the teams with each other to achieve revenue maximization. The CRO always reports directly to the CEO and the CEO will be expected to participate in developing and communicating the corporate strategy.

The CEO also needs to understand that the buyers are in control today and their buying processes have changed dramatically in the last three years. Many times buyers are getting strategic information about your company without your sales force ever being engaged. Marketing, carefully managed can make sure that the buyer is getting the appropriate information and help the sales organization get engaged much earlier in the buying cycle.

So, I would encourage these CEOs to take a broader view of why they are unhappy with the sales force.  If they choose not to, Mr. Colony’s next check on how the CEOs feel may be even gloomier.


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