I frequently hear this frustrated comment from business owners who originally built their business by closing deals themselves. The fact of the matter is that company founders do have a special passion for the services the company provides, for obvious reasons. It is also likely that you, as the founder, come with a greater presence than most salespeople.
You are an owner, an entrepreneur, a CEO. You can speak easily with other CEOs because you have common ground. You might also be able to provide negotiating concessions right on the spot, whereas you may not feel comfortable giving your salespeople that same leeway.
So for all these reasons and more, it is unlikely that you will be able to find a salesperson who can be as effective as you are in closing business, at least initially. So what are you to do? Don’t focus on finding your clone or your Mini-Me.
Focus on instilling a solid process for qualifying, and providing a clear understanding of the problems your products or services solve. Share with your salespeople why the company does what it does. Provide tangible stories of successes you have had and the benefits that have resulted for your clients.
If you are hiring new, be certain to clearly articulate what behaviors, attitudes and skills the person needs to have to be effective. Also, be honest about the hurdles, the pitfalls and the challenges that a new person — who does not have the title of CEO — will face.
What if the issue is not a new salesperson, but an existing one?
What to do if you have an existing salesperson who is struggling and you are frustrated? Treat them as if they were a new hire. Give them a shot to be “onboarded” the right way. I talk to so many owners and business leaders who believe that if they just have the salesperson tag along on some appointments with them, that the salesperson will pick up all the correct skills to succeed. It doesn’t work that way.
Instead, focus on making sales process improvements, such as:
1. Provide stories of the successful things your products or services have done to solve problems for clients. Enable the sales reps to own the stories as if they were their own.
2. Provide a long list of appropriate, thought-provoking questions that will enable the salesperson to ask questions of the prospect. Give them the language that you yourself use and then teach them how to ask questions that matter to CEOs
3. Set a plan of activity with the salesperson so they are doing enough of the right things to produce enough opportunities. Frequently salespeople are poor closers because they have too few opportunities in the pipeline so they get stressed about closing and move from advisor and peer to vendor and peddler. They have to act differently if they want to be treated differently by decision makers.
Your salespeople are not going to be just like you.
Give them the opportunity to be as successful as possible and then be prepared to step in when your title is necessary to close the big deals.
Read more about business owners and CEOs managing sales here:
- 6 Rules to Help the CEO Who Also Manages the Sales Team
- CEO as Sales Manager: Do You Have What it Takes?
- Are You Guilty of These Common Sales Management Missteps?
Are you a CEO or small business owner who manages sales?
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