How CEOs can drive sales performance

Growth. It’s a hot topic in boardrooms across the country. As CEOs look to bounce back from the upheaval of the last two years, growth is by far the greatest challenge they face.

So it goes without saying that every CEO should take a vested interested in sales performance, as sales success will dictate the next three to five years of business success. Yet, few come to the corner office with business development experience, and only 13 percent of CEOs hail from a sales or marketing background. (Source: University of Virginia Darden School of Business.)

The unfortunate result is that most CEOs don’t understand as much as they could — or should — about sales strategy.

Here are five things CEOs need to know to think strategically about sales.

  • Create a sales growth culture. Ultimately, sales growth culture is your organization’s unique combination of factors that help you create sustainable, meaningful, profitable growth. A positive sales growth culture will bring out the best in your sales team.
  • Know the strength of your sales bench. People play the most important role in sales growth. But hiring top-notch sales performers is difficult in this market. Superstars are not looking to make a change unless they are unhappy with their current organization; new hires can take a while to produce return on investment. One strategy is to ensure the sales skills of anyone in a client-facing role are evaluated, and especially those on quota. By knowing the makeup of your team, you’ll make better decisions in skill development opportunities and hiring. You’ll invest in the right people to build the right sales culture.
  • Know how sales performance is measured and rewarded. What is your organization’s sales compensation strategy? This goes along with attracting and retaining stellar sellers. Make sure your strategy includes financial rewards that align to your strategy and promote desired outcomes, as well as opportunities for growth and development.
  • Know how strategic decisions affect the sales force. Your strategic decisions, like go-to-market strategies, new products, new services and new verticals, all can impact the sales force — everything from the types of customers they attract, to the way they are compensated, to what the customers are being sold. For example, some technology companies may transition to a Software as a Service model. How will areas like client mix, revenue and profit, or sales compensation change? These changes can have multiple impacts on the sales force and the organization’s overall success.
  • Know to invest in your sales team. Growth-oriented organizations make sure sales strategy and development aren’t “one and done.” It must be a continual part of the growth plan. As your organization retools your go-to-market strategy and internal sales processes, skill gaps will be uncovered. Sales training can close those gaps. As a CEO, when your organization supports continual learning through sales training, you will see innovation happen, processes transform and positive change be inspired.

While it’s not always a CEO’s role to lead the sales function, the most successful business leaders focus on and support their teams when it comes to sales performance.

Amy Franko is CEO and LinkedIn Top Sales Voice of Amy Franko Associates