Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sales Feedback and Leadership ***

My last 2 jobs have been in sales, and sales leadership.

I spent 6 years at each company.

Both companies were/are, VERY successful in their respective industry. I'm proud to say, that when I joined both, early on, each was TINY, and both grew tremendously over a short period of time -- both companies were acquired, for HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of dollars.

I'm proud of this accomplishment.

In 6 years, with each company, as a early employee - I helped DRIVE REVENUE, move the needle -- and CREATE VALUE.

But, looking back on both jobs, I did something FAR MORE IMPORTANT than be a top producer. (in terms of sales and revenue)

The leaders of each company, HAD A OPEN LINE OF COMMUNICATION with their top salespeople. (usually one or two salespeople)

What is open communication from Sales to a CEO/COO? It means access, conversations and interest, in a few salespeople, who fit a certain profile...(I happened to be the person in both companies)

It consists, but is NOT limited to the following:

FROM A CEO/COO Communication/Listening side:

* A CEO letting his top producers have access to his/her time and resources (within reason)
* A CEO who picks up his/her cell phone, engages, and shows interest.
* A CEO who listens, and acts, upon some of the feedback, on his/her own.
* A CEO who keeps the conversations in confidence.
* A CEO who knows, and can determine, the sales people in his organization, THAT ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT THE COMPANY - and the feedback given by the sales person. This feedback from the salesperson, has LESS to do with their personal situation (the salesperson)-- but is ALL about the company, and it's "fight to succeed."

* A CEO who can solicit feedback, and make the sales staff feel comfortable, in a NON POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT.

* A CEO who trusts the judgement of his "horses, or producers" in sales to give straightforward feedback.

* A CEO who VALUES, the contrarian point of view, and NEVER GETS UPSET OR MAD, when he/she hears statements, or points, that are contradictory to his/her own viewpoint.

* A CEO who understands politics in his/her own company, and STILL asks the salesperson to trust him, and that their relationship is CRITICAL TO THE SUCCESS of the organization.
* A CEO who is open to hear..."You made a horrific hire, this employee you chose for this position, is a waste of space, and you made a very bad choice..."

From a Salesperson Listening/Communication side:

* Saleperson keeps conversations and emails to CEO, BRIEF.

* Saleperson tells CEO honest "non-political insight" -- 80% of the information given to CEO, is regarding clients, market condistions, prospect feedback. 20% is about the company internal workings.

* Salesperson PUTS HIS/HER PAYCHECK SECOND, to the company success. (this is rare, but a good salesperson knows they are not exclusive of each other...they are VERY VERY connected)

* Salesperson holds communication in strict confidence...

* Salesperson shares IMPORTANT market info, client feedback, and can identify market changes BETTER than anyone in the company...because the salesperson is SPENDING THE MOST TIME OUT OF THE OFFICE, and in the field.

* Salesperson who always presents a SOLUTION, to their CEO with every single PROBLEM.


The above communication between both parties, have FAR more attributes on each side between...both CEO and TOP saleperson.

But, the model is clear.

A good CEO, like a good salesperson, needs to find a way to break through the politics of any organization, and have consistent, direct, and TWO WAY conversations......

This model has been what has made my last two companies, GROW from small start up's, into VALUABLE, consistent market leaders.

Politics in any company, will always attempt to stifle the CEO to SALESPERSON, line of communication. (as a company gets big, no mid-level manager wants to get sideswiped by this feedback loop, and it should NEVER happen, that as a result of this communication, that there is a direct line back to EITHER, CEO, or Salesperson)

A good CEO, and a good salesperson, should find their way around any politics in their company, to MAKE IT HAPPEN.

"Making it Happen" means winning....and both parties (CEO and TOP SALESPERSON) benefit in this communication....THEY BOTH WIN, CREATE VALUE, AND GAIN VALUABLE ACCESS, AND INSIGHT. THEY BOTH LEARN, AND BENEFIT.

This communication is critical to the success of THREE parties.

CEO wins.
Salesperson wins.

Ultimately, the COMPANY WINS BIG.


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