The best CEOs understand that while strong leadership is important to the success of an organization, sales is downright critical. CEOs need to have a keen understanding of the role that sales leadership plays in a business and should make a dedicated effort to build effective teams.
According to research conducted by the Sales Management Association, about 49 percent of companies are spending more per salesperson than in the past. Of those, about 60 percent expect to increase their sales spending moving forward. As you can see, many companies value their sales personnel and are willing to support them financially to prove it. While this is promising, the general consensus is that there is a lack of effective sales leadership and a general dissatisfaction with the strategies that are used.
Companies continue to be eager to find growth opportunities in a rapidly expanding global economy, and many realize that weak sales leadership can prevent them from seizing opportunities. Since CEOs are often held responsible when a company fails, it is important that they avoid neglecting their sales teams. So, how can your company combat these problems? In the following, we’ll take a look at some of the best methods that CEOs can use to improve sales leadership.
Cultivate Leaders at All Levels
One reason why salespeople often tend to feel neglected is due to the fact that management often focuses only on the senior executives. Of course, it makes sense to nurture those who have moved into senior roles. However, it is even more important to develop up-and-coming employees.
In the process of examining how high-performing companies must approach sales leadership development, it’s evident that all levels of a company must be engaged in the process. Research has shown that a bottom-up approach is the most effective method of developing sales leadership, with the CEO serving as the go-to person for sales strategy and other guidance.
The top companies have no problem with enlisting aid from outside companies or consultants to assist them in developing their sales leadership. In fact, research reveals that companies are investing about $20 billion a year in sales training, and much of the funds are used to bring in experts to educate top sales executives. While this is a noble effort, it’s been shown to be less than effective. Nearly 85 percent of what is learned in these sessions is forgotten within 90 days. Again, this makes a case for educating employees at all levels about sales, so that the entire company understands just how important it is to the organization’s overall success.
Emphasize Sales Strategy
Strategy is a major part of effective sales leadership, and hence successful companies. Companies that achieve success in sales not only focus on general leadership development, but specifically seek to ensure that sales strategy is emphasized. CEOs need to lead efforts to develop successful sales strategies, while still remaining open to collaboration with employees of different levels.
In addition to making a concerted effort to develop sales leaders at all levels of an organization, the executive leadership should play an integral part in sales strategy development, as well. A CEO should not only be concerned with a company’s financials, but should also understand how these results were achieved. The evaluations will typically involve regular reports that allow high-level executives to look at the data on a daily, monthly, and quarterly basis. Having this data on hand will allow the executive leadership to intelligently answer sales-related questions, as well as engage with sales staff from a more informed perspective.
Another key part of developing an effective sales strategy involves the use of analytics. Selling has traditionally been viewed as an art form, and as a result sales teams mostly operated independently of the executive leadership. However, nowadays data is king, and using numbers to drive sales is becoming the new norm. The best leaders are interested in seeing the numbers behind their sales in order to understand sales campaigns’ effectiveness. Additionally, this analytic data can be connected to employee performance evaluations and can aid in the development of specific key performance indicators (KPIs) to be used as evaluation benchmarks in the future.
If you’re leading a sales-driven business, it all comes down to paying attention to the company’s backbone: sales leadership. If your company is performing well, then the company leadership should continue to engage with sales staff to gain a deeper understanding of their process. On the other hand, if your organization is struggling, as the CEO you can’t afford not to take control of sales leadership development in your company. By creating a company culture that makes it clear that everyone in the organization—from the bottom to the top—is an integral part of its overall success, you can help your company to reach and surpass its sales goals.