Every organization should have a sales philosophy and it should be supported by the CEO. In my experience, successful sales models only work if the CEO understands the process and embraces it.
Why? Because the gap between expectations and reality could be wide and keeping your company from growing. Let’s just assume that a company requires a consultative sales model because they are selling a technology enabled solution. If the CEO doesn’t believe that a consultative model is essential to the growth of the company, the sales department will not be able to deliver results.
I have coached many executives in companies of that sort and found that while some of the sales people were not equipped to adhere to a consultative/complex model due to their personality, lack of commitment or simply because they couldn’t move away from a tactical approach, the expectations of the CEO and the pressure that came with it presented a huge disconnect.
The sales cycle in a consultative sales environment is usually longer and more complex. This fact needs to be discussed, reviewed and agreed upon by senior management and ultimately supported.
Here are some areas that will determine the length of the sales cycle:
How well known is your company/brand?
If your company is well known and you are introducing a new service it will be easier to get results. If your company is not established in the market place, it will take longer to get traction.
What is the market penetration?
Products/services that are completely new in the marketplace need evangelizing, such as social media analysis 15 years ago. It was hard to make a case to measure the impact of social media, when social media itself was not a mainstream topic, yet.
How new is your service offering?
If your service offering is completely new and you are launching it, you will have to work harder to get people interested as opposed to selling an additional service to existing clients.
Do you know who the decision maker for the offering will be?
If you don’t know who your decision maker will be it will take longer to navigate through your prospect organization.
Do you have a Unique Positioning for your service?
If you don’t know exactly why your service is different (or in other words how you can help your clients make money, save money or increase their reputation internally) it will also add time to your sales cycle.
And then there are the other areas of uncertainty:
- Are your sales people equipped to sell in a consultative environment?
- Does your company have a healthy sales culture?
- Are your sales people supported with training?
- How long is the buying cycle of your prospects?
All of these areas need to be carefully reviewed and discussed, but not only by the sales team. If the CEO is involved in these discussions, you will not only have buy-in from the top, but also a profound understanding as to why things might take longer. No sensible CEO will breathe down your neck if you can make a case as to why this process is not yielding immediate results. Keep your CEO engaged and informed and he will support your efforts.
If you however keep your CEO in the dark and uninformed on how you established the process, he will rightfully be impatient.
When you are in a sales management position, invite your CEO to the last day of the sales meeting and present a clear and concise plan of action.
When you are a sales person, encourage your manager to provide metrics and results to your CEO.
As a CEO, ask to be invited to the sales meetings, add your two cents and then let your team work the magic. Don’t get involved on a daily basis unless you really feel that things don’t make sense, in that case you also might want to think about a management change.