Souping-Up Your Sales Engine

I’ve worked with many a CEO who acted and failed as their company’s Chief Revenue Officer…. spelled S A L E S P E R S O N. The problem with that is while most entrepreneurs have the ability, the drive and audacity to sell, few of them have the patience to stick with the grind of repeatedly making cold calls and deal with rejection.

Entrepreneurs like to blaze new trials, figure out puzzles, innovate.  Entrepreneurs don’t get their jollies from walking down a well-worn path.  Sure they can do the work for a short period of time, but it’s a rare entrepreneur who can sustain high sales performance over a long period of time. If they were willing to toil day after day cold calling for dollars they’d still be working for the man instead of aspiring to be the man (I’ve written about some of this in “Playing Hide and Seek With the Revenue Nut.”)

I’ve worked with multiple CEOs to help them realize they won’t fire themselves for not making quota, for not making enough cold calls, for not being great salespeople. These folks realize they need to hire someone who they can hold accountable to drive revenue.

A poll of early-stage CEOs who recently hired sales leads asking them to rate their sales engine on a scale where 1 is the lowest and 5 is the highest over 80%  of those polled rated their engine as 2 or lower.  When digging into the why there was one common thread.  The CEOs had hired someone to be held accountable for sales…. and hadn’t held them accountable.

So here’s a little trade secret….. CEO’s can suck at sales just as effectively as a salesperson who can’t sell and at only a fraction of the cost. Salespeople are not fire and forget weapons. They need guidance, goals, follow-up and most of all to be held accountable.

So, find a good salesperson. Set some short-term goals.

  1. On what date should they be able to talk about or demo your product?
  2. How many calls should they make per week?
  3. How many qualified leads should they have in the first 3 – 6 months?
  4. What’s a qualified lead look like?  Can the salesperson tell you and do you have confidence in their answer regarding the following prospect questions:
    1. is there budget
    2. is there a decision timeframe
    3. how and by whom will the decision be made
    4. who’s your company’s sponsor

When you hire a salesperson, visualize success.  Determine when is the earliest date you can confirm if you hired right and how? What would success look like, in terms of revenue and then back into the activity that will produce those results?  Make those expectations clear to the new hire.

Then monitor, coach and decide as fast as possible whether you got the right butt in the sales hot seat. If the answer is no, turn up the heat.  This is costing more than money…. your competitors are out there courting customers that should be yours.