The Counterintuitive CEO

CEOs Want Better Sales Forces

March 1, 2011

In my recent travels, I have been asking tech CEOs a simple question: "Are you satisfied that your sales force is advancing your strategy?" The answer has been a resounding "No!" They give it a C- grade.

Here are the problems, according to the CEOs I talked with:
 
1) “Speed.” The sales force is always 12 to 18 months behind strategy.
2) “Calling too low.” Sales reps aren’t getting to power.
3) “The sales force can’t tell the story.” The focus is on price and not on the full value and quality of products.
4) “We have the wrong people.” Not smart enough, not tuned in to the market.
 
CEOs are translating their frustration into action. Many are about to "completely overhaul" their sales forces. Here’s what CEOs have in mind:
 
1) “Make sales more like engineering.” Engender high collaboration, high touch, higher IQ.
2) “Become more customer-focused.” One CEO trains his sales force to ask about and respond to the top three problems of each client.
3) “Better technology.” 43% of salespeople say they have better technology at home than at work.
4) “Engender more creativity.” A recent study by IBM found that CEOs see creativity as the most important leadership quality over the next five years. They also want it in their sales forces.
5) “Bring in new skills and new people.”
 
In my experience, CEOs are never satisfied with their sales guys. But the level of pain is at an all-time high. Why? I think it's speed. Technology change is running at unprecedented levels — and sales forces are not keeping up. There is turbulence ahead for many sales organizations.
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