Management's Selling Roles

Saw an interesting article recently about the role that CEOs should play relative to sales deals. Essentially, it emphasized that top executives should stay focused on forging company strategy, setting policy and corporate direction. Makes sense. Of course management’s role in the selling effort should vary by title but is influenced by penchant and skills. Let’s review 3 titles: CEO, VP of Sales, and Sales Director/Manager.

1. CEO/President – as cited, senior execs drive strategy, but are certainly to be visiting customers and feeling the marketplace pulse. What they don’t need to do is over-engage in sales cycles and inject themselves too deep into details competently managed by their direct reports and field reps. Knowing deals is one thing, micro-managing from the CEO perch is another. Start-ups excluded.

2. VP of Sales – this level of management often comes in one of two flavors: the Field Marshall who is deep in the trenches with the team, very involved with customers, meetings and closing calls; and the Process King who is more hands-off, process and operations oriented and works through First Line managers. Best leader, but hard to find, is a blend of superstar sales driver-closer and systematic, process-driven sales executive.

3. Sales Director/Manager– depending on the size of the team, you may need a strong sales/process blended manager who can manage team business while driving and coaching field salespeople. At this level, better to error on hands-on approach but moving toward managing the business. Toughest transition for many great sales closers to make, as they just can’t let go of the thrill of the deal.

In any event, it’s all about getting deals done, and this often overrides prudence. With executive leadership’s involvement in sales often a function of deal size, criticality, style and gifts, its wise to ask the question:

Is executive management appropriately involved in sales deals?