Smart CEOs are Getting Smarter About Selling – by Mark Sellers

Smart CEOs are getting smarter about selling.

If a CEO ten or twenty years ago rose up through the sales ranks to the top of the heap, he or she was probably a smooth talker, had lots of charisma and didn’t take no for an answer.

Today’s sales-savvy CEOs have more than a silver tongue.  They have new technologies for understanding sales trends even before sales happen, things like saas-based customer relationship management programs, sales analytics, lead nurturing campaigns, and more.  Many of these technologies help CEOs know the true value of their company’s sales funnel.

A sales funnel used to be something the salesperson used, right?  Put enough leads into the top of the hopper, work them through the process and close them.  Go get it done!  Each salesperson might have his own funnel and his own way of working it.  This wasn’t a problem.

Today’s sales funnel is an enterprise process that rolls up from the ground up, from each rep up through each of the sales managers, up to the vice president of sales, and to the corner office.  Funnels can then be sorted and analyzed by rep, by region, by business line, by product category, or whatever.  This information has become invaluable to CEOs.

The funnel holds the key to insight.  The company’s sales funnel is the collection of all of the opportunities that all salespeople are working on, stage by stage.  The dollar or euro value of that funnel is the company’s future revenue stream.  The CEO needs to know this information for forecasting, planning and resource allocation purposes.  CEOs have become sales-funnel savvy because they need to report today on what’s going to happen in the future.

CEOs of public companies need to forecast accurately.  Their reputations and jobs are on the line every quarter.  Even CEOs of privately held companies need this to report to their boards and provide strong leadership.  The right sales funnel process gives CEOs this perspective.

The pivotal change that made the funnel a board room, CEO-level topic can be attributed to customers.  Instead of having a sales funnel that is based on a company’s selling process, the sales funnel is based on the customer’s buying process.  This is one of the most dramatic shifts in selling in decades.  Companies that are good at selling to their customer’s buying process tend to have more accurate sales funnels, ones that aren’t overstated by salespeople with happy ears.

This so called “buy-cycle” sales funnel gives these companies and their CEOs “leading indicator” information about the real value of the sales opportunities their salespeople are chasing.  The CEO looks at the company funnel and has a much better, more realistic measure of future revenue stream that could result in the next 60 or 90 or more days.

The last five clients that have hired my firm were purchases initiated by and driven by the companies’ CEOs.  They recognized the value of having the right sales funnel, process and insight.

If you’re a CEO and you want this kind of insight you need to gather your team and go talk to customers.  Ask them how they buy from you.  Ask them how well you sell to the way they want to buy.  Then figure out what changes you should make to the way you sell.

Make sure your sales funnel is designed around how your customers buy.  Then commit to changing your training and coaching and reports in whatever it takes.  This isn’t an overnight, offsite 2 day meeting fix.  It’s a journey.

Warning!  This won’t be easy, though it sounds very simple.  At the heart of this approach, selling to the customer’s buying process, is not tools or technology.  It’s a way of thinking.  And when your sales force has spent the last several decades selling the way they want to sell, don’t be surprised at getting push back to changing the way they currently think.

Still, there’s only your reputation and your job on the line.


Mark Sellers is CEO of Breakthrough SalesPerformance®LLC, a training and consulting company he founded in 1996, which is hired by B2B companies around the world to get their sales teams to qualify better and faster, win more sales, and build healthier pipelines, by providing enterprise-wide training, coaching, and consulting services. Clients include Danaher, ITW, Bemis, RONA, West Pharmaceutical Services, Sartomer, Microchip Technology, and others. The foundation of their sales methodology is an innovative, game-changing approach of selling to the customer’s buying process. Mark is a thought leader in this approach, and his first book The Funnel Principle was published in 2008; it was named a Top Ten Best Sales Book to Read by Selling Power Magazine. Mark is a frequent blogger, guest speaker for webinars, and contributor to sales industry mediums such as Selling Power Magazine, Customer Think, and the American Business Journals newspapers. You can connect with Mark at his website, LinkedIn page, or call him at 614-571-8267.