Martinis and Jet Lag: Why CEOs Shouldn’t Be on Sales Calls

By Tom Searcy

“That’s just stupid!”

I swear these words came out of my mouth before I could reach out and rein them back in.

I was talking to a CEO prospect at an event in Seattle last week. In the course of a lively conversation, enhanced by a Tito’s Vodka martini and the jet lag from my flight from Atlanta, I gave my inner voice an outer voice and said, well, what I said.

He looked as if he’d just been slapped (by me). Then he smiled about as big as you can and said, “I know, I’m the one doing it and I don’t know how to stop.”

We were talking about CEOs who insist on participating in all of their company’s sales calls. I outlined (quickly, lest the smile fade … ) the biggest dangers of having CEOs on every sales call:

    • Inflation. One of life’s simple definitions: the more there is of something, the less each unit of that thing is worth. Overuse a CEO and you have a problem — they don’t bring as much weight to the more important conversations with a prospect or a client.
    • Impatience. It is not a certainty, but it is frequent: CEOs want to make things happen and they can be impatient in a meeting. It creates an artificial urgency that can damage a sales call.
    • Pricing. CEOs are terrible on pricing. Either they give away everything or they won’t concede on anything. In either case, CEOs are usually best with pricing when they’re involved “out of the moment,” back at the office when time and distance from the deal make things a little more rational.
  • World domination. Well, maybe not world domination, but word domination at the very least. This goes back to inflation — CEOs create out-of-balance conversations. Use sparingly and you will get great leverage. A little bit goes a long way.

So, what should CEOs be doing in the sales process?

  1. Setting the target filter for what accounts we want and don’t want.
  2. Approving all major hunts.
  3. Defining pricing and negotiation strategy.
  4. Connecting at the senior-most level with the prospect on vision, culture and commitment (see Resource Center essay “Chief on the Boat”).
  5. Providing a tactical sounding board to the head of sales on deal strategy.

My new friend and I agreed that he needed to change his point of entry into the sales process until much later. He needed to allow his salespeople to do their jobs and replace them if they could not. Finally, he needed to stop diluting the great value he brings to the sales process by over-eagerly inserting himself into it too early.

How can CEOs help you, and what shouldn’t they be doing in the sales process? I would love to hear your thoughts; please comment and let me know what you think.

The founder and CEO of Hunt Big Sales, Tom Searcy is the foremost expert in large account selling and has made a career out of doing big deals and creating explosive growth. Read more about Tom here.
Originally published: Feb 20, 2012

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *