In theory, salespeople can land big deals on their own, but it rarely happens. Landing big deals requires a very different way of thinking. In my 18 years of doing this, I’ve only seen CEOs, presidents and business owners capable of this way of thinking.
Why a Sales Rep Can’t Think Like a CEO
There may be exceptions to the rule, but when you own or run the business as the CEO or the president, you see things from a very different perspective. You see an opportunity where others don’t see it. You will feel it personally when your company loses money on a deal. Others may feel it is just the cost of doing business. You understand what resources are available; others won’t even know those resources exist. A salesperson can learn all these nuances, in theory. However, in my experience, it rarely, if ever, works that way.
Examples of CEO-Style Thinking
Let me give you a couple of examples to explain what I mean. We had a client whose largest deal ever had been $2 million. They really struggled with the training we took them through and worked hard at it. They participated in all the exercises but, as a team, they were stuck in their old paradigms.
We hung in there with them and they worked hard. We gave them a lot of coaching. They had to change their corporate beliefs and way of thinking. When it finally clicked with them, the company went from never having done a deal over $2 million to 12 deals worth $110 million accumulatively in 13 weeks. That’s almost $9 million on an average deal! The CEO drove that kind of change in thinking.
The CEO or owner is the one with the vision who’s willing to push and get people to stretch outside of their comfort zone. You just never find salespeople capable of doing that on their own. The problem isn’t bad sales reps; this is just the harsh reality.
My second example is a very large national company we had as a client. They had three divisions with a vice-president over each. We started talking with each other about a very large deal that they had in their pipeline. They had never gotten a deal of this size before. They scheduled a meeting with the prospect, so we sat with them and mapped out the different people who were going to attend. There would be about eight different people attending this meeting.
We stress peer-to-peer sales. This means if they schedule their CFO for a meeting, your CFO or equivalent needs to be there. If their HR director is going to show up, your HR director had better show up. When we looked at the prospect company’s principals coming to the meeting, our client did not have an equivalent for two of those to attend. These were the head of HR and the head of legal. The three division vice-presidents were saying they couldn’t match these people peer-to-peer.
An Executive View of Resources
The great thing about this consultation was the CEO was there. He said, “Our company is a franchise. We’re part of a much larger network. Headquarters has a head of HR and they have a legal department.” They called the headquarters and arranged to pay for the day and travel time of the head of HR and legal. They represented the franchise in the meeting.
The division vice-presidents were all very smart, all very experienced, and all very talented, but they did not see resources. Their point-of-view was from someone who sat in the office building within their own walls. They didn’t even consider resources outside of that. The company’s CEO, however, had a very different perspective and way of thinking.