The CEO and Sales Leader Relationship


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I recently spoke with the CEO of Aderant, Chris Giglio. Aderant is a leading provider of business management software for law practices and professional services firms. The company has an impressive 98 percent customer retention rate, and has been in business for over three decades.

Giglio shared his ideas on a controversial subject: developing trust between the CEO and sales leader. While it’s essential for the CEO and sales leader to work well together and be in strategic alignment, this isn’t always the case. Many times there is friction between the two, which causes discord and missed revenue goals.

This subject is top of mind for Giglio, who has recently hired a new sales leader. “I look at it from the opposite perspective,” he says. “How do I generate great alignment and a great relationship with our sales leader? And how do we construct a team to support that sales leader?” Giglio went on to discuss the keys to alignment between the CEO and sales leader.

Building Trust

According to Giglio, trust in the form of transparency is vital. Both sides must understand why things are the way they are and agree on what, if anything, needs to be done differently. To gain even greater appreciation for the challenges in his organization, Giglio spent a quarter as the active sales leader. “Complete transparency and then clear expectations are key,” he claims.

This all sounds good in theory. But what happens if expectations are viewed as unrealistic by one side, particularly the sales leader? Sales leaders who don’t make the number are out of a job. Giglio has a response for this as well.

Creating the Right Conditions

In Giglio’s business, one of the challenges for the sales leader is  on the product side. He shared his experience and explains, “As we went through this process of onboarding our new sales leader, we spent a lot of time with our product leadership. We found that we had opportunities to change our priorities based on the market conditions and the way clients wanted to buy. We adjusted our product road map and the allocation of our development resources to really support what the sales organization felt would be compelling in the marketplace.”

How did they go about this? At Aderant, the product team spends a lot of time in the field. They’ve created a forum for clients and prospects to give feedback, and to share their biggest challenges. As a result, the company has great solutions and attacks the market differently. This helps set the sales leader up for success.

But even with the correct conditions in place,  Giglio  stresses  the  importance of hiring the right sales leader. Often, executives get it wrong and make very expensive hiring mistakes. Giglio went into detail on how he recently tackled this issue.

Hiring the Right Leaders

At Aderant, several circumstances were in play. They’d had a recent after a different type of customer and that required a different type of salesperson. Credibility was key when asking the customer to make a commitment to a new offering.

“We needed someone who was credible instantly because you don’t get a second chance,” says Giglio. “It was  obvious we weren’t going to be successful the old way. When I came to terms with that, making the shift wasn’t really that difficult.” How did Giglio know this? By acting as the sales leader during his company’s transition period, he was able to go on calls, meet with customers, and witness firsthand.

If after adjusting the profile you’re still not seeing success, then what? Is it the environment or the person? How do   you know? Giglio explains, “We did an organizational 360, a 360 review. It was a great way to fill out my perspective and provide a broader view to make more  informed decisions.”

It’s often hard to look in the mirror. But if you don’t have the courage to look back, you will never get to the root of the problem. It’s not an   easy process by any means. But identifying the issues is the only way to pinpoint a solution.

At the end of the day, deciding whether you have the right sales leader is a huge decision. It is very disruptive when you get it wrong. CEOs must hire sales leaders who inspire confidence and produce results. And the relationship between the CEO and the sales leader must result in trust and strategic alignment.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Greg Alexander
Greg Alexander serves as CEO of Sales Benchmark Index (SBI), a sales and marketing consultancy focused exclusively on helping B2B companies exceed their revenue targets. In 2012, Alexander was named as one of the top 25 sales minds online by OpenView Partners. Sales and Marketing Management Magazine named Alexander "Sales Manager of the Year".


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