I get the opportunity to work with talented CEOs and many of my portfolio companies are achieving great success in a difficult economy. However I sense there is always a worry in the head of the CEO that staff are really engaged in the subject of sales growth. Often the CEO feels that staff just don’t get the urgency. It only takes a few months of bad sales and many private businesses start to consume way too much working capital.

By way of practical advice (what else do you get on this blog) I’ve listed below a few ideas to ensure staff get it. I’m really addressing this list to smaller companies, employing less than 500 staff or as I describe them the 99.93% (27.26m/27.28m).

  1. Visual Cues are a great way to tell staff what is important and to remind everyone that success depends on growth. Build white boards, strategically located and capable of being covered (for key guests being brought around the location) that show what matters to you as CEO. These are your key drivers for success.
    • Will We Make It – a board that shows the sales results by team against target and last year and therefore growth being achieved
    • Volume chart of unit sales by product family to show the leaders & the laggards, actual against last year
    • Sector growth showing $ values being achieved by sales teams and the speed of velocity by quarter showing growth
    • Consider new business brands being won as a roll of honor ( indicating the size of the brand to show significance, maybe group sales of new customer if it isn’t a household name)
    • Show prospective deals being worked, $ amount, expected PO date Q2, Q3, Q4 etc – perhaps only the large opportunities
    • These are your key visual cues so put up what is important to you as the boss, perhaps its new products launched, perhaps its productivity ratios but whatever it is I’d recommend showing a sales growth %.
  2. As CEO own, repeat and endorse your positioning statement. Chase it down to your web sites, sales scripts, press releases. Repeat it at every opportunity.
    Make a habit to remind people what you stand for:

Bad example:

    • DXP Enterprises describes itself as a leading products and service distributor focused on adding value and total cost savings solutions to MRO and OEM customers in virtually every industry since 1908. DXP distributes, pumps, tools, nuts, bolts and safety supplies.

   Good Example:

    •  ADMET is a leading global material testing systems manufacturer. We enable customers to conduct comprehensive, repeatable tests to ASTM or ISO standards, while keeping costs under control and seamlessly integrating their testing procedures into their organization.

3.  Site visits: Every company has strategic accounts that are special. How much time does the CEO spend on site getting to know the key decision makers? Staying close to their strategy. Mergers, reorganizations, selling off non core activities are all events you want to know about ahead of time if they are going to impact your relationship with that customer.

4.   How much time does the CEO spend with key sales staff over coffee discussing the noise, signals coming from the marketplace? I’m not talking about attending formal sales meetings. I mean informal chats to stay connected with new trends, issues on customer sites.

5.    As CEO are you walking the trade show floor? Do you understand the positioning of your competitors? Do they see a market opportunity that you don’t?

6.   When was the last time you looked at proposals going out the door? Do you recognize the company in the copy? Are the words true to your vision of your company?

7.    As CEO are you exploring partnerships that can could lead to long term sales opportunities?

8.   As CEO are you writing smart, incisive white papers and blogs to attract attention to your company’s credentials?

 As CEO your actions speak louder than words. Some say there are only 3 things that the CEO should focus on; keeping the management team focused on delivering against the stated strategy, ensuring there is enough cash in the bank to allow execution and building the best possible team. Well, helping to drive sales growth probably delivers on points one and two and if sales are flying you’re probably boosting your attractiveness as a future employer!

Write to ian.smith@portfoliopartnership.com