How Top-Management Involvement Impacts the Sales Process
One of the most interesting and conflicting circumstances sales managers, leaders and executives find themselves in is whether to get involved in the sales process with one of their sales professional's customers. The impact could literally make or break the deal.
Some corporate leaders may have grown up through the sales ranks and feel extremely comfortable interacting with customers on a sales call. Some, on the other hand, may have very little sales experience and avoid getting involved at all.
So, what is the right approach when team selling alongside your sales professionals?
Based on a six-year study, a recent article by HBR has identified five types of involvement senior executives play when it comes to strategic customers (those critical to their firms' future). If you have spent enough time in sales, you have probably witnessed (or can personally relate) to all of them.
The Five Types of Involvement
- Hands-off or "not my problem." 28% of senior executives in the study adopted this policy.
- Loose cannons meet with key customers without seeking background information and are unfamiliar with the customer's challenges. Further, the account manager may not even know the meeting is taking place. 21% of senior executives in the study took this approach.
- Social visitors, 19% of those in the study, focus on creating trust and building relationships rather than generating revenue. "The social visitor works the crowd but rarely delves into substantive discussions about business," the HBR article states (Capon & Senn, 2021).
- Dealmakers, opposite of social visitors and 18% of executives in the study, engage when considerable revenue opportunities arise. Dealmakers are not concerned with relationships.
- Growth champions. With a sharp focus on both revenue and relationship building, leaders in this role demonstrate productive customer-facing behavior. Interestingly enough, the smallest portion of executives in the study fell into this category – just 14%.
Executives assuming the hands-off, loose cannon, social visitor, or dealmaker roles most times think they are helping when in fact their efforts may damage the overall customer relationship rather than enhance it. The most fruitful type of involvement, the growth champion, bears a striking resemblance to the personality orientation we detail as Actualizer in our Dimensions of Professional Selling® (DPS) workshop. Actualizers are always concerned with the betterment of their organization and they demand excellence from themselves and those around them. Comparably, growth champions build strategic customer relationships and yield high returns in revenue/profits through elevated engagement and in-depth business discussions. As HBR points out, growth champions are rare and even have their own downsides, but they are by far the most effective type of leader in most sales situations.
4 Tips for Leaders to Be More Growth-Oriented
- Choose which customers you get involved with wisely by considering their behavior, the characteristics of their buying process, and the importance of the customer-supplier relationship. HBR states, "If a customer conducts itself in a purely transactional manner, investing in a growth-champion relationship may indeed be a waste of resources" (Capon & Senn, 2021).
- If you often find yourself on sales calls, consider refreshing your sales skills training. A workshop like Dimensions of Professional Selling® or Advanced Positional Selling® can not only help you position yourself more effectively in front of customers but can also help you position yourself as a leader within your organization.
- Be honest about your ability to help, or not help, in getting certain objectives or tasks across the finish line. Overpromising and underdelivering can frustrate the customer, damage the relationship, and cause internal issues with sales support and, of course, the account manager.
- HBR says, "We recommend that companies conduct an annual review of each strategic customer relationship and assign growth champions according to long-term business potential rather than current buying behavior" (Capon & Senn, 2021).
Sales leader/senior executive involvement in B2B customer relationships can pay huge dividends if executed correctly. The development and success of your organization depends on your ability to be customer-centric and to be a growth champion.
Capon, N., & Senn, C. (2021, February 17). When CEOs Make Sales Calls. https://hbr.org/2021/03/when-ceos-make-sales-calls.