December 1, 2011
The Ultimate Sales Job
In a moment of productive tension a couple months back, one of my sales people said to me, “What do you know about selling? You’ve never carried a bag in your life!” Technically, the sales person was correct — I’ve never been a member of a sales department. But as a product manager, GM, and CEO over the last 17 years, I have actually spent a significant of time directly selling customers. But this comment got me thinking about the role of a CEO and just how much of a sales job it is.
My conclusion: it’s not a just a sales job, it’s the ultimate sales job! Why?
- Assisting on sales calls is the most obviously basic sales component to the job. While some CEOs are more “in the market” than others, and even ones who are active with customers and prospects don’t do it every day, most CEOs that I know have either closed or assisted their sales reps on scores of deals
- Articulating a vision for where the company is headed is selling to the team and building consensus that keeps everyone’s eye on the ball
- Raising money to start or expand the business is selling the company, the vision, the management team, and the market to investors (some of the world’s toughest customers!)
- Recruiting talented employees is selling that same vision as well as your leadership capabilities to a prospective member of your team
- Speaking at conferences and trade shows maybe a subtle form of sales, but it usually involves presenting the image and expertise you want to present to be “on message” to drive new business in the door
- Building strategic partnerships is similarly selling a potential partner on how you can channel the core assets of your business to work for the partner company
In the end, most successful startups end up either going public or getting acquired. Selling the actual company — now that’s the ultimate sales job within the ultimate sales job.