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How to Make Your Sales Reps the CEO of Their Business

How to Make Your Sales Reps the CEO of Their Business 

You’re the new CEO! 

Go up to any of your sales reps and tell them this. 

Now, wait for their reaction. 

I bet it’ll include a mix of confusion, possibly a tiny twinkle in their eye and then capped off with a “what?” 

Now, add some clarity. 

You’re not making them the CEO of the entire company, but you are making them the CEO of their business—a move that may be even more valuable for their career in sales. 

As a sales leader, this should be music to your ears.   

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4 Ways to Make Your Sales Reps the CEO of Their Business

What’s their job?

Over the years, whenever I ask one of my sales reps this question, I usually get a response that includes something along the lines of “to build great relationships” and “understand their pain points.”

Don’t get me wrong. 

The human part of sales is important, especially as digital forms of communication become preferred.  

B2B companies see digital interactions as 2 to 3x more important to their customers than traditional ones.

However important the human element may be, it’s not what you’re paying your sales reps to do every day. 

You pay them to sell their quota. 

Everything beyond that is a byproduct, so make this clear early on and set the tone. If you don’t, you’re starting on shaky ground.

What does success look like?

When’s the last time a company promoted someone to CEO and immediately asked them to deliver a big pitch and close a six-figure deal? 

Hopefully, never. (But I’m sure it’s happened many times.)

Promoting a sales rep should be no different. 

You can’t throw them in the fire without laying a foundation.

For a sales rep to thrive, they need to understand what success looks like and how you’ll measure it. 

  • What’s their revenue target? 
  • How many opportunities do you expect them to create this quarter? 
  • How many emails do you want them to send daily? 
  • How many calls should they make in a week?
  • What’s their expected win rate? 

Success proxies can be a reliable compass to keep them on track, but they also level-set your relationship. 

By clearly defining success, you reveal the map you’ll be using to sail the ship. 

If a sales rep wants to jump onto another one, that’s fine, but they need to know that you won’t be able to help them as quickly and easily if they fall off that one.

Once they’ve punched their ticket, make it a point to frequently look at how they’re doing and how the entire team is performing. 

  • Are cold calls not doing the trick? 
  • Is their close rate lower than expected? 
  • Are they not opening enough opportunities?

You’re looking for reasons why the ship may be sailing off course. (What you look at here is usually tied to the success metrics you set earlier.)

I find it helpful to pinpoint one challenge at a time and then work toward resolving that. 

By taking an iterative approach, we can see what’s working, what’s not and what’s having the most positive impact on the company.

Own your day

Ask any successful CEO which traits and skills have contributed the most to their success and I’d bet most of them would include “time management” on their list.

CEOs—even ones for small companies and startups—have a lot on their plates, so structure and making the most of their time are essential. 

The same goes for sales reps, which is why a big part of making them CEOs of their business is helping them own their day. 

Whenever I’m working with sales reps, I talk to them about how they’re managing their time and how they can improve their strategies related to time management. 

I sit down with each of them at the beginning of each week and document what they need to do this week, quarter and month to achieve their goals. 

Then, we lay out a plan. (Note: The weekly meetings generally focus on goals for that week, but it never hurts to zoom out and look at the big picture.) 

Once we’ve identified what’s on their plate this week, I’ve found that time blocking their calendars can be a game-changer—even better if it’s color-coded and easily digestible so they can visualize the best way to spend their time. 

Manage expectations

The best CEOs are like thermostats; they don’t freak out if the temperature suddenly changes. 

Instead, they’re a stable energy source that people can rely on, no matter what’s thrown their way.  

Top CEOs prioritize this because they know how their behavior impacts their performance and the mojo of the entire company. 

If someone sees the CEO in a panic, they assume something’s wrong. Conversely, if they see an energetic and upbeat CEO, they respond in kind. 

It’s the same for sales reps.

While it’s normal for a sales rep to be emotional and hard on themself when something doesn’t go their way—like not responding to an email fast enough or not closing a deal—the best ones refuse to let the endless ups and downs of the sales world affect them and those around them.

So, let them know they’re not heart surgeons and at the end of the day, everything will be ok. 

Clearly define the rules

No one wants to be a figurehead.

You can tell your sales reps they’re in charge, but you’ll miss the mark if you don’t also empower them to make decisions. 

I’d argue that Chick-fil-A empowers its employees better than any other company out there. 

Talk to any number of Chick-fil-A diehards and you’re likely to hear at least one of them tell you about a time a Chick-fil-A employee gave them a free sandwich or some other form of compensation after even the slightest inconvenience, like waiting in line for a long time. 

Chick-fil-A gives its employees this power to improve the customer experience. 

While you shouldn’t arm your sales reps with a stockpile of chicken sandwiches, giving them the ability to do what they think is in the customer’s best interest will go a long way.  

  • Will more training at no additional cost help close the deal? 
  • Will a no-strings-attached market analysis sweeten the pot? 
  • Will a gift card be enough to get a prospect on the line for a discovery call? 

The way each sales rep uses this fuel will differ, but the outcome will be the same: Improved customer experiences, which is invaluable today since 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is just as important as the product or service.

The perks that come with being the company’s CEO often include big paychecks, lofty bonuses and company cars—and for your sales reps, these might be the ones they hope to come with their promotion. 

Well, they’re not. 

But, over time, I firmly believe that the perks that come with making them CEO of their business are exponentially more valuable.  

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