Entrepreneur must be chief sales officer

Being a CEO involves a constant selling role: to staff, banks, customers and even your own family.




I often hear people say, ‘I am the CEO’ or ‘I am an entrepreneur’ and in the same breath, ‘I am not a salesperson!!’ and it makes me nervous.


If the CEO is not a salesperson I become concerned about the prospects for the business. I define selling as “relating” and imagine a business where relating was not important.


I have to confess that when I first became a CEO I thought I no longer needed to be a salesperson. But what I learned was that the CEO has to be the chief sales officer, as well as all the other roles.


As CEO you have a huge role to play in sales. You must be selling all the time, not just to customers. You must sell yourself and the business to everyone around you all the time, particularly when you are in start up mode.


The CEO has many selling jobs. First, you have to sell your business concept to the banks or other lenders; they will need to be sold on both the vision and the business plan to achieve that vision.


You will have to sell your family or partner on the business concept and the business benefits because they are the ones who may suffer most because of your business commitment. If they believe in your vision for the future they may put up with seeing less of you.


Then, you must persuade the right people to work for you. In today’s tight labour market this is one of the most important selling jobs you have: how to stand out. You have to convince potential staff of the opportunities ahead, the excitement of the role, the variety, the family-friendly policies and most importantly your integrity, and your vision for the future.


As a CEO I had to recruit commission-only sales people. I was competing with the employee market so it was hard. But I did it on the incentives, the freedom, the open-ended income opportunity … and it worked.


Finally, of course, there are the customers. You will need to be convinced about the benefits of your product/service and be able persuade your customers accordingly. If you can’t, how can your staff /team do the sales work?


Marcia Griffin’s current board roles include Australia’s largest printing and distribution company, PMP, and National Pharmacies, an Adelaide-based business with 58 pharmacies and 12 optical stores throughout South Australia and Victoria. She is also a chair with TEC (The Executive Connection).



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