How close is your CEO to your customers?

You, as the Sales Rep, are the face of your company to the customer.  Part of our jobs as Reps is to engage your Senior Management with your customers executives.  This might have been easy when your company was smaller.  Xavier Lederer, an expert in helping companies adjust to challenges growth presents, and I have some ideas that should provide value in your selling effort.

Why this is important to you as a Sales Rep

There are three reasons (among others) to make sure you have established a good connection between your CEO and your customer’s senior management:

  • Helps you drive deals forward
  • Establishes buffer for addressing issues (when, not if) they happen
  • Provides “privileged access” to your CEO that customers love

From your CEO’s Perspective

Some great insight from Xavier…“I used to know all my customers by name, but now that we are a larger company I don’t anymore” is a complaint that we often hear from business owners of growing companies. Especially in crisis situations like Covid this can be an issue: as a business owner you want to be close to your customers.”

“But even without Covid, not having a relationship between the business owner and their key customers can be an issue: you want to get direct, unfiltered feedback from your key customers and you want to make sure that they know who to call if they need to escalate any issue they are having with your company. In this article we want to explain why this happens, how to recognize it, and share a few ideas about what to do about it.”

Growth creates distance between a CEO and its customers

Xavier continues…”When the company is small the owner is involved in everything: sales, product development, customer service – which creates a perfect feedback loop between these functions; as a result you create products that are in tune with your customer needs, and you optimize your sales process to minimize customer service issues. The best thing is: at this stage you don’t need to take any special initiatives to have frequent interactions with your customers; it simply comes with your owner’s job.

This changes over time though: As the company grows the founder hires a sales person, a customer service person, and sometimes a product developer – with two major consequences: these 3 key functions get disconnected from one another, and the owner is at risk of losing touch with their customers.”

How do you know that your CEO has lost touch with your customers?

Take the list of your top 20 customers and ask yourself 3 questions for each of them:

  • Does the CEO know the name of the decision-maker(s)?
  • Does the CEO know which product(s) they buy most regularly from your company?
  • Does the CEO know how they make buying decisions, and when?

If you answered No to any of these questions, your CEO may have lost touch with your customers.

What can you do about it?

Take ownership of changing the situation.  Here are a couple of things that you can do:

  • Educate your CEO on opportunities you are pursuing, current engagements and issues at the customer
  • Discuss attendees for the meeting you are planning and goals for the meeting
  • Make it a formal, weekly, scheduled meeting, even if it is just for 30 minutes per week. If you make it informal or unscheduled, it will stop happening before you even notice it.

Often a CEO of a growing company wants to meet customers regularly but doesn’t have much time for it. You know that that is an issue when customer meetings get rescheduled by the CEO. “What I have done in the past, says Xavier, is set myself a target: minimum x customer meetings every 2 weeks. At the beginning of each week I would go through my calendar to make sure that I would hit my target.”

Depending on your relationship with your CEO you may want to have this conversation with him/her – CEOs love targets.   If that does not work, do go to ”Plan B”…try to figure out what other executives in your company can provide a similar level of “connection” with your customer.