Higher Power

10 secret weapons that will make you a hands-on leader for your sales team

Some entrepreneurs love to take matters into their own hands when it comes to selling face-to-face. Others choose to delegate selling authority-and in so doing, they cheat their businesses out of a great deal of selling impact. My question: What does the first group know about selling that the rest of us wish we knew?

Here, based on interviews with some of the most successful top executives in the country, are 10 actions that CEOs who sell successfully do on a regular basis. Consider working these strategies and tactics into your daily routine, and have your sales team do so, too.

Secret #1Know Your Ideal Prospects. CEOs who sell hate wasting time, so they target the people and groups most likely to buy from them. Wasted time in the sales process adds to the cost of sales and extends the critical time-to-revenue benchmark. Bob Palmisano, CEO of MacroChem, a transdermal drug delivery company in Lexington, Virginia, learned about targeting ideal prospects early on at Bausch & Lomb, Playtex and Mobil Oil. "You must figure out very quickly how you fit in with a given prospect," he says. "You must back away quickly when what you have doesn't fit what they need."

In addition, CEOs who are successful in sales have no qualms about calling another organization's top person to find out whether there's a potential fit between their respective companies. That means you should be willing and able to do the same. It's also helpful to identify all the sales that are taking too long to close. Go ahead, pick up the phone and don't be shy-you'll quickly find out what's taking so long and speed things up in no time.

Secret #2Understand That Other CEOs Use Similar Criteria to Buy and Sell. CEOs who sell take the same energetic, visionary approach to buying as they do to selling. If you were to pick up the phone and call Mike Borer, 43-year-old CEO of Xcel Pharmaceuticals in San Diego, you would likely get shunted to one of his staff. Why? Because Borer learned that giving employees ownership of their ideas and making them accountable for their decisions works. He trusts his people to help him in the buying and selling process. He has to: His organization operates in a market where strict government regulation is the norm, so he looks for high degrees of accuracy in all sales pitches. And he relies on his team of experts for help. The moral of the story: Find out what the target CEO's buying and what the selling criteria are before approaching him or her.

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Tony Parinello has become the nation's foremost expert on executive-level selling. He's also the author of the bestselling book bearing the name of his sales training program,Getting to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer, 10 Steps to VITO's Office,as well as the host of Club VITO, a weekly live internet broadcast.

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This article was originally published in the August 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Higher Power.

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