What You Can Learn from Disruptive CEOs Shake things up in your search for sales.

By Tony Parinello

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Last week in Chicago, I had the good fortune to meet for thefirst time with the senior vice president of sales for a majormanufacturing concern. When I asked whether the CEO of his companymade a habit of making sales calls, my new acquaintance'sresponse surprised me. "Yeah, he does," said the VP."And he's disruptive."

Disruptive? What a description! And yet.don't the bestsalespeople always function as messengers of change? Don't theyalways search for ways to change people's patterns?

Actually, when you get right down to it, it's no surprisethat top CEOs have a lot in common with top salespeople. It'sestimated that 85 percent of CEOs running companies today were oncesalespeople. Think of the most obvious areas of overlap between topsalespeople and top executives. Members of both groups often havebig egos; they tend to be brief, direct and to the point; and theyare usually supremely motivated. (Actually, the top achievers inboth groups are beyond being motivated; they're driven!)

The list goes on. Top salespeople, like effective CEOs, aredecisive, intelligent and willing to take risks. They avoid gettinginto the details of anything that leaves them feeling impatient.They love to win, and they hate to lose. And they are, to use thatVP's terminology, disruptive. They don't mind rocking theboat to get things done. Members of both groups tend to aim high,take massive action and ask questions later. If someone'sfeathers get ruffled along the way, so be it. The magic word fortop-level members of both groups is the same: "Next!"

So here's the point. If you're a salesperson who wouldlike to sell to a CEO, or a CEO who wants to ensure top-line growthby taking an active role in your company's sales efforts, youhave to be willing to get disruptive. Let me be more specific. Youmust use your traits, beliefs and convictions to build and maintainsomething that mere mortals usually assume they can't have, buttop achievers make a habit of assuming they already do have. I callthat "something" CEOEBS, or Chief Executive Officer EqualBusiness Stature.

This has nothing to do with "dominating theconversation" and everything to do with changing people'spatterns. Having CEOEBS means being ready, willing and able to playon the same level as the person sitting across the table from you.It means being disruptive in a good way-changing the otherperson's pattern by beginning new business relationships underthe assumption that you are the functional equal of whomeveryou're talking to.

Having CEOEBS means assuming that you have or can easily attainan equal understanding of some of the problems a CEO might befacing. It means taking the initiative to articulate yourproblem-solving ideas in a way that the top man or woman in acompany can easily understand. It means assuming the right tocommunicate in the way that CEOs do, regardless of whether or notchief executive officer is your job title.

I've been selling to top officers for decades now.Here's what I've learned: If a salesperson can make a habitof meeting with top people and assuming CEOEBS, he or she will sellfaster and at greater volume levels than the competition. When weconnect with the CEO on an equal level, we stand a better chance ofturning the person who has the ultimate authority into our ally.After all, the CEO, by all rights, has the ultimate veto power forall the important decisions that will be made on any given day,week, month or year within the target company. So why not reach outto him or her directly?

Sell to the top. Assume you have the right to interactone-on-one with this person. Shake things up. By doing so on aconsistent basis, you'll improve your numbers-and you'llget an answer faster.

This principle holds true for any size organization you target,and it's as reliable for CEOs who choose to sell as it is forsalespeople. Who says you can't call the head of the targetorganization directly? You're a CEO, too! After all, how manytimes has a purchasing agent wasted your time? How many times has aCFO wasted your time? How many times has an IT/data processingmanager wasted your time? And guess what? CEOs don't wastetheir time or yours. They cut to the chase, even if doing so meansbeing just a little disruptive of old, outmoded patterns. They haveto do that-otherwise they can't figure out what's reallyhappening in the prospective customer's world.

By now, I'm hoping I've convinced you to assume you haveCEOEBS. Pick up the phone and call the top person at your targetcompany. Next month, I'll show you how to do just that.

Anthony Parinello is the author of the bestselling book Selling to VITO, the Very Important TopOfficer. For additional information on his speeches and hisnewest book, CEOs who Sell, call (800) 777-VITO or visitwww.sellingtovito.com.

Wavy Line

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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