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How To Gain Insight Like a CEO

Most sales leaders have a lot of confidence, which is good -- but many don't have access to what many CEO have: insights and help from other CEOs. Worse, many organizations never gain real insights or help from their own customers.

What can you do to improve on these critical blind spots? Create a "Client Advisory Board" and a "Sales Management Advisory Board." These will help improve your business operations and provide a source of insight and accountability.

Client or Industry Advisory Board
Let's first explore a Client Advisory Board. This type of board consists of current customers that meet formally for a minimum of three times a year. We recommend that organizations select not just "pet" clients for this board but a cross-section of clients that will commit to a two-year term on the committee (initially, you will want to stagger terms).

The purpose of this group is to offer you insights into the needs of customers from their perspective. This includes evaluating your service, sales, operations and ideas on market trends. This is especially important for partners in vertical markets. Board members also can be used as sounding boards regarding new products or service offerings you may be considering.

Generally, we recommend five to seven clients on this board. The partner executive should prepare a formal agenda, run the meeting, coordinate the appropriate members of your organization to attend the session, and assign someone to take active meeting notes. It is important not to become defensive over issues that arise or comments that are made by the clients during the meetings. However, it must be clear to each person attending that the board meeting is not meant to be a negative complaining session, but rather one where all parties are sincerely working toward improving performance. If sessions drift toward complaints, the executive must take action to redirect the meeting.

From a sales perspective, the fact that you have a formal Client Advisory Board during the sales process can be an important sales asset. In smaller geographic areas or within a vertical market, prospects will know these individuals and will be impressed with your commitment to the customer experience.

As your board matures, you may allow them to elect officers, coordinate agendas and generally run the meeting. In several cases, this has led to client meeting days where all clients are invited to learn, share ideas and provide the partner organization an opportunity to show appreciation. (HINT: When this occurs, you'll know you have succeeded.) Invite your top prospects -- what a wonderful closing opportunity!

Sales Management Board of Advisors
Many CEOs attend monthly or quarterly meetings with their peers to discuss business challenges and gain insights from other business owners. At Acumen, we started a peer group concept for sales leaders. Until now, individuals with sales management responsibilities have not had the opportunity to share their plans, accomplishments and problems in a secure peer group.

Our premise is simple: This Web-based interactive group learning environment is designed for sales management professionals who wish to learn, cooperate and succeed by sharing their experiences.

Individuals with sales management responsibility face diverse challenges, like exceeding corporate revenue objectives, developing sales team capabilities, balancing client/company objectives, and more. In addition, sales management must focus on sales management systems, compensation planning, and so on. If you face these needs and responsibilities, it's time to invest in your success.

The Board of Advisors, offered by The Acumen Management Group Ltd. provides the opportunity. A select group of sales management professionals will experience what has only been available for CEOs or presidents -- an ongoing professional group that works together to help, encourage and challenge thinking. For more information on this service go here

How Does the Sales Management Roundtable Work?
Our series of 10 monthly Web-based events enables a small group of sales management professionals to learn more about their careers, share challenges they face, and gain insights into how other individuals with similar responsibilities succeed, build their businesses and solve their problems. Each group is composed of 12 to 15 sales management professionals who meet for two hours once a month for 10 months (with a break in June and July). Each member has an opportunity to present his or her sales plans, business issues and challenges for group feedback.

Members learn from their peers' plans and assist them with their professional and personal growth. This group problem-sharing and problem-solving environment helps you translate their problems and solutions to your situation. E-mail me to register and make the commitment to grow professionally and personally.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on April 02, 2012