As the head of sales you are dependent on the CEO for many things.  The direction of the organization, your quota, and the sales budget.  The CEO is constantly evaluating your performance.  In this blog you will be evaluating the CEO.


You have recently been promoted or hired into the SVP job.  There are many different problems to fix.  Where do you start?  Comp?  Talent?  Process?  Technology?  It is important to first understand your CEO’s view on the sales strategy


How do you know if they have reasonable expectations for sales?  What is the best way to sell internal ideas to the CEO?  Use this tool to identify what type of CEO you are dealing with. 


Tool – Identify Your CEO’s Persona


 CEO Tool Visual


Let’s take a look at four distinct CEO Personas:


1. The Growth CEO – She wants to make big changes, to grow substantially, and to beat the competition.  She understands the importance of a well thought out sales strategy.  This is your dream CEO; unfortunately for you it isn’t always the case.  This CEO will invest in sales improvement initiatives if you build a good case.  Approximately 35% of the CEOs are growth CEOs.


2. The Hired Gun CEO – He has been hired into a new company with the goal of making a short term, immediate impact.  It’s usually a turnaround or preparation to sell the company.  He has a big financial gain at stake and a reputation for being a turnaround expert. Typically his personal gain is tied to profit vs. revenue, but not always. Know that this CEO is going to ask for real proof of a short-term ROI.   He may be difficult to sell sales improvement initiatives to.  Approximately 20% of the CEOs fall into this persona.


3. The Career CEO – This CEO has recently been promoted or hired into the role.  He has finally achieved the impressive title.  He plans on being a CEO for a long time and the 1st step is proving himself in this role. He will make a lot of mistakes.  He knows everything because he went to an Ivy League school.  You need to appeal to his ego.  Show how your sales initiative makes him look smart.  About 15% of the CEOs fall into this persona.


4. The Founder CEO – This CEO is very hands on.  He wants to grow the business, but will also be looking over your shoulder all the time.  He is incredibly passionate and probably works 80+ hours a week.  He can make decisions based on emotion over logic.  He will want to leave a legacy and have a family member or close friend take over his baby.  The founder CEO has to trust you to agree to invest.  Approximately 30% of the CEOs fall into this persona.


The tool above helped you place the CEO into one of the Persona buckets.  Now it is time to gain a deeper understanding of your CEO’s objectives.  Build out a persona for your CEO.  Map out their business and personal objectives through your interactions with them.  Understand how the sales organization can help achieve those objectives. 


How to Use the CEO Persona

You would use this Persona to obtain approvals in the future.  The Persona helps with populating your call plan (formal or informal).  Similar to how a rep would use it to prepare for a major customer interaction.


I have seen SVPs ask for funding and appear to be selfish.  They are concerned only about revenue and their number.  They don’t consider the entire business impact.  This is a transparent inward-out approach.  It will lead to a poor meeting with the CEO. 


Conversely, SVPs that know what make their CEO tick approach the situation differently.  They understand the CEO’s objectives and link their sales strategy to it. Typically, these SVPs have the luxury of learning from past failures with the CEO. 


If you are new in your role you won’t have past failures to learn from.  The Persona will help you plan for encounters with the CEO.  It will improve your case and get what you want.



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Scott Gruher

Orchestrates and designs the perfect project strategy, one engagement at a time, to ensure that every SBI client makes their number.

Scott joined SBI in 2010 with years of hands-on experience in sales leadership and enterprise selling. Since his arrival, he has helped dozens of organizations dramatically accelerate growth, from Fortune 10 organizations like Phillips 66 to fast-growing cloud service organizations like InfusionSoft. Scott specializes in cross-functional alignment. He helps leaders align around the growth goal and design the right processes to bring the strategy to life. His unique combination of real world experience and a pragmatic approach to problem solving have made him one of SBI’s most demanded resources.

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