The most dangerous species of CEO is the product pusher. Ask any sales or marketing leader.

 

The product-pushing CEO is even worse than frugal Fran, whom as Oscar Wilde quipped of a critic, “knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” At least frugal Fran is even-handed in her attempt to cut growth.

 

The product pusher tilts people, time, and money heavily toward R&D. Fine, you say, as long as he lowers expectations on marketing and sales given the shifted investment. Not so fast, my friend. Why should this CEO lower his expectations when he hands you such great products on a silver platter? Au contraire. Marketing and sales should be able to sell more. Here’s how they do it:

 

  • Marketing leader: Just get the right product collateral onto our website, put enough muscle into driving website visitors, and let nature take its course. If there aren’t enough leads, then you’re incompetent.
  • Sales leader: We don’t need high-priced salespeople. We don’t need to pay 75 percent of market. A trained monkey could sell our products. Maybe all we really need is inside sales and value-added resellers. Salespeople and channel partners will be beating down our doors once they behold the wonders.

     

If the following 10 tenets lurk in the heart of your CEO, your company’s strategy may be too deeply rooted in product:

  1. Product superiority is the only legitimate core win strategy.
  2. Third-party analyst subscriptions suffice for market research.
  3. “We don’t ask customers. We already know what they want.” (Misquoting Steve Jobs.)
  4. Nothing ever sunsets; road map budgets get funded without business cases.
  5. Marketing messages promote cool new product features.
  6. Marketing runs quarterly campaigns for each product.
  7. New features trump all other priorities, like product reliability and customer experience.
  8. The simple existence of multiple products creates portfolio value.
  9. The magic potion for growing faster than your market is—you guessed it— better products.
  10. Great products practically sell themselves.

     

With top management like this, who needs to worry about the survival of the fittest? (Rhetorical question.)

 

This article exaggerates the impact of a stereotypical product pushing CEO.  However, there’s some truth to this story for too many companies.  If you’re a CEO and think you may be guilty of this bias, come see me to come up with a plan. Or if you’re a sales and marketing leader trying to work with a CEO of this type, then invite him or her to come see us.  Consider a visit to The Studio, SBI’s multimillion dollar, one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art executive briefing center. The Studio is a safe haven for learning and after just a few days clients leave with confidence and clarity on what they need to do to grow revenue and how to do it.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Avery

Challenges clients to design and implement innovative practices.

Prior to SBI, Kevin held leadership positions in sales, marketing, business and channel development in the high tech industry, concentrating in the Contact Center and Collaboration software.

Kevin was an A-Player salesperson who transitioned successfully into leadership. At Cisco Systems, his Enterprise Area sales team drove double-digit growth, with annual bookings exceeding $120MM. As Strategy leader for Cisco’s Contact Center and Collaboration specialist sales groups, he devised, designed and coached a competitive displacement sales program that netted over $125MM bookings with a 90% win rate and zero no-decisions. Kevin’s experience prior to Cisco at Spanlink – a packaged and custom software company and reseller-integrator – began at near-startup stage. Leading the sales team out of the company’s IPO, he grew revenues by 50%, then closed an OEM agreement with a $70M+ lifetime value. When the 2001 tech bubble burst, resulting in dissolving a $130M acquisition, he was instrumental in refitting and relaunching the company.

 

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