Recession-busting CEOs Become Salespeople
I recently had the good fortune of hearing FutureBrand's Asia-Pacific CEO, Matthew de Villiers, speak about how his industry, the branding industry, has changed dramatically since the New York Trade Center disaster. His clients have curtailed their media and marketing spending and become much more conservative. Then it occurred to me that indeed the business world as a whole has changed, and Matthew de Villiers gave me very good insight as to why.
He commented that in his business, people have become less trusting, more risk-averse, and more internalized. If you're familiar with "Maslow's Triangle" of human needs, then he feels that the disaster has caused people to descend from the self-actualization level to a more basic level of survival. Therefore, clients are not embarking on ambitious projects, and instead spending more conservatively and looking for services and brands that they believe will give them excellent value at no significant extra cost. In other words, because both consumers and corporate customers feel uneasy about the future, they are becoming a lot more demanding and want both better personal attention and better solutions than they used to get.
Perhaps the biggest impact this change is having is that service companies like FutureBrand and DaiJob.com can no longer sell in a simple "order taking" style. Instead, we have to get out to see and proactively talk with customers, and figure out for them what their problems are and offer solutions. In this proactive style, oftentimes a solution is found before the customers themselves actually know that they have a problem. In a way, we're becoming a kind of consulting company - guiding the customer to an informed solution and course of action.
In 90% of smaller service industry companies, companies like DaiJob.com, the best person to access customers and come up with innovative solutions is the CEO. Therefore, I would suggest that in this ever-changing environment, even the role of the CEO itself has to change. No longer can the head guy hide away in an office, ordering the troops out into battle. Nope, the new reality is that the CEO has to give up managing the business to another senior staff member and instead go out and generate sales.
Hearing these comments about what CEOs should do to help the company isn't going to help you find another job - but it might help you keep one. If your company is under pressure, you could help out by gently suggesting to the boss that he get out and help "bring home the bacon" by doing sales. Some bosses aren't going to take such a suggestion well, BUT the ones who understand the new reality - i.e., the ones probably best equipped to handle change - are definitely going to be out there fighting the good fight and probably winning significant new business.