Alice Heiman Identifies Three Deadly Misconceptions CEOs Have about Sales

It has been a long time since Alice Heiman joined Miller-Heiman—her parent’s business—in 1994. More than 20 years later, Alice has become a sales strategy powerhouse recognized internationally.

She started her trajectory in the company by redesigning the sales curriculum Miller-Heiman offered clients, in Alice’s words, “to take it from the 70s to the 90s.”

Soon after, she started training the sales teams of some of their largest clients herself with extraordinary results. She worked with Hewlett-Packard, John Deere, Fidelity Investments, and other Fortune 500 companies.

Not long after she joined, her parents decided to sell the company. Alice became an independent consultant, keeping many of Miller-Heiman’s most prominent clients—thanks to her well-known expertise.

Working with the Fortune 500 only lasted a short time. The “.com” revolution came, and the senior executives she knew were all jumping ship and calling her to come along.

Alice quickly understood how fun it was to start a sales team from scratch or help companies grow a small sales organization into one that would skyrocket deals and increase valuation. Her ability to learn and adapt helped her determine rapidly the changes CEOs should make to their strategies.

The former corporate leaders were now CEOs and heads of sales for much smaller companies with fewer to no resources. They were figuring out how to sell in this environment and trusted Alice to help them navigate uncharted territory.

“Together, we figured out how to start selling systematically and sustainably. Then, one CEO would tell another, and I became the sales strategist they wanted to talk to.”

Today, Alice Heiman is a highly recognized name for sales strategy. She offers a unique service catered to the CEOs of more mature companies to instill a perspective that keeps them from hindering their company’s sales.

“So many CEOs are preventing sales or allowing others in their organization to do so, and they don’t even realize it until I point it out.”

Moving them away from that, she helps them develop a strategy with their team to make their organization focus on the customer and increase their sales.

“Having a sound strategy is the starting point of improving sales. If you don’t have a clear path to follow, you’ll waste time and money on things that don’t work.” Alice states.

Alice knows the common misconceptions CEOs often have about generating leads and sales. They tend to perpetuate old ways that do not work today and require understanding the modern buyer and their expectations.

“Sales today require a mindset shift which is vital to their success,” she states.

She helps CEOs of 8-figure companies worldwide to overcome those misconceptions, some of which she has shared with us in this article.

Often, CEOs believe all they need to close deals consistently is a team of good salespeople. If that did work for them in the past, it’s an entirely different story today.

“Nowadays, buyers follow a journey that starts with ‘hello, we see your company exists’ to ‘we’ve chosen your solution’ and beyond, most of which they conduct without the intervention of sellers,” says Alice.

People research their business’ needs, compare products or services, and weed out those they don’t like before interacting with a salesperson. “You have to meet the customers where they are in their journey—that could be on your website, your social media, the phone and email, trade show, or a rating website,” Alice states.

She adds: “Buyers normally search for the products they need between 6 pm and midnight because that’s when they have the time to do research.”

Meeting clients where they are requires deploying all the necessary assets to lead customers along that journey: landing pages, blog articles, social media profiles, emails, and many others are tools to be leveraged by sales and marketing people.

When a company starts, it is common to have the CEO doing a lot of the sales work. But the CEO must build a sales organization to which they delegate the day-to-day sales as fast as possible.

“The CEO will always have a role in sales, but that role has to change as the organization matures,” says Alice.

The initial step is training the first members of the sales team. Alice explains that the CEO needs to devote time and resources to coach the salespeople so they learn to do the job well.

At this point, the CEO has to also act as a sales leader—keeping the sales team focused and motivated, and helping them improve their skills. Soon after, he or she should promote or hire someone to be the sales team leader and train them for that specific role.

This is not easy, and many early-stage companies go through many sales leaders before finding one that can grow the business. Part of the reason is the CEO has not set clear expectations and paved the path to success. “Most CEOs don’t know how to coach a sales leader,” Alice explains.

Alice states that once a successful structure and a great sales leader are in place, “the CEO becomes the company’s evangelist to build the brand and position themselves with senior leaders in organizations their salespeople sell into. They also ensure the sales leader has the support to grow sales to the desired level.”

She adds: “CEOs must ask themselves what is the best way to support sales and work with departments like marketing to generate more leads, or customer success, to ensure clients are onboarded and nurtured well. The CEO is the only one who can orchestrate across all departments to get the support needed.”

Alice asserts that a CEO’s mission is to train and coach their sales leaders to become peak performers. Specifically, “to help them adopt best practices for time management, coaching, and leadership,” she states.

Sales leaders need to spend 80% of their time coaching their people to move sales forward. The rest of the time, they should communicate and coordinate with other business areas to remove barriers and get their teams everything they require to excel.

“Anything that pulls sales leaders away from helping their team get to peak performance is not the best investment of their time,” she adds. “Leaders must have their own development plan focused on improving their leadership and coaching skills.”

Alice specifies that sales leaders need to be adept at coaching 1-on-1. They should listen to their team members’ sales calls, give personalized feedback and motivate each team member individually.

To achieve that, they should get training and coaching on how to engage and motivate their salespeople.

“One of the most important skills for a sales leader is communication,” says Alice. “They must communicate their expectations to their team and hold them accountable.”

“Much of that communication should be about moving their opportunities forward and analyzing wins and losses—with the emphasis on wins. When we know why we win, we can do it again.”

“Sales leaders must also learn to communicate with their peers, managers from other areas, and directors. They should be able to tell a story that would engage the executives and help them understand what resources the sales team needs and why.”

Alice Heiman addresses these and other deadly misconceptions in her daily work strategizing with CEOs of 8-figure companies in innovative industries to bolster their sales. We encourage you to visit her website if you are interested in her expert consulting services.

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