This is an interesting question as the answer is everything and nothing. Everything - because we are all, always, trying to sell more, find new customers or channels ; Nothing - in that the CEO needs the confidence to rely on their sales team to generate revenue, drive quarterly growth and replace lost or churning customers, but overall, grow the business with profitable revenue.
However, most CEOs don't have a lot of sales knowledge - or ability. Sales in many organisations can be looked upon as the sleazy, pushy, used car salesman type role in the company (for more on this read Daniel Pink's book, To Sell is Human), and most CEOs don't come from this background.
Why is this? The answer is relatively sensible. Traditionally, people without tertiary education, but maybe with “the gift of the gab”, have tended to get into sales. People don’t necessarily need formal training or skills for a sales role, and while this has made the path easier, the lack of education can be a disadvantage for progress to a general management role - especially in a corporate or bigger company.
Anyway, back to the story.
So, what should CEOs expect from their sales managers? What should they be looking for in their sales team?
The answer is an ability to deliver on budget through efficient and effective sales practices. They should be seeking efficiency just like they do in every other part of their organisation. They should be looking for better results.
If I was to say to a CEO that their sales reps all approach every sales call uniquely, that they usually don't have a plan before they talk to a prospect or a customer, that they all do it " their own way" , should that concern a CEO? Of course.
But in my experience, this is the norm. Very few organisations have a structured sales model based upon "best practice", and those that do have a structure often tolerate a lot of flexibility as to whether or not it’s followed.
If you’re a CEO reading this, I challenge you to go and ask your sales manager to outline their sales model, and show you the various pieces to it (qualification templates, account plans, proposal templates, return on investment templates and the like), and then show that they are being consistently used by the sales team. If your sales manager is able to show you all this material and show its being used – pat him or her on the back, they are one of a few! And read no further! “All should be good” as they say.
If you are still reading….What happens when models and templates aren’t used? Inefficient (every appointment is different and usually unplanned) and ineffective (everyone does it their own way) sales activities.
Your organisations sales model
Every organisation should have their own model, where the various types of meetings or discussions are planned, based upon questions or content that has been proven (generally modelled upon how the "best reps" do it) to be the most effective way of moving to the next step in the sales cycle - to moving towards qualifying or closing a sale.
This becomes the "your company name here" sales way! Your way (the proven best way) to sell for new sales people, your way to sell for the middle 70% of the sale force that needs to improve. The “way” that's modelled to generate the best results, built upon the most efficient and effective ways to sell.
CEOs should insist that their sales managers have, and use, a sales model. Imagine if any other part of your business did things from scratch every time! Imagine a production line where every worker built a product their own way, or a marketing team that all went about their roles in their own way, or a purchasing team that sourced based upon their own personal criteria?
Why should sales be any different?