How Do You Adapt From Sales to CEO? Five Perspectives

Situation:  A company’s CEO came from sales where she excelled in building relationships with important customers. As CEO she must adapt to new responsibilities. This seems to be working, but she misses her sales role as the face of the company to customers. She wonders whether this is normal. How do you adapt from sales to CEO?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • First, congratulations on your new role and responsibilities. It is clear that your Board saw your potential and has rewarded you with a new opportunity. You have a lot to feel good about.
  • Second, adapting to new roles is a necessary pain of personal growth. The company needs a different you now. Everyone in the room has gone through the same emotional trauma – and survived! You will, too, in your own way.
  • In your sales role self validation came from your ability to convert customers, satisfy their needs and solve their problems. As CEO, self validation must now come from managing, coaching and motivating others, not from doing the job yourself. Your new customers are internal as well as external. Many of the techniques that worked in sales can work in your new role. Look for potential wins and take pride in these just as you did in sales.
  • You are still the face of the company, but now in a bigger role. Enjoy this and leverage it for the benefit of the company. Take pride in team wins just as you did previously in personal wins.
  • You will never find someone just like you or who does the job the way that you would! Accept this, accept that others will add value different from your own, and that this has benefits. The more you can help others win the more success you will experience.

One thought on “How Do You Adapt From Sales to CEO? Five Perspectives

  1. Kevin R. Andersen, CPA, M.S.T. D.B.A. Doctoral Student

    My opinion is that this should not be an ADAPTATION from one position to another position, in the first place. It is not a shift from a sales management position to another sales management position, only with increased fiduciary responsibility. It is a transformational shift from a being a sales manager to becoming the CEO. Sales is only one part of a multi-strategical organization’s functions.

    If she misses her position in sales, the Board made a leviathan mistake in their choice of the new CEO. She may help increase revenues in the organization, but that doesn’t mean that there will be a correlative increase in net income. Building a bigger car does not mean that it is faster and more efficient.

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