Your Wind-Up Toy.

I'm devoting today's Drift to reforming a dysfunctional relationship that plagues a great many companies and sales teams. I'm speaking of the dynamic between your sales team, your customers and your wind-up CEO and senior execs.

Here's how it currently goes. Through no fault of his/her own, your CEO (and frequently your CMO, CRO and other key execs) is used to delivering a monologue of data and insights on your company; months or years of investor pitches, board meetings and conference keynotes will do that to you. The CEO tells the sales team to bring him on calls -- he's more than happy to help and 'just loves to spend time with customers!' - but once in front of clients he becomes a wind-up toy, a virtual lawn sprinkler of company facts, figures, updates and catch phrases. And once the call ends and everyone flies home, the worst thing happens: nothing.

Because the CEO so often ends up delivering the digital executive's version of the campaign stump speech, he neither truly hears the client nor helps advance the sales goal. But it doesn't have to be this way. Let's rewind, see where things went wrong, and how they can get better.

You Were Too Deferential: Sales people are either too afraid of the CEO or just too darned grateful for his presence to dare offering any guidance on what should or shouldn't happen on the call. But this deference serves no one. Most CEOs are pretty self-aware and actually want to do what helps. They go into default 'sprinkler' mode because nobody gives them an alternative.

There Was No Plan at All: Too often, it's even worse. There's no strategy or rationale for the meeting other than "let's bring in the CEO and make them feel important." At very least the CEO should get a full briefing on who he's meeting with, what you are asking them to buy, what issues need to be addressed, and what kind of political agendas are in play. Even better, lay out the roles that the rep and CEO need to play on the call.

The Levels Didn't Match: If your sales people are bringing the CEO in to see the media supervisor and planner, you've got a problem and you need to do some level-setting. Your CEO will wonder why you're wasting her time, and the account will think your company is pretty desperate if the CEO is out on the hustings fighting for your spot on the media plan. Big accounts, big decision makers and strategic deals. Period.

Sure, your CEO may be used to being "the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral" but when she's in the field in front of advertisers, she works for sales. And if you choose not to manage that resource effectively, you'll get what you deserve.