Strategy without execution is hallucination, to paraphrase a quote sometimes attributed to Thomas Edison. And that’s especially true in the case of your sales strategy.
Every sales organization needs a high-level sales strategy to ensure sales effectiveness. But in order to meet your short-term and long-term objectives, those high-level goals also need to be effectively communicated, executed and measured.
Here are four steps to optimizing your sales strategy and using it to drive sales effectiveness:
1) One version of the truth: For the sales organization, strategy is all about capturing demand. In an ideal situation, your marketing organization is working to create the demand, the sales organization is effectively capturing the demand and your operations organization is fulfilling the demand.
There is an old example where a sensei gives his students one wooden chopstick and asks his students to break it with their hands. Easy. Then he gives a student a large group of chopsticks bundled together and asks the student to break the bundle. Of course, the student cannot. The message is strength comes from working together. To create a strong sales strategy, it’s essentially like that bundle of chopsticks. The sales leaders need to create a clear strategy and align all the relevant functional areas to a common understanding of the sales objectives. Then, get them to work together toward that one version of the strategic truth.
2) Cement that truth: Communicating the strategy is key to success, but it is often a challenge to get a common understanding internalized across the organization. It requires much more than simply sending out an email to everyone. Instead, the leader may need to present the strategy multiple times at different levels across the organization. Recent and frequent communication is essential. When done correctly, this strategic communication helps cement the one version of the truth deep and wide across the company.
Who has time to invest in this activity? Opportunity costs are always difficult to calculate, but consider how much time is being invested today in working around not having everyone with a common understanding of which hill to take. Ineffective project outcomes and countless hours in meetings to resolve issues created from well-intentioned but misguided help are just a couple of the examples on that long list.
3) Squirrel! Don’t be distracted: Growing your revenue, maximizing margins and focusing on customers are the basics of effectively executing any sales strategy. The hardest part of the execution stage is being able to remain focused on the goals. Distractions come from all sides. Getting steps 1 and 2 in place will help reduce distractions and also provide a framework for evaluating help. If the intended help does not directly impact an important part of the strategy, then flush it. Enlisting sales operations’ participation to filter ideas and well-intentioned help can be useful with enabling the sales team to remain focused while also supporting the sales ops team as an innovation incubator (more on this topic in a later discussion). As we know, at the end of the day, you won’t look good with bad numbers. Don’t be distracted.
4) Ruthlessly measure results and adapt: Once you have one version of the sales strategic truth well cemented across the organization and are laser-focused on the price, it’s time to scrutinize and measure the results. Identify a few key metrics that you can actually impact by making different decisions. Monitor performance and use the data, not opinions, to make decisions. There are common questions such as which metrics, how often should they be measured, what’s the time horizon for “impact by making different decisions”? Is it 30 days to impact, six months, one year? All good questions. Start with the data. Get good insights into customer and product performance and grow from there.
When your sales organization successfully aligns the company on a strategy for achieving your business objectives, it improves your sales effectiveness and productivity. Repeating this cycle of improvement over time creates a strong sales ecosystem, allowing you to grow revenue, maximize margin and focus on customers.