Building a robust sales strategy is the pillar of successful sales results but many don’t make the mark. Learn how to shift sales strategy from a chance to making the real changes necessary.
Companies banter the words of sales strategy and it can vary in content from a PowerPoint presentation at the annual conference through to a fully validated plan that demonstrates how to deliver the sales goals, the right customer mix, and support longer-term growth.
The test for any sales strategy’s effectiveness is how well it is understood internally by the organisation and not just focus on the end result of the impact it has on the company’s market position and profitability. If your company is not delivering your sales strategy, it may not necessarily be because you have a poor strategy. In most cases it is how the strategy is being communicated within the company is the problem. Poor market performance is often the after-effect of poor internal communication.
When the sales strategy is announced at the annual conference or through a day’s training, the problem is if you were to ask people just a month later, very few in the company can remember the strategy outside of a concept. Even fewer understand what it means to them individually to contribute to delivering the strategy. People quickly revert to the functions they were doing previously and just follow the natural momentum of the business.
People grasp concepts readily and can seem as though they understand sales strategy requirements. For many salespeople, they do not want to be seen to be the person that does not ‘get’ the strategy and are reluctant to ask questions in fear of looking inadequate to their peers. They create their own interpretation of the strategy of the elements they did understand.
To create a robust sales strategy that will be executed, you first need to understand what poor strategy practices would be and what you should be aiming for.
Here are some things strategy development is not and what steps you can take to shift them to be robust sales strategy components.
Vision. Casting a vision to an organisation is a significant element of leadership, but the vision is not a strategy. Announcing lofty ideals — “to be the preferred supplier in our chosen market” — sounds great but without a clear description of how to be the preferred supplier and a series of objectives to measure progress, you lack strategy. Developing a vision can be very useful in the process of creating a strategy. But developing a robust sales strategy taking the vision and coupling it with a solid analysis of where the organisation currently is, and how it could most effectively move from its current position to the envisioned one.
Planning. Today most organisations cite the need for “strategic planning” and then proceed to set a list of objectives for the coming fiscal year with an attached budget for each department based on the objectives. Often the strategic planning process relative to sales seemed to simply add objectives of 5% more revenue than last year, with a 2% increase in budgets. A robust sales strategy is defining the top-line revenue and gross margins, customer mix, account size mix, geographical areas, product mix – all being a set of deliberate choices that, taken together, create a plan that can be measured and adjusted if required. A plan that sets in place the right customers to support the companies growth in the years ahead.
Mapping. Noting down a few key points that should happen to assist in delivering the strategy will just not cut it. To write down ‘100 new customers by March’ is not a map; it’s idealism. A robust sales strategy contains the bridge between where you are currently operating and where you envisioned you want to be. It sets out a detailed understanding of what is required to be actioned. You cannot follow a map if there are not sufficient directions noted down. You also need to consider ‘what can the company actually be relied upon to action?’ ‘What is within the company’s grasp to action to make the vision a reality?’
Resources. To nominate ‘George’ to take the lead is not managing resources. For most new strategies there is a need for a change in resources. A robust sales strategy will use the mapping process to define the journey that needs to be taken, the resources are defined through knowledge of that journey. It may well be you need to hire new personnel, undertake expensive marketing campaigns, or change the mix of people within the company and their functions. If you have thought through the mapping, then you must think through the resources.
Marketing. When you first begin to understand elements of strategy like market position, it can become too easy to combine strategy and marketing. If the strategy is merely deciding where a product or service will be positioned in the market and then communicating that position to customers, isn’t that just marketing? A robust sales strategy will include a breakdown of new customer acquisition for lead generation requirements, marketing automation requirements to support the sales effort, and details of marketing tools required to support the sales team.
Measurement. Without measures set out for the strategy, then there is no way of ensuring the strategy will be delivered. What is not measured is not managed. A robust sales strategy establishes measurements that keep people focused on the right drivers. They are non-negotiable actionable points that give clarity of performance.
A robust sales strategy is as much about where you are heading as it is the execution plan to validate the journey should be embarked on.
If you’re involved in developing a sales strategy for your organisation, take a hard look at what you’re producing and make sure you’re not calling your strategy something it isn’t.
Sales Focus Advisory specialises in the review and development of sales organisations. Contact us today to discuss your specific business goals.
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