In this final part of the series, we are going to cover the importance of removing barriers for successful execution and adapting the execution of your sales strategy to a changing business environment. In Part 1 and Part 2, we discuss insights and creating focus on next year’s sales strategy as well as cascading the strategy through the organization and connecting that strategy to compensation.
Sales people like a good challenge
If you were to stop and think about the qualities that make up your top performing sales people, one characteristic you might note is that top performing sales people like a good challenge. If they did not enjoy the challenge of sales, the thrill of pursuing and winning accounts, they probably would not be a top sales person. The same can be said about successful sales leaders. Leading a sales organization and achieving those ever increasing goals can be very challenging, and also extremely rewarding.
Thinking about the successful adoption and execution of your new sales strategy, there will undoubtedly be challenges or barriers to its success. Everything from the makeup of your sales team, to your company culture or even the nature of your customers can create potential barriers. As a sales leader, one of your integral roles is to help lead the sales organization beyond those barriers, no matter how difficult it may be.
Although it may seem obvious, one of the first things to do when approaching a barrier is to identify its root cause. If you are not addressing the real underlying issue, you are either wasting time or simply putting a Band-Aid over a larger issue. A few examples of common root causes could be your sales people aren’t uncomfortable when talking to customer executives or they might be too product focused in customer meetings. As often expressed in quality improvement initiatives, ask why at least three times to get to the root cause.
Barriers do not form overnight, nor can they be fixed overnight
As a leader it’s also important to understand that barriers typically do not form overnight, nor can they be fixed overnight. Barriers are challenges, but to great sales leaders they are opportunities to drive change. If you can fix the issue overnight then it was never a real challenge to begin with (or you are very lucky!). To successfully eliminate a real barrier, you have to chip away at it day by day with a focus on continuous improvement.
Think back to the two root cause examples I mentioned in the previous paragraph. How would you approach the situation? A simple answer would be to set a new sales expectation that every sales person must schedule 5 executive meetings a month and never talk about products until the 3rd customer meeting. Will this have the right effect by simply increasing the quantity of activity without focusing on the quality of activity? A better approach would be to ensure skills are honed through training & coaching with additional coaching after executive meetings to reinforce the desired behaviors. The challenge in eliminating barriers isn’t fixing everything wrong with your engagement approach, it’s knowing what you need to fix to be most successful.
Being aware of changes in the customer’s business environment is an important success factor
Sometimes though, your barriers are much bigger than your sales team’s fear of speaking to customer execs. For business, and sales in particular, being keenly aware of changes in the customer’s business environment is an important success factor. This awareness provides you with the opportunity to address new emerging needs in your customers’ business with innovative sales approaches. Being the first to market can provide a real advantage from a market perspective. But being the first with the “right solution” in a rapidly changing market can differentiate your sales team dramatically in their engagement with prospective customers.
One important strategy you will want to keep in mind when adapting strategy execution in a changing business environment is high, wide and deep relationships at multiple levels within the customer’s business. These relationships are required to understand the rapid changes within the customer’s organization. In a rapidly changing business environment, executive relationships alone are not adequate to ensure success. Another key strategy is being able to quickly demonstrate how your solution can bring value to the customer’s business and reduce risk.
Two things are true in today’s selling environment:
- Buyers are more risk adverse
- Buyers do not have a lot of time
If you can show (not tell) the customer how your solution is valuable in terms of meeting their wants and needs while reducing their personal risk, you will have an advantage no matter what the business environment. Change represents opportunity as it drives new customer wants and needs. This in turn creates the need to adapt the execution of your team’s sales strategies. Staying attune to the rapid rate of change and adapting appropriately will ensure you take advantage of those opportunities.
With a new year comes new inspiration, new challenges, new trends and often times in sales, a new sales strategy. The longer you wait to plan for the new year, the less time you have to truly plan and your planning turns into reacting. Preparing for next year’s new strategy today will go a long way in ensuring a successful launch next year!
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