In this part of our series on 6 Key Elements to Effective Sales Transformation, we focus on sales force strategy. Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of CEO’s, CMO’s, Business Unit Leaders, Chief Sales Officers, Strategy Leaders and other executives. One of my favorite questions to ask them is: What is your sales force strategy? The reason that I love this question so much is that how a person answers it reveals a tremendous amount about the lens through which they view their business and the world.
What is the Sales Force Strategy?
One of my other favorite things to do is ask an executive what their strategy is, and then ask several others in the organization what their view of the strategy is. It is remarkable how inconsistent all of their answers are. This anecdotal evidence is also supported by research done by Kaplan & Norton in their book: The Strategy Focused Organization. Their research revealed that:
- 5% of the typical workforce understands the organization’s strategy
- 10% of organizations execute strategies successfully
- 14% of executives spend one hour or more per month on strategy
- 40% of executives are effective at linking strategies to budgets
- Only 63% of the potential value from executing a strategy is realized
Where are Organizations Falling Short?
Ultimately, we see sales strategies for customer facing organizations fall short because of deficiencies in the following areas:
- Ambition: Where do we want to take the organization? We frequently see a lack of alignment around this question or answers that are either too vague or too conflicting to be effective.
- Situation: Where is the organization today? While this question can be very concretely answered in terms of results, the challenge often lies in gaining agreement as to what lead to the results. Without an understanding of both the effect as well as the cause, it is hard to make future decisions in an informed way.
- Formulation: What are our opportunities to achieve our ambition and how do we align resources with these opportunities? When strategies do not achieve their desired results, the first answer is always that it was a poor strategy. More often than not, we see that organizations fail to properly align resources with opportunities as they formulate their strategy.
- Communication: How will we explain the strategy and its relevance to all key stakeholders? When was the last time you attended a strategy presentation that you found engaging and each of your peers would say they took away the same things as you did? If there is debate about what the big strategy presentation meant, it means it wasn’t clear enough.
- Execution: How do we prioritize actions and drive repeatable activities? We frequently see that the activities and practices of an organization are chronically misaligned with the organizational strategy.
- Results: What are the leading and lagging measures that tell us we are doing the right things? Often times, the Result and the Ambition are the same thing: grow by this %, become #1 in this category, win X number of new customers, increase retention by Y%. However, we see best in class organizations tracking not only the result they want to achieve, but specific leading indicators like activities, milestones and smaller achievements that let them know they are on the right path.
What is Critical for Success?
Having a 360 degree view of these areas, a clear communication approach and a mechanism for effectively tracking and measuring results are critical for ensuring that your organization will not fall victim to the statistics listed above. As one of our customers recently said “We don’t want our organization to be in the 95% that don’t understand their strategy!” Implementing the best practices and evidence based approaches that our organization deploys with clients will prevent your organization from becoming another statistic.
To read more from the Effective Sales Transformation series:
- Element 1: Sales Force Effectiveness
- Element 2: Sales Enablement
- Element 4: Sales and Marketing Alignment
- Element 5: Sales Talent Management
- Element 6: Sales Operations