Does Your Sales Team Help Implement Your Strategy?

Guiding The Sales Process

All too often, the reason a company’s strategy fails is its salespeople focus solely on quotas, targets and bonus levels, ignoring the company’s overarching strategy. If you want your strategy to be implemented by your sales team, you should make sure three things are happening:

  1. Your salespeople are targeting the right people. It’s common for sales teams to chase easy deals, disregarding the ideal client profile. Make sure your sales team is focusing on the organizations/segments you wish to market to, and be assertive about your expectations.
  2. If your strategy changes, your salespeople’s does too. Sales professionals need to break away from old approaches and determine how best to adjust their marketing techniques to the new company strategy.
  3. Your sales team is focusing on client needs. Instead of old-school pitching, sellers need to have deeper conversations with clients about their objectives and provide insight on how the company can help.

Remember, every hour spent developing an opportunity that’s outside your sweet spot is a non-strategic use of time, energy, and resources.

Continue to Scott Edinger’s HBR article…


Dismantling the Sales Machine

Sales leaders have long fixated on process discipline, monitoring reps’ conformance to “optimal” behaviors and their performance of specified activities. Recently, however, this sales machine has stalled. The approaches that once led to predictable progress in a sale do not work with today’s customers, who are empowered with more information than ever before.

The New World of SalesThe new environment favors creative and adaptable sellers who challenge customers with disruptive insights into their housing needs—and offer unexpected solutions. Such “insight selling” gives associates latitude to discover what the customer has already concluded about its needs and the available solutions, determine who the decision makers are, look for signals that the customer is receptive to a new insight about their home, and then figure out how best to proceed.

Most organizations, despite faltering sales performance, still have a climate that emphasizes compliance rather than judgment.

To create a judgment-oriented sales climate, managers must serve as connectors within and beyond their teams, providing a continual flow of information that supports sales professionals as they exercise their judgment on individual transactions. These managers must also focus on the long term, monitoring customers’ behaviors and directing associate’s creativity and critical thinking to the most-promising opportunities. And they need to hire champions—not necessarily those with sales backgrounds—who can thrive in the new climate.

Please read entire HBR article here

Competitive Strategy from “The Princess Bride”

Celebrating 25 years, one of my all time favorite movies, “The Princess Bride”, teaches that in business, the best way to stay ahead of your competitors is to win the battle before it begins.


The strategy from the Art of War that is exemplified is “Winning the Battle Before It Is Fought. Westley creatively illustrates this by having beforehand made himself invulnerable to the iocane poison through constant exposure. He then sets the terms of the contest to include it. Therefore it matters not which cup he drinks from, as either way he will win the battle.

In the business world, one sees companies that have applied this principle to win battles in their competitive space and capture market share. It relies on looking at the contest and re-setting its terms.

For example, Cirque du Soleil won its battle by avoiding competing with traditional circuses in the same old way. Instead, they changed the terms of the contest by eliminating animals, moving from a three ring circus down to one to focus the audience, replacing slapstick with artistry, and building the entire performance around a theme (much like the theater). In the process they created an entirely new experience that no one has replicated–and enjoy healthy growth and profits as a result.

Google won its battle to become the search engine of choice by moving away from the over-busy portal approach competitors provided to offer a simple and elegant design that focused on search. Since then it has expanded its empire by buying companies in the same space such as YouTube and DoubleClick. As a result, in June 2012 it reached its highest share ever (67%) in the search market and its market cap may soon pass that of Microsoft.

The best at setting the terms of the contest, and thus winning the battle before it is fought, has to be Apple. A string of victories (iTunes and the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad) have resulted because Apple’s business model offered beautifully designed products that provided content, capabilities, and ease-of-use never before experienced. Apple’s market cap is now greater than that of Internet competitors Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon combined, or, looked at another way, all the listed companies in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Greece.

To be successful at this approach requires seeing possibilities in the market no one else does. To do so means you must understand what customers desire (sometimes even before they do), competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, and the capabilities you will need to win. Of course, this takes time, strategy and a lot of effort…much like developing resistance to iocane powder. But the results, as we’ve seen, can pay off handsomely.

Mark McNeilly is an adjunct professor of marketing at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and the author of Sun Tzu and the Art of Business: Six Strategic Principles for Managers.