Sales strategy, do or die!

Why do I need a sales strategy?

If you don’t want to risk walking down an uncharted road, ending up in a dark unfriendly forest ultimately leading to the death of your company. A little dramatic maybe, but you get the point.

I read a good article by Stuart Harman. These are his words:

“Picking the “wrong” opportunities, overstretching resources, both organizational and financial, and taking your eye off existing business can all be damaging consequences of not having a systematic process for analyzing and selecting new business opportunities when they occur.

Periods of rapid growth can be just as confronting, and potentially damaging, to a business as an economic downturn. When multiple opportunities appear an executive team needs to give itself the best chance of “picking the winners” and maximizing its returns. In order to achieve this, there are some key considerations that executives need to be mindful of when analyzing opportunities.”

Stuart’s five steps to avoid this are:

  1. How does the opportunity fit with the organization’s strategy? Will it support the company’s chosen financial imperatives (growth, profit, cash, increased shareholder value or acquisition/divestment)?
  2. How does the opportunity leverage existing organizational capabilities and assets? The further an organization moves from its current sphere of business operations, the greater the risk to its success. If the opportunity requires a business to develop or bring in new skills, operate in a new geographic location, or trade in a new industry sector then the risks to success increase.
  3. What is the opportunity worth? What return will it bring and over what period? Are there also less tangible benefits associated with the opportunity such as positive publicity, marketing or strategic considerations?
  4. How much of the organization’s resource will winning and delivering the opportunity consume? Will it require key people’s time, bottleneck resources and/or cash? Is capital investment needed? Will it disrupt current operations? Will it cannibalize any of our existing business?
  5. What is the timing of the opportunity? Can it be secured next month, next quarter or next year?

From a sales strategy point of view you will cover the first 3 points.

Points 4 and 5 are more operational and come down to how good your internal communication is. Integrated systems make the communication more automated and give you the possibility of finding and compiling information from different parts of the company. This also requires that the sales process has a clear and structured approach to visualize what is happening in the pipeline, preferably in a CRM system.

A sales strategy will not resolve all your issues. For sure, but you will have the base to prevent you from wondering too far off the beaten path, you will be making quicker descisions  and you will save valuable resources. You can early in the opportunity ask “YES” and “NO” questions against your sales strategy and if the answer doesn’t fit, toss it!

Why is it so hard to set a clear sales strategy that is easy to understand and easy to follow? All, or at least most companies, have a strategy. Why not just write a sales strategy based on this?  It will not work, that’s why. You have to look the three preceding elements that formed the strategy: Vision, Goal and Objective.  Add the 7P* model to this and you’re rocking.

Once you have your sales strategy, devise a sales plan connected to the elements of the 7P model. From a Sales Management point of view, your areas of development are in People and Process, the other five elements are only areas where sales can give input and help devise plans for other parts of the company, you are not in control.  Your plan should contain the following:
State the current situation:
People, Process, Product, Price, Place, Packaging and Positioning
State the wished position:
People, Process, Product, Price, Place, Packaging and Positioning
State actions to get there:
People + Process + Tools & Systems
State the timeline:
What happens when?

Once you have got all this work done the real work begins, getting the people in the organization to adopt your strategy and plan. Repeat, repeat and repeat. Then follow up, give feedback and revise your plan as you go along.

Simple? No.

Necessary? YES!

*7P: People, Process, Product, Price, Place, Packaging and Positioning

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