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Do You Have the Right People to Execute Your New Sales Strategy?

sales strategy levers

richardsonsalestraining21 September 2012Blog

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After attending the recent Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, it was clear to me that there is no shortage of ideas and technologies for developing revolutionary sales strategies.

Yet executing your sales strategy will be nearly impossible if there’s a big disconnect between the people you need to execute and the people you have today. Remember, you have to sustain performance today while you transform for tomorrow. You can only disrupt your organisation so much in the process.

We’re into week 3 of a new NFL season, so it’s time to use some football analogies. The goal (pun intended) in football is to win games. But each team’s coaches’ and coordinators’ strategies for how those games are won differ from team to team. For example, consider these two offencive strategies:

  • Passing game: If your quarterback relies more on his ability to make passes than running the ball himself, then you need a strong offencive line that can protect him while he finds an open receiver. Without that strong “O” line, your strategy will fail.
  • Running game: If it’s your strategy to gain yards by frequently running the football, then you need strong running backs who can bear down, protect the football and use their powerful legs and frames to burst through defenders. The typical body type of a good running back is stocky, which gives them power and balance down low as well as making them a harder target to tackle.  Taller and leaner body types are better suited as wide receivers.
In business (specifically within sales organisations), the ultimate goal is to grow profitability. But just as in football, there are different strategies to follow that will (hopefully) enable you to stack up the wins. There are many variables that impact the end result, including your industry, product or service demand, competitors, buyers, suppliers, economy, time of year and perhaps even the weather. But the one variable that you can control the most is your people.

Good strategies require a capable talent pool with strong managers to lead and guide them to execute the strategy.

Monday morning quarterbacks are a dime a dozen. I love listening to sports talk radio stations to revel in the wins, get the experts’ opinions of what went wrong, and marvel at my fellow listeners who call in to complain about the players who botched opportunities and the guys on the sidelines or in the owner’s box who are responsible for fielding the best team and coaching them to win. Did the coach make the wrong call, or was it the players who couldn’t execute?

Knowing which strategy to pursue requires a keen understanding of your talent. Who are your stars, and what makes them shine? Do you have a high-performing workforce, or is it more accurately described as mediocre? If you adopt a new strategy, how much can you realistically get your people to stretch to reach new goals — which likely requires doing more than they already are or perhaps something new and different?

One of our clients came to us about two years ago with a new vision for their business, but he was concerned about the capability of his current sales force to transform to support this new sales strategy. To help him answer his question, we put his sales team through a behavioural assessment process. The results gave him an objective view of the behavioural DNA of his sales team and helped him better realise how and how much his team would have to transform to execute his strategy. Upon further reflection of where his team was today and where it needed to get to in the future, he adjusted his strategy so that it was more achievable given the talent he had today.

We took a bit of an unconventional approach to assessment with this client. Often, a new strategy drives redesigning business processes, then redesigning jobs to execute the processes, then defining the competencies to succeed in the job, then assessing your incumbents to determine how well they fit these new jobs and then making difficult personnel decisions. But this is where strategy execution gets stuck because it isn’t practical or advisable to fire everyone and then force them to reapply for these new jobs. By being realistic and pragmatic about how much and how fast he could transform his strategy and his team, he greatly improved his ability to execute successfully. And he was very successful.

The more you know about your workforce’s capabilities and competencies, the more accurately you can pursue a realistic strategy for your company and understand the effort you will require to transform your business. Setting a strategy without regard for your talent (or lack of) is shortsighted and destined to fail.

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