So what are the common derailers that get in the way of executing new sales strategies? We’ve outlined the five most common ones as well as what you can do to avoid them.
1. Disengaged leadership
Get your leadership team onboard with the new strategy before you unveil it to your entire organization. Ask the tough questions and resolve reasonable concerns before announcing it to the masses.
Changes of this magnitude are not likely arrived at by consensus or democratic vote. Some leaders will love it, some might hate it, and many will likely be apathetic. But it’s your job to motivate your leaders to embrace the new strategy and changes to be carried out by the staff.
Leaders set examples for their followers. If the leaders can’t get behind the initiative, then there’s little hope that it will be executed by the reps. Conversely, if they help to share the executives’ vision of life beyond implementing the new strategy and the benefits gained from it, then adoption will come more easily.
Remember, too, that positive motivation and reinforcement are more likely to be accepted than negative incentives.
2. An “event mentality”
Think about all of those “press conference” media spectacles held by Steve Jobs and more recently by Tim Cook to announce the latest Apple gadget to take the technology sector by storm. Do you think some lower-level PR guy came up with the pitch all by himself the night before the CEO hit the stage? Of course not. The launch of a new Apple product takes much more than this single event (impressive as it is). Months of careful planning preceded the product launch followed by a methodical rollout to local Apple stores and other retailers and sellers.
Don’t be naive in thinking that a simple internal e-mail will suffice to present your new strategy within the company. Nor is a town hall meeting or webinar enough. Yes, these are components of a communications plan that should include prelaunch, launch, and post-launch messages to inform and engage your reps and employees. A thoughtful launch includes a timeline with milestones and communications activities to support each one.
3. Lack of coaching
Assuming that managers know what to do and what is expected of them contributes to derailing the implementation of a sales strategy. Managers are employees, too, who are used to doing things a certain way, including how they talk to their reps and what they emphasize (and ignore) in their reps’ behavior and performance. Some may naturally “get it,” but some might not. Taking that chance is leaving a critical component in your process — your managers — in the dark and unsupported.
And think of the process: You shouldn’t announce the new strategy to all employees, expect new behaviors from reps and employees, and then go back and train and coach managers on how to work with their employees. Rather, follow a top-down approach to announcing and preparing your leaders, managers, and employees to execute the plan. Doing so out of order will tempt confusion and disenfranchisement, leading to a lack of faith in and commitment to the new strategy.
4. No or wrong metrics.
You are embarking on implementing a new strategy because you want to enact positive change in your business. Before you get to where you’re going, you need to know where you are (and have been). Otherwise, how will you know if you’ve moved the needle?
Identify what you need to monitor and measure in the new way of doing business that will help you achieve your goals. This might entail measuring different data or changing expectations for those measurements. For example, perhaps you are transitioning from a generalist sales force organized by region to a more focused approach based on industry. Or, perhaps you’ve segmented your hunters and farmers to improve win rates and strategic account growth. These changes require you to establish the right metrics and the right goals to drive the expected behavior.
If you make such a change, be sure to communicate that to your reps and ensure that they understand what has changed and why. If you’re measuring something new, start with a baseline set of data now and then track it over time (by week, month, quarter, year).
What’s most important here is to measure those things that are most essential to executing your strategy and not be distracted by the old way of doing things, which might no longer be relevant.
5. Misaligned talent
Even the best strategies cannot be successful if the talent to carry it out is not in place. Anything can be made to look good on paper, but it takes the right people in the right roles to do the work in the most efficient and productive manner possible.
Does the new initiative require new jobs or roles to carry out the mission? Does the workflow still make sense, and if not, how should the jobs within that process change? Are the skill sets and competencies the same or different? Is new training required? If jobs shift from one group to another, do the managers have a reasonable span of control? Has the career paths for affected jobs changed? If you ask too much of your employees, they’ll become frustrated, anxious, overworked, and lose their ability to be effective. Ask too little of them and they’ll become bored and distracted and will either languish or seek a better challenge elsewhere.
The trick is to get the best people in roles that are doable with a reasonable amount of room for growth and development. Of course, these roles should be aligned with the most efficient process for executing your strategy.