Most leaders are skilled at thinking strategically and can formulate effective strategic plans for their team, region, district, or entire sales organization. Yet many direct reports struggle with formulating strategies – whether it be for their territory, a key/target account, or a single client. How can that be? If managers are more than capable of formulating strategies, why is it so difficult to coach our teams to do the same? At Carew, we believe the answer is simple: a lack of common language and collective discipline.
Strategy is often loosely defined within organizations. Conflicting messages from managers/leadership surrounding strategic thinking can lead to confusion, and individual contributors become very tactical as a result.
In the article, What Is Strategy, Again? the concept of strategy is boiled down into these three areas:
1. Doing something new
When was the last time your sales team tried something new to gain access to a decision-maker? When was the last time you had a sales rep take a chance to close a deal or gain a preferred position? There are many ways to contact our customers in today’s sales world. Does your team send the same email to every prospect? Do they follow the same process with every buyer?
Encourage your team to come up with new approaches. Instead of emailing a client, send them a video message. But instead of creating a standard video message, perhaps you can encourage your team to create engaging, bite-sized audio/visual content. Doing something new is usually uncomfortable for people. But unless your team knows they have their leader’s support to take chances, the status quo will reign supreme. Encourage creativity, but make sure your sales professionals are working in collaboration with you before implementation.
2. Building on what you already do
Can your team accurately convey your value proposition to customers? Are they armed with data that tells a story about how your product or service provides real ROI? Consider what you do well and look for ways to make those things even better or more attractive to your customer.
This goes for our individual team members as well. Is there a member of your team who is excellent at presenting a specific product or service and can help others with their presentation skills? Can you encourage your sales professionals to collaborate more effectively with your cross-functional teams to create a custom experience based on our customer’s needs? Are your most extroverted people attending networking events or industry conferences to meet new prospects? Your sales reps all have unique talents; they are all already bringing something different to the table. The key is to capitalize on that and build upon what the team is already doing.
3. Reacting opportunistically to emerging possibilities
With the constant transformation of business needs over the past few years, it is critical to continuously keep an ear to the ground on emerging business opportunities. Consider having your team present bi-weekly news to you or their team leader. These news reports should contain details on competitive information they have uncovered, new opportunities for product positioning, and relevant territory and key account information. Use these reports to keep executives clear about what’s happening at the ground level.
The sharing of information needs to happen the other way, too. Leaders need to quickly communicate emerging changes to product messaging, competitive efforts, and other potential upcoming information to the sales team. Arming your team with any competitive advantages, product positioning tips, or common gaps your customers are experiencing will help them formulate better strategies. And at a basic level, having these types of conversations with your team reinforces the importance of strategic, long-term thinking vs. tactical, incremental action.
The path towards thinking strategically can be divided into these three notions:
- Do something new.
- Build on what you already do.
- React opportunistically to emerging possibilities.
These strategy components can help your team understand and employ organizational strategy-setting an account or territory level.