Let’s face it, if your company’s sales vision and strategy are not clear among the senior leadership team members, will they be any clearer to the folks in the field? And even when your sales vision and strategy are clear up top, if they are not embraced by everyone in leadership and well communicated, things can still be very foggy in the field. And we all know what happens when you drive in the fog… you slow WAY DOWN, and you often make wrong turns.
Vision, Strategy, Execution. If you’ve been in a leadership role for some time you’ve more than likely learned this phrase. Success starts with a clear vision followed by a sound strategy and achieved with good execution. How clear is your vision for the sales force? How sound is your strategy? If you’re the sales leader of your enterprise, you should have a fair amount of control over the vision and the strategy. It may not be 100% yours, but it should have your fingerprints all over it. How good is your sales force at executing? That is where the rubber meets the road. Sales leaders spend the vast majority of their time, as they should, on execution. But, good execution starts with a clear vision and sound strategy.
Your vision is worth repeating. Research indicates your vision should be repeated every 29 days in order to stick. Furthermore, most people need to hear the vision 3 or 4 times before they “get it.” When was the last time you communicated your sales vision? Was it last year’s kick-off meeting? To the leader, once a year or once a quarter might seem adequate. Any more than that and you fear you might be viewed as a broken record, not able to come up with something “new” or “different” to say. Yet when it comes to vision, repetition is key.
Marching orders or big picture? How important is it that the reps in the field understand the company vision and strategy? After all, if we provide the right “marching orders,” sales process, messaging and tools, etc., can’t we create the selling machine we’re after? Some leaders might say they don’t want their reps worrying or wasting time thinking about strategy, desiring them to simply execute in a “march this way” fashion. And this approach often works. But we’ve noticed that it works best in the shorter term and for more transactional selling. If you view your sales force as part of your company’s value chain – in other words, your sales reps can and do act in a consultative fashion – then simply providing marching orders may backfire. Most sales people and in particular, most top performers desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They are effective sellers because they believe in the product and the company that delivers it. Their clear understanding of the company vision and strategy leads to greater buy-in, lower turnover and better selling.
Align the field with the strategy. One effective way to test for alignment in the field is shockingly simple: just ask. In working with many clients over the years, we’ve found that conducting interviews and/or a survey of the field can be extremely helpful and enlightening. Below is an example output from such a study. This example shows the room to improve the clarity of the vision and strategy, as seen by the scores to questions #1 and #2 when compared to the standard of excellence (4.5 out of 5). But notice the even larger gap between the standard of excellence and the field’s perception to questions #4 and #5. Whether the strategy is clear or not, there is a significant perception gap regarding how well the job roles and sales compensation programs support the strategy. Even when the vision and strategy are clear, the current roles and sales compensation plans may not be supporting it. These programs and other supporting programs and tools are critical to successful execution.Field surveys are generally unpopular and cumbersome. But if they are done correctly and conducted with the right frequency (no more than one per quarter) they can prove very enlightening. This information, combined with interviews among top performers, informs the leadership team on where time and attention is needed. And benchmarking perceptions and performance periodically over time (say once or twice a year) will indicate if and how your leadership is making the impact desired. While it’s true that even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, do you want your sales reps working in the dark? Clear away the fog, so you can get your sales reps driving at full speed.
To learn more about how you can design and align your sales vision and strategy please visit Alexander Group’s Revenue Growth Strategy practice.
Original author: Paul Vinogradov