September 10: The Missing Link

The Missing Link:
Does your sales organization effectively execute your strategy? Ideally, strategic goals set by executives funnel down to the sales team in clear and intentional ways. Sales should reinforce the strategic objectives by delivering the right product to the right customer.
In reality, the execution of the strategy by the sales organization is often an afterthought. This is a key topic in my forthcoming book with Fast Company Press, The Butterfly Effect: How Great Leaders Drive and Sustain Revenue Growth. Corporate strategies tend to focus on things like markets, products and services and capabilities, all of which are very important, but what’s often left out is the conduit to the market: the sales function. I call this disconnect the missing link. In my experience, sales and revenue challenges are much more a result of leadership decisions than sales performance.
Successful executives must make sure strategic objectives can be delivered through sales.
  1. Every sales call represents the execution of your strategy. The sales function is responsible for most interactions with customers, and customers are responsible for most, if not all, of your revenue. As such, sales is the most important part of a company’s execution of strategy in the marketplace. The corporate strategy should guide the work of the sales team, informing everything from the companies they call on, to the customers they target, to the issues they discuss to create demand, and to the insights they provide about a product.
  2. According to McKinsey and Company, when B2B buyers were asked what influences their decision to purchase a product, 25% cited the sales experience. And yet, many corporate strategies overlook the sales experience and jump straight to the customer experience. Customer experience is certainly important, but without a strong sales experience, there is no customer experience. Think about the sales experience as part of the overall strategy and ask yourself, how can we design and deliver it in a compelling way that moves others to action?
  3. Strategy is all about differentiation and advantage. To capitalize on strategy, the sales organization must understand the strategy, and they often don’t. A few years ago, I asked 70 CEOs on a scale of 1-10 how well they think their sales organization understands the strategy. Their answer? 5.4 out of 10. When I asked several hundred sales professionals the same question, the response was 2.9 out of 10. Neither of those numbers suggest the sales organization is positioned to drive and execute your strategy. To put them in the driver’s seat, translate the strategy so that it pragmatically guides your sales organization. Make clear your strategic objectives and articulate your power play – those one or two reasons that really set your organization apart from competitors.
  4. Lead the sales organization as if it is the “strategy execution engine”, because it is. How? Manage the early stage of a pipeline as much as the closing stage. Help your team create a compelling sales experience through thoughtful design. Ensure sellers are surfacing issues and circumstances that are relevant and important to a buyer, rather than pitching. Create an experience that allows a customer to refine their vision and understanding of the outcomes they are trying to achieve. This approach will enable your sales organization to sell the customer the product that they need and that you have invested millions in developing. Remember, the success of strategy depends on the effectiveness of your sales organization!

To dig deeper into the missing link, watch the replay of my live cast here.  Next week on Tuesday, September 15th I will be hosting a live cast on communicating like a senior leader. I hope you can join, and I encourage you to bring some hard-hitting questions.

Clear & Concise:
Over the years I continue to see similar patterns among executives. They deliver a message to their team and believe everyone understands it. Here’s the thing, many walk away from a meeting or call either partially unclear or completely confused. If you want people to understand and absorb what you are saying, make it easy. Leaders need to be specific while also being succinct in communication.
Brevity is important as people can only digest a small amount of information at once. Be concise and establish a direction, then define the work to be done. Being able to effectively convey your strategy, resolve complex issues, and execute plans relies on your ability to be both succinct and clear.
When a message lacks precision and is surrounded by too much detail it can cause teams to scratch their heads and be confused. The onus is on you as a leader every time you engage, whether that is in person, videoconference, on the phone, or by email, to be “on message.” Ask yourself what message do I want this person or group to take away from my communication? You may find it helpful to take a couple minutes before meetings and calls to think about the focus of your communication and how much detail is required to get your point across. And remember:
  1. Be succinct – clear and brief
  2. Establish a direction
  3. Define the work to be done
Taking the time to prepare will aide in eliminating confusion. That’s a keystone habit of the best leaders.
Current Read:
The Smartphone may be destroying an entire generation. But it may not be the generation you think. It seems that adults, especially those with children at home may struggle the most. Of course, technology has its advantages and drawbacks – this article provides some depth and insight as to what the real problems are and what we can do about it. What was most interesting to me was the research on parenting with a competing activity that was conducted before smartphones were invented. This article made me look in the mirror at my own smartphone use at home – an area I’ve become more and more aware of in recent months.

Edinger Consulting