Is it OK for the Sales Team to Set your Strategy?

Of course it’s not OK, and most CEOs would bristle at the thought. Sales professionals, talented as they may be, don’t have the perspective to formulate and implement the company strategy, and likely have no experience doing so.

But it happens every day, because your strategy materializes when representatives from your company interact with potential or existing clients. Regardless of your preferred model, strategy provides a framework for making decisions, many of which are about whom you are selling to, and why they will buy the advantages and value you uniquely provide.

When you look closely, sales professionals are making more decisions than just about anyone else when it comes to what prospects and customers they will be meeting with, what products or services they will highlight in their conversations, and even what elements of your value proposition they will emphasize. Your strategy is only as good as your sales team’s execution of it.

If you are okay with that, read no further. If this concerns you, there are two things you can do about it immediately.

“There is no substitute for providing leadership that helps sales professionals see how their everyday actions determine the success of your strategy.

1. Get involved in where your sales team invests their selling time and resources. Think about your target market or ideal client for your strategy, and then look at your current client list. Whatever business you have outside that ideal client profile is an investment in organizational time and energy (not to mention sales costs) that is not in line with your strategy. You spent a lot of time formulating a strategy with target markets and customers most likely to pay for your products and services, so don’t allow it to become a binder on a shelf.

I’m all for low hanging fruit and being opportunistic (e.g. it comes to you easily), to fill in some revenue gaps if needed. But if you have a lot of this kind of business, that’s the definition of non-strategic.

2. Understand how your sales team creates value for customers and how you can help them improve it. This is value that goes beyond telling prospects about your value proposition. Instead of communicating your advantage they need to be that advantage. I’m still astonished by the amount of lip service given to the idea of consultative selling, which is old hat by now, and yet rarely occurs. Training isn’t the answer, though it masquerades as a silver bullet. There is no substitute for providing leadership that helps sales professionals see how their everyday actions determine the success of your strategy.

At the end of the day, the way your prospects and many of your clients experience your strategy is through the interaction with your sales force. Make sure it’s the strategy you intended.

You might also like:

Why CEOs Shouldn’t Discard Their Sales Incentives
4 Ways CEOs Can Proactively Increase Company Sales
How CEOs Can Improve the Value of Sales and Marketing Efforts (Without Getting Involved)
4 Tips for Building a Sales-Focused Company


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