The clearest message that can be sent along with this book is that there is no such thing as one strategy that wins. Every organization we talked to was in the midst of undertaking several strategic initiatives to help them combat the challenges in their environment. You cannot focus on a consultative selling approach without reskilling the sales force. It would be very unlikely that you would attempt to add more channels to your sales organization without reconsidering the way you segment your sales force. And you certainly wouldn’t want to restructure (e.g., into home-based offices) without considering the impact on culture. So, although we talked about each of the seven strategies in this book within its own chapter, clearly they are not distinct.
As you consider what strategies you will undertake in your own organization:
Look at the callout boxes for ideas on best practices from some of the world’s leading sales organizations, and ask yourself how recently you have focused on each of these areas. Are you proactively building a culture, or is it being created by default?
Start with the big picture. Can you honestly say that everyone in your sales organization understands the sales strategy? Is there agreement on who you are? What you sell? Who you sell to? The value you bring? The kinds of relationships you want to create with those customers? The process for creating those relationships?
Remember to take a holistic approach to any organizational change. Include compensation systems, performance management systems, and recruitment, selection, assessment, and training systems in your planning processes. Too often, these are misaligned with the result being sought, and when they are, tremendous amounts of resources get wasted.
Be conscious of mindshare. Although, clearly these strategies will be implemented in tandem, the organizations in our study were careful to direct their focus on one or two key messages to the field. You cannot do everything at once. If you have to start somewhere, consider sales management. It is probably the hardest nut to crack, but it can yield the biggest rewards.
Finally, one thing that was clear in all of these organizations was the need for long-term commitment. You can’t reskill a sales force over night, and establishing a culture might take years. This may seem to be common sense, but it is much more difficult than it sounds. After all, sales organizations are, more often than not, constrained by short-term tactics aimed at making short-term numbers.
Succeeding at these strategies is by no means a sure thing. It takes the insight, confidence, and commitment to make a big bet on an uncertain future. But for many, it’s long past time to shake things up a bit—isn’t it?