Strategy creates a common understanding of what an organization wants to achieve and what it needs to do to meet its goals. It defines the long-term direction of the enterprise and articulates what the enterprise will do to compete and succeed in its chosen markets or, for the public sector, what the agency will do to achieve its mission. For sales specifically, the distraction that constant change creates poses two challenges for chief sales officers (CSOs) with regard to sales strategy:
Keeping the sales team focused on hitting goals
Responding faster to threats and opportunities with proper forecasting and scenario planning
Change is no doubt challenging, but sales leaders can use it to their advantage. With a strategy designed for flexibility, today’s change-heavy environment can present a number of opportunities for growth.
According to Gartner research, executives spend an average of 25% of their time on planning. However, 56% of those executives see their current planning process as a waste of time, and only 31% feel their strategies position them to hit long-term goals. There are common pitfalls to success:
Overlooked sales function maturity gaps (see the Capabilities tab)
Failure to develop clear and actionable goals
Failure to effectively communicate the plan internally
Clear and actionable goals
Sales leaders must develop high-quality goals. Many times, however, effective goals are absent from strategies. This occurs when organizations fail to create clear outcome-oriented goals that are challenging but also realistic. Goals that are too broad, poorly defined or appear to be in conflict with the organization’s values are an all-too-common cause of strategic failure.
Ensure a goal-development process that incorporates external trends, an assessment of the function and broader organizational priorities. These three inputs may not always be actionable on their own, but they can yield high-quality goals aligned with both business realities and higher-level priorities.
Another critical component to a sales strategy are the KPIs that measure your progress toward your goals, budget resources, collaborate with other functions and ultimately drive change. When measured and communicated correctly, strategic KPIs provide actionable business insights and organizational intelligence.
However, organizations are awash in data and can easily lose sight of the right questions to ask and the best ways to act on the answers. By simply “reporting the news” — providing descriptive data that quantifies past events — sales fails in its mandate to provide the actionable intelligence that the organization requires. This is amplified by the need to react quickly in a volatile economic landscape. According to Gartner research, 40% of CSOs identify accurate and actionable forecasting as a top 3 internal challenge.