December 22, 2016

Expert Insights: Getting Your Salespeople to Execute Your Strategy

The other day I read this great article, “How to Get Your Salespeople to Execute Your Strategy” in the Harvard Business Review by Scott Edinger, and had a chance to briefly talk with him about it. He did a great job framing the realities that many sales organizations face, and his article provided prescriptive measures to improve the alignment between strategy and execution.

Scott runs Edinger Consulting Group, a consulting firm that helps organizations achieve measurable business results helping transform some of the most successful companies around the world. As a consultant and the expert on leadership for revenue growth, he’s certainly seen how important alignment of sales strategy and execution is to achieve the growth to which most organizations aspire.

His last line in the HBR article summed it up perfectly: “If you want your team to bring your strategy to life, work closely with sales leaders and their teams to help them see how their decisions, focus, and specific behaviors make the strategy succeed or fail.”

Transparency in the sales organization is vital, yet often hard to find despite the use of various technologies that are now available. Transparency is important for a few reasons, and let’s look at them:

  • The Good: The best salespeople are competitive, and successful because of that drive. Seeing the ‘leaderboard’ and their position on it creates the right type of pressure for high-achievers to continue to hustle, connect and sell to stay atop the board – and ahead of their peers.
  • The (not so) Bad: There is another category of salespeople that can benefit from transparency. Those that make the effort and work hard, but simply don’t produce. By providing the transparency as to who’s performing and who isn’t, what metrics move the needle and which don’t, those low-performers who are a good team fit can learn from the best and improve themselves. And the sales organization is all the better for it!
  • The Ugly: Transparency in the sales organization also puts the spotlight on poor performers, and it can become quickly clear who’s hiding or simply incapable of the job. This means that sales organizations can prune their team more quickly, keeping the herd strong – and competing with the best.

The Good and the Ugly above is pretty easy to grasp: reward high-performers well and continue to incentivize them, and quickly redeploy or remove those who simply are collecting a paycheck and hiding.

The Not so Bad presents the best opportunity to improve the overall sales organization. Transparency in the team’s sales performance can serve as the foundation of effective coaching that invigorates salespeople who have the desire to do better (and line their pockets) while helping the sales organization achieve its overall objectives.

Again, I dip into another HBR article, “Sales Teams Need More (and Better) Coaching” by Scott Edinger to illustrate the point: “…if you want to improve the capability of your sales organization, rather than just keep track of it, coaching is the most powerful lever you have. And, creating a culture of coaching is your best bet.” The entire article is worth reading as many organizations talk the talk when it comes to coaching, but seldom walk the walk.

In the above-mentioned article, Scott provides a few easy-to-digest ways to establish a coaching culture. The second point he calls out is about learning from the best in the sales organization, those who exemplify what you want you want to see from the entire team. Here’s a great line: “Look for the great sellers throughout the business who are doing the work in the way you want to see everyone working, and use them as role models, even if they’re not atop the revenue leader board.”

So, to get alignment of sales strategy and execution and ensure your salespeople are performing (and focusing on the right opportunities), transparency is priority. And transparency plays a vital role in coaching too. Combining sales alignment and a culture of coaching with technology that can provide visibility into what’s working (and what isn’t) in near real-time puts an organization in the best position to build high-performance teams that make the top of the sales leaderboard more exciting than ever.