As founder of Edinger Consulting Group, Scott Edinger has worked with leaders in nearly every industry sector, helping them formulate and implement growth strategies, increase revenue and profit, develop leadership capacity, drive employee engagement, and attract and retain talent. He recently co-authored The Hidden Leader: Discover and Develop Greatness within Your Company (available on Amazon). We sat down with Scott to dive into concepts around his recently published book on hidden leaders and then tackle the disconnect between sales strategy and execution. We asked him a few questions that opened a conversation that provides actionable insights and pragmatic, proven approaches to improving sales efforts.
What is the most common disconnect between sales strategy and execution, and what do companies need to do to fix it?
In March, I had a Harvard Business Review article, “How to Get Your Salespeople to Execute Your Strategy” that highlighted the importance of strategy and execution alignment in sales with specific details that could be very helpful for solving common issues along these lines [Gryphon’s blog also covered it].
Taking a step back, I have done plenty of strategy work for organizations of all sizes, and I’d say a good strategy is one that gets executed correctly. Too often, there is a disconnect between what the boardroom establishes as the strategy and the execution by salespeople with their feet on the street engaging with customers and prospects. Alignment is the most common disconnect and it has major ripple effects across the efficiency and efficacy of sales performance.
Can you provide a couple of examples of how this disconnect is manifested in many organizations?
Sure. More often than not, when strategy isn’t executed well, the disconnect is typically because:
- The strategy isn’t translated into specific actions for salespeople to take. For instance, say your company has a strategic objective to pursue financial services companies with $2B+ in assets. Any time a salesperson works towards a financial services company that has assets under that threshold, it is an off-strategy and a misaligned use of resources/hours/tactics. And it’s a compounding issue. Then when your salesperson gets behind on their revenue target, any revenue becomes ‘good’ revenue no matter how much time/effort is wasted pursuing the off-strategy dollars.
- Chasing the wrong dollars further pulls sales people off the strategy yet still needing them to make their numbers, resulting in a wasted spiral cycle, and wasted opportunity to pursue the right revenue.
- The board room and sales floor have different definitions. This happens often. For instance, when executive meetings spout that sales should be conducing “consultative selling,” yet then I see sales calls that aren’t actually consultative selling – it’s straight pitching of products. The sales conversation doesn’t get more sophisticated or drive a deeper understanding of the customer’s pain points and how to solve them.
- There is a lack of empathy or thoughtfulness in a way that would get a prospect to say, “Wow, this is relevant to me. Thanks for understanding my situation.” Organizations need to get serious with how they develop consultative selling skills that align with strategy if they are going that route – and people need to be trained properly.
Speaking of consultative selling, what do salespeople miss in this approach?
Consultative selling is showing a clear, complete understanding of what the client is hoping to achieve, and seeing an opportunity to understand their situation enough to provide solutions to problems they might not have seen or considered. When done correctly, the sales professional creates value that the customer says, “you created great value and great use of my time.” Revealing insight is shared, and by demonstrating understanding of a customer’s problems beyond the sales script creates a deeper relationship and works towards the ‘trusted advisor’ status.
This is nothing revolutionary, it’s been done for ages. However, the degree of how much it is done in the field vs what the board room thinks results in a wide gap.
Can compensation fix this disconnect of consultative selling?
The disconnect has nothing to do with compensation, which doesn’t make salespeople better or worse – sure, it may motivate them, but it doesn’t change their ability. We’re talking about changing fundamental thinking of what salespeople do in front of customers to create value beyond product and service.
What else have you observed that impacts the misalignment of sales strategy and execution?
The sales professional is too often setting the strategy out in the field, rather than the strategy being set first and executed through the sales team and process. In these situations, because there is no connectivity between boardroom and the field, there often isn’t an accountability culture that flows top-down.
What are the best practices for establishing benchmarks and analyzing metrics?
To establish benchmarks and analyze the right metrics, the most important thing to do is to find the elements of the sales process that are most predictive of success. Too often, CRM systems are simply a series of check boxes, but odds are there are 3-4 things spread across sales process that have a huge impact on whether a sales effort is successful or not. In many cases, while all pieces of the process are necessary, only a few are key to winning the business.
For instance, let’s take a look at an experience with a bank. For this organization, revenue increase is tied to face-to-face branch appointments. Qualified appointments set are the barometer for growth and they are obtained via the telephone.
Therefore, increased phone calling to pre-qualified prospects by branches drives increases in setting qualified appointments which are then converted into revenue at a predictable rate. Simply, more call activity focused on setting qualified appointments leads to growth for the bank.
What is necessary is important to know, but knowing what levers to pull to make the most impact is vital, so you must understand what to pull to drive the greatest likelihood of sales success.
Get a copy of Scott’s book, The Hidden Leader: Discover and Develop Greatness within Your Company, here!
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