If you are like many other companies, you just got done completing your plan for 2017. You may have spent hours with the executive team deciding what your strategy was and different things that you should focus on. But you have a concern – can you get the sales team to execute on it? One of our clients described this in a very visual way. He said “We develop our strategy, but the ropes from the ceiling don’t make it all the way to the ground.” Why does this happen? There are a few reasons.
Picking Your Initiatives
We describe initiatives as the few areas that you will focus on in the current year. It could involve focus on a product, a market segment, a vertical or industry, on better sales process, adding more sales people, etc. There are a few mistakes companies make here:
- They don’t choose any initiatives – instead, they simply set goals for overall company revenue with no real focus on HOW they will get there.
- They pick too many – we believe you should have no more than three sales initiatives for the year. If you have more than that, you are probably trying to do too much.
- They are loosely defined – initiatives such as “Improve our close rate” or “get more new clients” are good intentions, but hardly well-defined initiatives. The best companies set a goal around the initiative (improve close rate from 40% to 50% or acquire 10 new clients) and a plan for how this will happen with specific, measureable milestones. This gives everybody very clear direction.
Communicating Your Plan
This is a form of change management. The companies that roll out initiatives most effectively follow something similar to a change management process. They talk about WHY we are focused on these areas they chose, the impact it will have on the company, the specific goals outlined and discuss what is expected of people to make it happen. Then, they continue to talk about the plan – often at quarterly reviews. The plans are brought out and progress is discussed. The companies that struggle here are the ones that simply dictate the plan to the team, but never put any meat behind what it means to the individual contributor. Then it is not discussed again until the following year.
Bringing it Down to the Front Lines
Once initiatives are defined and communicated, sales people need to know their role in making the initiatives happen. What are they expected to do differently on a daily/weekly/monthly basis? The sales leader should work with them to make sure their individual sales plans are aligned with the company strategy. There should be specific, measureable activities and milestones associated with the initiatives.
This is the big part that really drives it. There is a reason that coloring in the United Way thermometer works. People see it and know specifically what their role is to achieving the goal. This is no different than sales initiatives. Make them visible. Talk about them. Post results and show progress. During one-on-ones with reps, pull out their plans quarterly and see if they are doing the things that were in their respective plans.
With good definition and proper reinforcement, your chances of the ropes making it all the way to the ground will improve dramatically.