CEOs often express to us that they would like their sales leaders “to be more strategic” and bring them ideas on how to grow the business rather than just run the day to day sales operations. This seems like a reasonable expectation, but when we talk to sales leaders, many are just not wired that way. They don’t know where to start. They can see growth coming from adding a rep or two or continuing to add new customers to the mix, but few of them come up with anything that will dramatically increase sales for the company.
Is this because they are bad or lack intelligence? Of course not. Strategic thinking is a skill that needs to be learned just like anything else. Some people gravitate to it naturally and see opportunity and plans all over the place. Most of us don’t think that way. One of the exercises that we put sales leaders through is to change the question from “Where can you find sales growth?” to “What would you have to do in order to quadruple the revenue of the company in the next five years?” When we ask it this way, people’s mindsets change. They start thinking about finding new markets, changing pricing structure, ramping up marketing, restructuring teams, etc. In other words, they start thinking more strategically vs. incrementally. When Netflix started their company, they didn’t ask “How can we deliver VHS Tapes and DVDs better than Blockbuster?” Instead, they probably asked something like “What would make the movie-renting experience the best for consumers?”
We try to help people think outside the box of how things work today. Forget about how you go to market today, about how you price your services, how you have your team structured today or even what products/services you have today. Those things often limit your ability to think big. Ask yourself some broader questions such as:
- What does my market need today that nobody is providing?
- What if we completely changed the way we priced our products/services?
- What would we have to do if we went global?
- What are the ways that we could reach a lot more customers?
- What other industries/markets/verticals could we possibly pursue?
When generating ideas, stop yourself from saying “that’s not possible because…” That limits creativity. Instead try to turn the world upside-down and see what shakes out. Only after you’ve generated ideas should you then go back and start filtering based on what’s possible or not.
This skill requires practice and very few people are good at it. Go ahead. Give it try.
If you are interested in this topic, we will covering it during our Sales Leader Alliance meeting on 10/17. Contact Judd Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn more.