You have a consistent record of successful accomplishments. You beat your number every year. Yet you are always passed up for an internal promotion. This pushes you to look outside the organization. Almost like an NFL free agent, you test your value in the market. The problem is that you keep being rejected from other companies. This leaves you asking yourself, “What skills as a Sales Manager am I missing?”
This post is about focusing on the critical skill set of strategic thinking. This is the exact focus of SBI’s research report “How to Make Your Number in 2015.” The report goes into how leading sales executives are focusing on the right strategy. Download the report here. What does this have to do with you? Aligning your thinking like top sales leaders gives you an upper hand. You position yourself as a visionary who has a plan beyond 12 months. Let’s explore why most sales managers struggle in this area.
Most sales managers work in the business versus working on the business. The first thing they do is check their outlook inbox. This begins a down spiral of reactive activities. See if these sound familiar:
- Fire drill report due COB.
- Internal conference call to discuss output of last week’s meeting.
- A customer complaining about a product or service deficiency.
- A rep who needs a 15% price discount to save a customer.
- An inbox clogged with emails.
In addition, you have your other responsibilities. You are trying to hit your number, drive more leads, hire better talent, etc. All these activities are tactical. You need to stop and develop a plan.
A Road Map
A strategic plan helps to provide direction and focus for all sales reps. Strategy points to specific results that can be achieved. It also establishes a course of action for achieving them. A strategic plan also helps team members to align themselves with common goals. Learn this skill and see your team results improve. Master this skill and differentiate yourself in your next interview. Look at SBI’s Annual Research to understand how to develop your plan. In the report, there are six key categories to develop a strategic plan. Below I have listed three and how they apply to your role.
- Account Segmentation– Selecting the right accounts. Let’s face it, your reps want to sell anything in their path. A lead that comes across their desk is a signal to drop everything. Your role is two-fold. First, make the team understand which accounts in your market generate the most revenue. Secondly, of those accounts, which ones will close over the shortest period. Yes, this means you will tell your reps to give up certain leads.
- Buyer Segmentation- The internet has forever changed the way buyers make a purchasing decision. To make things more complicated, reps rely on past experiences and tribal knowledge. The disconnect results in lost opportunities and no decisions. Your role is to provide an updated understanding of how your buyers make decisions. This allows your reps to align selling activities with buyer activities.
- Prospecting- Once you understand the buyer, now it is time to set appointments. Taking the Buyer Segmentation you have done allows you to understand these critical components:
a. Channel- You should know how your buyers consume content and spend time in those channels. b. Messaging- You should know what market problems they are trying to solve. Then you can message correctly around your products, services or solutions.
There is little doubt that the best leaders are strategic. In addition, those same leaders are the ones that land the big jobs. Interested in learning how to become a strategic leader? Check out SBI’s Annual Research to get started.