Most companies have ambitious plans for growth. However, few ever realize them. According to the Harvard Business Review, seven out of eight companies in a large corporation failed to achieve profitable growth. Yet 90% of the companies in the study had developed detailed strategic plans with much higher targets.
How can CEOs close this gap between ambition and performance? There is a divide in most companies between their ability to formulate a strategy, and their ability to execute. The same Harvard Business Review research reveals that, on average, 95% of a company’s employees are unaware of, or do not understand, its strategy. Employees who work closely with customers are also the ones who operate processes that ultimately create value. If they are unaware of the organization’s plan, then how can they implement it successfully?
Develop your Go-to-Market Strategy with this tool to put your company in the best position to win against the competition.
Businesses succeed in their markets when they innovate, excel operationally and understand their customers on an individual, one-on-one level. That differentiator has made its way to the top of executives minds across the globe as the most strategic way to compete.
Getting and keeping strategic alignment from the CEO’s office through to the sales force and ultimately to the customer is often a very difficult task. It requires focus and dedication on the part of the CEO to ensure its success. This strategic misalignment can result in an organization missing its expectations and not serving its customers well.
Here are some key areas to think about as you begin planning for the coming year that will help connect your strategy and vision to the selling teams and out to your customers.
- Communication – Crystalize what the major changes are that you want to make in the business overall. Get very specific for each department to understand its role and impact in making it happen. Be relentless in communicating those repeatedly.
- Alignment – It’s hard to know where you are going until you have clarified where you have come from. Setting the path and direction for the company starts with you. To help your employees understand the journey, think of breaking up the history into timelines and phases. As you lead them forward into the next phase outline no more than five key initiatives and ensure that your direct reports repeat the same process specific to their groups that align to what you have laid out at the corporate level.
- Setting Expectations – Once the key initiatives have been agreed upon, then it’s important to understand what the timeframe is to complete these. In-Year, 12, 24 or 36 months. This will help frame your short, mid and long-term view on getting through the next phase of your business.
- Brevity for Repeatability – The skill in developing your strategic plan and then having alignment and understanding throughout the organization is brevity. Few can get it on a single page which creates challenges for alignment and a deeper understanding of the organization. Thinking about getting this into a single page will force you to prioritize and focus on the most important initiatives. Less is more at all levels. Momentum begins with clarity, prioritization and then execution.
- Departmental Alignment – All teams need to have a clear sense of the vision and future of the company and why the specific path has been chosen. Sales more so need a story to share with their customers and partners, and a deep belief that the journey will elevate them to market leadership and customer advocacy. Staying in front of the sales force is making sure they understand the extended vision and can put in context the actual things you’re doing this year and how that adds value for each of your customers. The lifetime value of a customer (LTV) can increase the longer they stay with you. Ensuring they know the journey and vision for products and services will ensure a longer partnership, happier salespeople and a healthier company.
- Operationalizing Your Alignment – How do you ensure that your vision and initiatives are being driven down to the customer levels to get ongoing connection and alignment with your leaders and customers? One of the easiest ways to do this is to assign key accounts throughout the executive team, including yourself to ensure that you are always in touch with your customers across all regions and have their voices present at each management gathering.
Here is a podcast with Brian Walker, CEO of Herman Miller that talks about how he has achieved strategic alignment between the CEO and the customer.
- Inspect What You Expect – The core value of any organization is its customers and the information you have that connects their buying patterns to your vision and product roadmaps. Too many organizations today only have a CRM for pipeline management. A missed opportunity. The best leaders in nearly all verticals have embraced their CRM technology in a way that connects all internal departments with the customers. Beyond sales the leaders have integrated; Legal (Contracts), Finance (pricing), Human Resources (comp plans and organizational design), Marketing (lead generation and buyer mapping journeys), Sales Operations (proposal management, deal desk, sales enablement, win/loss analysis), Product (road map development) and Customer Success (customer onboarding & adoption).
Connecting all these teams through your central customer database can only enrich your market intelligence and operational execution scores. Wherever you are in this information integration and alignment take the time to map out what would help in this aspect in the next 12 months and monitor the results as you go.
Connecting your strategy through inside leaders and teams to the customer and ensuring a clear communication flow in both directions to help you stay in touch is one of the hardest but most rewarding responsibilities you have. Be sure to follow the seven steps above for improved results or contact us for more details in tackling your challenges today.