As budgeting season is in full swing, lofty ambitions for next year’s growth meet the stress of closing the current year on a high note. One of the most significant challenges that a sales leader faces this time of year is the increasing scarcity of his or her most precious resource—time. The days get shorter, literally and figuratively, and there simply aren’t enough hours, minutes, or seconds to treat every demand with the level of attention that each deserves. This shortage of time often leads to short cuts in what should be a thoughtful planning process. These shortcuts can hinder the momentum of your sales engine.
Doing the Small Things to Maximize Return on Big Bets
Good sales leaders know that in order to affect big change within and across an organization, big bets must be placed. Great sales leaders know when those same big bets are most likely to pay off at their maximum potential. Our research highlights the dangers of focusing on small improvements when annual planning isn’t undertaken with programmatic rigor.
However, small bets and incrementalism should not be confused with another core principle—execution-oriented management. Consistent outperformance requires doing the small, sometimes difficult things, right every time. Organizations that pride themselves on flawless execution also position themselves to cash in on big bets.
Like basic strategy in blackjack, making the best micro-decisions maximizes the likelihood of success and secures the base from which bets are made. Great sales leaders, not unlike a card sharp, can discern when to take small victories to build momentum and when to invest heavily on a bigger run at the house. Stacking up wins on achievable, quarterly initiatives advances the organization towards its desired future state and builds confidence. This confidence is key to rally the entire organization around big bets.
How the Table Plays Affects Shared Outcomes
Cross-functional alignment plays an outsized role in growing faster than the market. When a sales team operates in lockstep with the broader commercial organization, the yield on big bets is exponentially higher. By aligning on the objective structure and a common set of KPIs, all teams buy into achieving the goal. In order to focus the stakeholders at the table on the prize, big bets should be published to the entire organization, presented at Acceleration Summits, and tracked in a highly visible way. How each team performs against its mandate impacts the overall success of the annual plan. Best practices highlight the importance of a single group (Revenue Operations), consolidating the performance of each team and reporting on shared progress.
A sales leader I worked with closely over the past few years made a habit of issuing weekly shout-outs with special attention to “needle mover” deals. These updates meant more than regular progress on quarterly and annual objectives to the entire organization. All functions had a chance to find their way into the limelight. One week, a sales rep had gone above and beyond to delight a customer and secure a new deal. The next, a sales engineer had assuaged last-minute jitters of an engineering team to get an opportunity over the finish line. And quite often, the heroes were from the supporting cast of customer service and finance, who had stayed until the last seconds of a quarter over a weekend to finalize order processing. In combination with ongoing and systematic KPI tracking, this human touch is instrumental in building esprit de corps required to deliver on big bets. Same team, same objective, same win condition.
Winning the Long Game by Switching from Projects to Programs
Why focus on these big bets that require coordination across the entire organization? There is inherently a higher amount of risk in a larger bet, but sales leaders can’t rely on doing things the same way and expecting better outcomes. If you’re in the market for transformative results, it will require transformative effort. Make no mistake; this effort is not a one-time occurrence. Developing scale in new processes or entering new markets create lasting demands on the organization. To abandon the progress when a box is ticked on an annual review will not lead to sustainable improvement.
One of the biggest mistakes an organization can make is to treat a strategic plan like a project that starts and stops. In this mode, an organization that ignores the programmatic nature of planning will lose sight of the important dimensions of effort and capacity. Herculean efforts can be made by motivated teams to help complete a larger set of initiatives than an organization would normally be able to accomplish. However, this introduces the risk that the organization will just revert to a prior state when the adrenaline of accomplishment wears off.
SBI’s annual research report reveals best practices for implementing a program approach to your annual planning.
Inventory Organizational Capacity, Prioritize, and Execute
When creating your big bets, map them against the level of effort and the time to realization after aligning on common objectives across the organization. This visualization will naturally sequence what can be achieved over a given planning period. After taking an inventory of potential bets, weigh them against the organizational capacity to avoid overcommitting on the number of initiatives. Items that fall out of the priority list next year should be incorporated in subsequent annual plans. As the multi-year development cycle progresses, remain agile to changing market conditions that may affect your trajectory. Knowing when to take small wins and where to bet big considerably improves the sustainability of a revenue growth program. Take your annual planning to the next level by scheduling a Studio visit today to reboot and accelerate your strategic planning.