The Cold Truth About Many Sales Strategies

The Cold Truth About Many Sales Strategies

We’re hitting the re-set button.

A great many companies – staggered by the impact of COVID – are coming back onto the field. Engaging with clients again.  Trying desperately to make up lost revenue.

Now, to be fair, that’s not true for all industries. There are some that have prospered from the lockdown.

They are in the minority.

For all the rest – it’s a steep climb.

Really, really, really steep.

Which carries me to an intriguing observation on where some of the greatest pressure is going to be felt – or already is being felt. 

It goes to the heart of so many companies – the hard working professionals who go out and create demand for your products – the agents responsible for revenue.

Sales people.

NOTHING happens for a lot of organizations unless there is an energized, talented, and committed sales team.

Here’s what’s unfolding right now in real time for many of those sales people. 

The Company Pitch – “We are way behind because of the virus. We need you to make a difference in the last half of the year. It’s up to you – can I count on you to get it done?”

The Company Play – “Here’s your quota {insert goal, objectives, profitability target, etc. here} for the next x months. Yes, I know it looks really high – but YOU can do it.”

The Sales Team Response – “What are those people smoking? Who put a goal like this together?  Are they nuts?”

Sound familiar? Truth be told, I have been a part of all 3 components of the little melodrama described above.

But I’ve learned a thing or two about strategy over the years – and that is that a lot of us know, at best, only a thing or two about strategy.

That includes, by the way, a LOT of senior executives.

The Pitch-Play-Response Approach runs rampant for a lot of companies – especially in the wake of crisis – but the “let’s all just work harder” strategy is not a strategy at all.

Rolling out a new goal without any consideration for the new strategy needed to realize it is like pointing to a spot on the map and saying, “Good luck – I’m sure you’ll find a way.”

Some companies are leveraging the re-set opportunity far better than their peers. The steps they’re taking transcend the Pitch-Play-Response Approach. For these organizations there is instead a focus on:

  • The Company Identity –  Straight talk that reconfirms “this is who we are as an organization – and here’s where we are because of the virus.” This is the reality of our situation – and here is our best projection on what it means. It’s important for YOU to understand – you’re a partner in this relationship.
  • The Company Purpose – “This is why we exist and what we believe in – and here are our obligations as an organization – to include the revenue goals.” In order for us to realize them we have to do more than hope. 
  • The Company Direction – Here’s our best guesstimate of what we ALL need to deliver and how we have arrived at these projections. What questions do you have – and maybe more important, HOW can we put our heads together in order to deliver them? (Cue segue to strategy HERE.)


Who – Why – How – but based on the insights gleaned from the first half of the year; not predicated on a reality that no longer exists. 

I’ve seen 10 minutes of straight talk in the hands of a skilled senior executive using the above formula put the hours of blabber often used in the traditional company “Pitch-Play-Response Approach” to shame.

Treating adults….like adults. What a concept.

Maybe more important, it sets the stage for productive discourse on how we can win – and the conversation around any adaptation of strategy that might be required.

Now, there are a myriad of factors that play into strategy to be sure – but once we get to the field sales level we have a very simple breakdown we encourage clients to consider.  We call them The Core 4 – the fundamental resources that must be leveraged to gain competitive advantage.

Brutally simple – amazingly effective – and often overlooked.

  • Targeting – Who will we be calling on and why? How should our targets change, if at all – and perhaps most important, what’s the medium that best optimizes that interaction? Who will we NOT call on?
  • Messaging – What is it we’ll be saying to our client base? How has it changed and why do we expect that message to resonate – to enhance our value proposition – in the “new.”? Will our sales model differ from the competition in any way – how?
  • Resourcing – What are we bringing to the table to influence client perceptions, our value, and uptake? Are we prepared to invest where we can win – and stand down where we can’t?
  • Collaboration – How do we all align around our efforts to actually ensure Constancy of Purpose, Integration of Effort, and Shared Ownership? (A great many companies are carefully weighing this dimension – and factoring whether internal silos compromise. There are a lot of 800 LB gorillas who operate like 8 100 LB chimpanzees – a deadly affliction in the new competitive environment.)

I’ve used The Core 4 the better part of 15 years in working with sales divisions.  Never seen it fail to resonate as regards helping professionals focus on the “controllable”.

Those new goals won’t be easy.  “Try harder” and “we’re counting on you” isn’t a strategy – that’s the impotent cry of a company with no clue kicking the can down the road.

Whether we like it or not – it is a new world.

It will require new thinking to survive it.

Now might be a good time.







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