By Mashhood Beg
During Q3 of every year, sales leaders spend a large amount of time on strategic planning to establish Sales’ mandate for the next year and focus reps on high-value activities that align with corporate objectives. This is typically followed with a company-wide meeting where the sales plan is unveiled.
Oftentimes though, the frontline fails to execute on these sales plans.
Without a clear sense of how top line goals link to sales activities, reps either resort to doing what they’ve always done or acting on their own interpretations of the strategic plan. In fact, reps typically view the plan as another check-the-box activity that has little utility in the day-to-day functioning of the sales organization.
So then, how do progressive companies get buy-in for and drive action on their sales plan?
In our conversations with members, we’ve uncovered three best practices that help organizations get the strategic planning process right:
1.Create a Goal Cascading Process: Seagate conducts an annual goal alignment workshop that provides transparency and accountability at all levels of the organization. Sales executives are asked to develop and map their goals to corporate-level objectives, which are further cascaded down to the front line so they can draft their own goals. The process ensures reps have visibility into Sales’ strategy and understand how their goals align with corporate strategy.
2.Make Strategy Assumptions Explicit: While cascading goals helps drive corporate and rep goal alignment, it offers little visibility into the beliefs and assumptions that went into creating the top-level goals in the first place. Eli Lilly solves this by documenting and communicating the underlying assumptions that corroborate its strategy. Reps are invited to challenge the underlying assumptions and inform the goal formulation process, periodically suggesting course corrections based on trends they observe in the market.
3.Institute a Shadow Cabinet: In order to provide the front line with ongoing opportunities to monitor the progress on corporate strategy, Anheuser-Busch creates a Shadow Cabinet that provides high-performing sales employees with the opportunity to learn about and participate in the creation and monitoring of the firm’s strategy. The Shadow Cabinet mirrors the roles and responsibilities of the firm’s Executive Strategy Committee, and helps reps develop a firm-wide perspective and appreciation of the company’s strategic issues.
What has your experience been with strategic planning in your organization? Are there other strategies you have found effective in creating buy-in for the strategic plan?