Will Your Strategic Plan Work?

Will Your Strategic Plan Work?

 

Why do 90% of strategic plans fail to produce the desired results? Why do only 14% of CEO’s say they do a great job when it comes to strategic planning? If this is true it should not surprise us when we hear 95% of most organizations employees do not understand the organizations’ strategy. Strategic planning is not as complicated or as time consuming like most people makes it out to be. In this post I will share the back of the napkin basic approach to writing a strategic plan that adds value and positions your team to achieve its goals. In future posts I will drill deeper in each of the common steps to insure your team is not one of the 90% who fail to execute…again.

If you ask 12 business leaders to describe strategic planning you will hear 12 different answers. People will often answer that question based on the discipline they are in and their experience. What I have seen with a number of leadership teams is each team member will describe what they feel the plan is specific to how it impacts their department. For example a CFO may share a plan that shares the financial costs and estimated financial forecasts when we hit “the plan”. The COO may share more of an operations type view that discusses aligning the business operations to support “the plan”. CEO’s will often speak in specific deliverables they promised the board… and so on. It’s only human nature to view the world through the lens of your personal experience and background. The trouble is true strategic planning is when each disciple comes together with an over arching plan. Once the plan is in place follow up meetings are scheduled to review KPI’s and make adjustments as needed. If your team is new to strategic planning the first mistake they will make is jumping to quickly into the weeds and sharing tactics and not doing the strategy work. The result will be a failure to execute the plan, because the plan lacked a foundation in a strong strategy.

Nothing frustrates CEO’s more than spending time on a strategic plan no one executes.

Over the holidays I had a chance to catch up with some friends and past clients. Jason, ( not his real name) the  President from one of the companies I helped years ago invited me to lunch. Once we caught up he shared the reason he reached out to me: “I think we have a good strategic plan this year, can you take a look and get back with me?” From the nature of the question I was already concerned. So I asked a few questions…

Do you think the plan is strong and will deliver the results the board is asking for?

That’s the trouble Mark, I thought the plans for the last few years were spot on and we failed to hit plan each year. The team clearly knew the goal and failed to hit it.  I am losing credibility with the board and some of my senior team and I cannot have another year where we fail to achieve our goals.

If I asked your senior team what strategic planning is could they answer me?

I hope so…I think they should since we have been doing it for years.

In the last calendar year did your plan fail or did your team fail to execute the plan?

(long pause) … that’s a great question , I never thought of it that way ( but did not answer the question)

OK, let me know what you thought would happen if no one on your team did anything new, anything different than the prior year?

I’m not sure off the top of my head… we clearly identified that…. but I can get you that number.

What did you need to hit last year?

( very quick answer, almost before I finished the question) We needed to achieve $X million in sales and $ gross profit and $ net profit. (based on how fast and clear he stated the answer this was a goal he owned)

What was the delta? The GAP between what you should hit and need to hit?

We needed to grow our sales 18% at X% net margin to hit our goal.

How did you plan to cover the GAP?

We planned to hit the goal based on growing current customers and opening new customers.

What is your team’s distinctive competence, the thing that makes your team unique that your plan was built on?

I’m not sure I understand what you are asking. You did work with us a while ago; you know we have the best service, best people, best products, best quality …. We just need to sell more!

… And that’s where the wheels fell off the strategy train for me. The rest of the discussion was specific to each business unit and ended with how sales …”just didn’t make it happen”. So I took a napkin pictured above and shared the basics, the root of any good strategic plan.

What do you think will happen?

What do you want (need) to happen?

What is the delta? The Gap between what you should do and need to do?

How will you fill that gap?

What will you leverage to achieve it? What is your distinction in your markets(s) you plan to leverage?

It is the last question is the most important indicator of future plan success or failure It is the one question most companies fail to answer. If they do answer the question they pick what they feel is what makes them unique in their market. Some teams share what it was or believe they can will it to be.

Very few teams can clearly share their value proposition in a short elevator pitch that resonates with their buyers today. When strategic planning is done properly and is communicated every team member should know your distinctive competence and how you plan to leverage it.

I connected Jason with a friend who also does strategy work following the same model I have used. I recommended he use my friend to facilitate the meeting discussions and gave him a list of questions to ask his customers and prospects prior to the meeting.

“The leading reason why 90% of strategic plans fail is they lack marketing strategy.”
– Mark Allen Roberts

How about your company…

Do you have a Strategic plan you feel will work this year?

Does your team have a history of hitting or missing your strategic objectives?

Is there a common reason why you miss plan?…or did sales just not make it happen again?

The gathering of market data and each business disciplines home work is the easy part of strategic planning. Unfortunately where most teams fail is in identifying the “how” they plan to achieve the objective…the strategy. The reason in most cases is they lack or have a dated value proposition they can leverage and have not been taught strategic planning. In my next few posts I will drill a bit deeper into this very important topic and I welcome comments and questions.

Increase Sales/Fix Sales Problems: Do A Midyear Sales Gut Check

Increase Sales/Fix Sales Problems: Do a Midyear Sales Gut Check

Last year approximately 70% of sales managers achieved their sales goals and of that approximately 10% surpassed their goals. So that leaves 30% of the sales manager’s not hitting plan in 2013 and in 2014 their sales regions received another increase.

What can those at plan do midyear to insure they close the year at plan?

What can those not at plan through the end of June do to insure they hit plan year end?

Quick question: How are your sales performing to goal? If you are like most companies this year’s goal was difficult as we scratch and claw our way out of the recession and you just might hit plan. How can you be sure you not only hit your sales plan but exceed it? You need to perform a midyear sales gut check.

I have been leading sales and marketing teams for more years than I like to admit. (over 30 years… but who is counting) I have used a simple process that has often resulted in a dramatic increase in underperforming sales regions as well as keep the momentum building in regions at or above plan: a midyear sales gut check. What we do is basically review each sales region’s performance to the sales playbook you prepared when the year began. Now that half the year has passed we need to review how the region performed to the sales plan we developed to hit sales objectives. Change and the rate of change is constant in our dynamic markets and as Sales Benchmark Index shared in a  recent review on Jill Konrath’s new book Agile Sales discusses:

“Fighting these changes, or denying they exist, is pointless.  You need a new skill to cope with being an overwhelmed worker. The skill needed to exceed in this environment is agility.”

If you have never done this process I want to share how I have done it in hopes it adds value to you and your salespeople. I also highly recommend you buy Agile Sales. As David Meerman Scot shared in his recent post; Agile Sales Requires a Real Time Mind Set. Good sales leaders are always asking questions and practicing what I refer to as: Clean Sales Management. Your midyear sales gut check needs you to direct your questions internally as well as externally.

What did we set out to do this year? (restate goal(s) and how we agreed we would achieve them)

What are our goals in dollars and profit dollars contributed from sales?

Where did we expect them to come from?

How has this region performed through the end of June to the goals you established for the current sales year?

What is working? (and you need to do more)

What did you think would work, has not produced the desired sales impact and you need to stop doing?

What have we learned?

What are the results on key performance indicators that drive top line results? (discuss each)

Has the market experienced any strategic shifts that can be trigger points for new sales or challenges to existing sales?

Based on the data discussed what will be your three key focus areas for the rest of the year?

If you had to pick just one, with the intent that perfectly executing that one would make the other two obsolete…what would it be?

 

A midyear gut check is something I like to perform both for the businesses I am serving but also personally and I have added this process to every team I serve. If you have not tried this process I highly encourage you to do so.

Let me leave you with a few questions that may make you want to try this process…

How is your team performing to plan YTD?

What did you plan for this year and it worked?

What did you plan and it did not work?

Based on what you have learned what changes have you made to insure the sales plan is achieved year end?

( if I served on the board of your company this is one question I have asked that has left the best CEO’s pale and at a loss for words)

As the team who has been tasked many years with” just making it happen” we need to have the desire and process to gather current market data and agilely approach our markets to insure we achieve and surpass our sales objectives.

 

Does your team practice agile sales?

 

Want to Jump Start Sales and Morale? Write a “Passion Statement” For Your Business….

 

Business leaders for years have been taught to write a mission statement, a values statement , distinctive competence, and their Unique Sales Proposition. Leadership teams are sequestered off to three-day retreats to write these statements only to often return and go right back to practicing what prompted the retreat in the first place…Why? The reason is far too often is the “work” they did at the retreat was all “head work” and lacked “heart work”.

The quickest way to jumpstart sales as well as the morale of your team is to create a “Passion Statement”.

 

So what is a passion statement? A passion statement is something I help my clients to create that explains;

  • what problem your product or service solves?

 

  • who do we solve it for? Who are our buyer personas?

 

  • what emotion does our solving the problem create in our clients?

 

  • what emotion does solving our clients problems create for us?

 

If you study companies who have become market leaders they very seldom set out to build huge profitable companies. In the majority of the cases they saw a problem that someone had and set out passionately to solve that problem. Their focus was not as much a business as it was a quest.

For years we have heard; “fake it until you make it” , unfortunately however you can not fake a passion to serve your clients and your market.Your customers will quickly detect inauthentic commitments to serve.

An authentic passion ( quest)  to serve your markets unresolved problems takes your business to another level in the minds and hearts of your market.

 

Let me give you two examples of companies I have helped. One is a typical stale example without passion often find after interviewing their team and their customers, the other a passion statement we all can rally behind.

Example A

 “our business’s purpose is to create wealth for our owners and shareholders. We plan to accomplish this by charging the maximum price the market will bear for our product and service and we plan to hold our employees and partners accountable to this objective…” ( don’t worry once the CEO understood this was his teams’ perception ( and his customer’s) of why they were in business we helped them to change this )

 

Client Name not shared for obvious reasons

 

Example B

 

“Our passion is to helping consumers with physical disabilities from the waist down experience the rush and  freedom that results from riding a motorcycle.We are committed to helping our clients connect to their passion or riding”

 

Mobility Conquest

 

 

Which company would you like to buy from?

Which company would you like to work for?

Which company is “selling” you and which company is “helping you buy”?

 

If you had to state your company’s passion statement today…is it more about what you want? Or is it about serving an unmet need of your customers? ( by the way, I do not mean the statement written on posters, shared in quarterly meeting …I mean the mission your team ( and your customers) perceive it to be)

 

Who would you rather compete against… company A or B? Why?

Ok …I hear you CFO’s and bottom line driven CEO’s out their saying …”Ya… but…” so let me assure you that if you study the most profitable market leading companies they have a passion statement.

Still not a believer? In my next post I will share the signs that you need a Passion Statement.

Start-up’s….Like Wiring a House With The Power On…and getting zapped

The start-up phase is often one of the most difficult phases for entrepreneur as they often try to gain market knowledge while trying to meet sales goals. You know you should gather market data, but you often have limited cash, you are the chief cook and bottle washer, and you need to make sales to fund your future growth.

Start-up leaders need a strong emotional intelligence as many days you feel like you are; wiring a house with the power on and you keep getting emotionally zapped.

 

A number of years ago my wife was redesigning our upstairs bathroom and asked I change the electrical outlets from a cream color to a solid white. So we turned the lights on in the bathroom and I went to the fuse box and flipped switches until the bathroom light went out. I started to remove the outlet and saw a small spark. I thought to myself…”That’s odd as I know the electric power was off…” (My perceived truth) so I continued removing the old outlet. Zap! Next thing I knew I received a shock that sent me up against the wall and I fell into the bathtub. I latter found a new truth…the lights were on a separate circuit than the outlets so I was trying to change the outlet with the power on.

One of the most exhilarating as well as frustrating things you can do is launch a start-up company. Like I discussed in a previous post you feel like a plate spinner with more to-do’s than hours in a day. I go on to discuss how we can’t let the most important plates drop. I have discussed in earlier blogs how 2/3 of start-ups fail within 18 months. The main reasons we are all aware of for start-up failure include;

  • run out of cash
  • lack of a market driven plan
  • if you have a plan, your sales expectation is too high, too soon
  • if you have a plan, you have an unrealistic understanding of the buying process and cycle
  • trying to sell the need for a product you launched because you could and not because you should
  • market is not large enough
  • customers do not want to pay to solve the problem you solve
  • stress

 

Assuming your product and or service solves an unmet need, and you have a large enough market who are willing to pay you to solve their problem, the real danger for entrepreneurs is getting zapped by stress during the start-up season of your business..

To keep you from getting emotionally zapped from stress during the often hectic start-up phase, there are five key Biblical lessons I learned from a sermon recently.

1. Don’t wear yourself out – build the discipline to determine what is important, urgent, and focus on what is :urgent and important

2. Don’t shut out others – the reality is you can’t do it alone. Now more than ever you need your network, family, and friends

3. Don’t just focus on Negatives – that’s what market losers do. Keep your eyes on the prize and look for bright lights of opportunity as you launch.

4. Focus on your physical and Spiritual health – far too often those mounting to-do’s make us drop or delay other key areas of our lives. If necessary put time on your calendar for your fitness and faith.

5. Anxiety and fear are the product of looking back or too far into the future , focus on what is in front of you now, and leverage what you have. The quickest way to stop creatively solving roadblocks is to become fearful.

 

 

What about you? Have you experienced stress during the start-up phase?
What advice do you recommend to entrepreneurs in the start-up phase of their business?
What zapped you most in your start-up?

“Colonel Custer had a plan “…What To Do When Your Plan Is Not Driven by Market or Internal Truths and You Lack a Market Driven Motivation

After writing my post: Third Part of truth …Motivation; Are You willing to go the extra mile like Chick-fil-A? I had someone contact me with a question I thought was worth sharing.

“I read your last post and I can’t agree more with gathering market truths, assessing internal truths ( particularly after recent lay offs) and having a motivation to make a difference in the lives of those in your marketplace….

 

But what do you do when you work for an organization that built a plan based on old market data, an inflated view of internal capabilities ( that assumes we work 18-20 hour days) and a motivation that is singularly focused on making our owner wealthier and not changing the lives of those in the market we serve?”

Having helped a number of companies in a variety of industries over the year’s… shame on me for not expecting this question. Not only have I personally faced this dilemma, I know a number of people trying to obediently execute plans that were written from within their organization and lacking market data today.

I enjoyed the conversation with this young man, and below is what I advised him to do;

Gather current Market Truths

Chances are, at some point your leaders were market driven based on the growth they have experienced over the past 20 years. At some point however they started relying on their own personal guts and intuition and forgot the true market sensing process that empowered their original growth. The first thing I advised him to do is assess the market truths of today. Once complete, compare and contrast the plan you were given to execute in relation to current market truths. Note the strategies and tactics that are in alignment and call out those that are no longer rational based on new data.

 

Write a market truths document

 

 

Highlight strategies and tactics in your current plan that are no longer in alignment with the market of today

 

Asses your internal truths, capabilities, discard to-do’s that do not support your road map

 

 

If your team lacks a motivation to serve your market, create one

 

 

Write a plan you will execute based on the information you have shared and allow some flexibility

 

 

 

 

 

As we closed the call this young manager said “we have a plan, but I am sure Colonel Custer thought he had a plan too…

Yes, I am sure he did. But he too underestimated the competition and lacked a clear understanding of his market realities. He had scouts warn him that he grossly underestimated the size of his completion but he failed to listen. Is it any wonder this famous battle was over in less than an hour? ( kind of like how most new products are off the shelf within 18 months)

The people I always wondered about were his men…I am sure most were seasoned military soldiers and by nature trained to take and follow orders. However there had to be a few heretics in the ranks and I wonder if they had the courage to speak up, did some dissert the night before the battle, or did they knowing walk into their own demise? History states a number of his men were seen running from the battle when it was obvious all was lost.

If you are asked to execute a plan that is not market driven based on the current realities of your market today, you owe it to your team ( and yourself) to present current market data.

 

Leaders do not just state the disconnections their plan has with the market realities, but they also provide possible new strategies, they become a part of the solution.

 

Be a leader… and if you are a member of a team that frowns on gathering current market data to create market driven strategies your have two choices;

 

Stay on the team and expect to be to do driven, chasing outcomes of the day

 

Leave the team and seek out market leading organizations that value writing plans strategically based on current market data

 

I could tell he did not like the second option , (nor did I when I felt the need to leave one of the teams I served when their plans were so far from market truths I experienced physical health concerns as I attempted to be a soldier and follow orders.) I was much younger then and I was still under the erroneous assumption that the Hippos in the room were the most knowledgeable.

How about your organization…do you believe the plan you will execute in 2010 was written with current market data?

 

 

 

 

 

If you answer is no, what do you plan to do? Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever presented your Hippos current market data that was contradictory to the plan they gave you to execute?

 

 

 

 

(Would love to have an expert jump in here on the effects on employee physical health when they attempt to execute plans that are not in alignment with the market realities of today)

Are You willing to go the extra mile in customer service like Chick-fil-A?

A third key consideration for leaders and owners of businesses when building upon a foundation of truth is your Motivation. Specifically what are your real objectives and motivation for your business? I often find when helping clients about six months into an engagement the leader’s true motivation is shared once trust is built. It is often not the stated goal and the team are executing strategies and tactics that are not in alignment with the real objective. So early in my relationship with a new client I seek out the leader’s true motivation.

Some common objectives include;

want to be cash positive by (date)

want to retire, so build this business and position it for a sale

want to give this business to my children, please set the business and my children up to win

want to sell my business

want to grow at least 20% per year

want more profitable customers and less of those who do not truly value my product or service

The common objectives are usually stated as “I want’s” not what they plan do for their markets. However market leaders consistently speak in a voice that discusses the difference they plan to make in the lives of their customers.

One of my favorite fast food stops is Chick-Fil-A. I hesitate in calling this fast food as the food I receive is good and the people who work at Chick-Fil-A treat you like you are their only customer. As I travel throughout the US, if I need to grab a quick lunch I look for the nearest Chick fil-A. I order my food and at the end of each service experience I consistently hear “my pleasure”. As I look around the restaurant I am always amazed at the amount of activity they consistently execute to add value for the customers they serve. This week they posted pictures of a gingerbread house making event they held last week and in the future a Christmas ornament making class for children.

When others are afraid to not be politically correct the person at the counter in Akron said “thank you, and have a Merry Christmas, God bless you and your family.” At first this was such an interruption it caused me to pause. It’s sad really when wishing someone a merry Christmas is an interruption, but as the recipient I can’t say how much this meant to me. Traveling this time of year is difficult and for a brief moment I did not feel alone.

So how do large organizations consistently execute a service level above and beyond the expectation? It starts with their leader, and the leader sharing their true motivation. A few years ago I attended a Christian business event and the president of Chick fil A , Dan Cathy ,was the speaker. He shared how they are a faith based company built on biblical principles. You can listen to him yourself as he talks about his team here. One of their key tenants was “going the extra mile”. This is in reference to the Bible passage in Matthew 5:41 . As the owner and president of Chick fil A spoke, he shared how going the extra mile for a busy mom is pulling out her chair and putting fresh ground pepper on her salad. He shared how it actually, form a cost stand point, costs very little, however the impact they consistently see in sales increases year over year are significant, , or as their website states; “we are here to serve more than sandwiches”. They have seen consistent growth for the past 41 years.

Market leader’s focus on a goal bigger than themselves and their personal desires.

Market leaders are on a quest to make a difference for their market and customers in their markets they serve.

How about you and your organization…are you on a quest to make a difference in the lives of your customers?

Or are your employees shouting “next” and supplying the bare minimum?or good enough?

Is your team on a quest? Or are they working a plan they signed up for but honestly where never committed to?

If you have an opportunity, go to a Chick-fil- A for lunch and decide…is this how you are making your customers feel?

The good news is you can!

If you currently are not on a quest…find one!

Once you understand current market truths, and you have identified your internal truths, you must understand your leader’s and your team’s motivation. Market leading teams sign up for a goal that is bigger than them and meeting ROI’s. They sign up for quest’s to make a difference in the lives of those they serve…and interesting their financial results consistently outpace their competitors.

Proven Steps to Profitable Growth; Step one Truth, …Understand Your Internal Truths

 

One of the roles I must play to truly serve my clients is that of a “Heretic”. I often listen to business leaders discuss how what distinguishes them, their team, their product or service in their marketplace. They confidently state ; product quality, our service, and my favorite of all…our relationships is our competitive advantage… Bla…Bla…Bla. That is when I need to explain that in today’s competitive global economy, quality, customer service and relationships are not differentiators. Very quickly some leaders become defensive and start discussing how “I don’t understand their industry…” and they often start sharing how “their competitors suck”. Again, you may have weak competitors, but the fact that you may or may not be better than competitors that suck is not a way to differentiate yourself or create a sustainable competitive advantage…(sorry)

The Bible is provides us some very clear advice in this area…” “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? ( Matt. 7:3) and this advice rings true as leaders must look within their own organizations and establish their internal truths.

 

Having a core competency in; service, quality, or market relationships is not enough anymore.

 

Your team must have something that differentiates you in your market as Jack Trout explains in his popular book: Differentiate or Die. The authors of the best selling book: Tuned In, refer to this as your “distinctive competence.” The difference between a core competence and a distinctive competence is the latter differentiates you in your market.

You must gain a clear understanding of your distinctive competence in your strategic planning.

 

Assuming you established Market Truth as I discussed in my previous post, the next truth you must clearly understand is your internal truth(s). To help my clients establish their internal truths I like to ask a number of questions;

  • What do your customer’s say your team does better than your competitors?
  • What are the strengths and capabilities of your team leaders?
  • What is your team’s track record in terms of market growth over the past five years?
  • How many new products have you launched in the last three years?
  • Did those new products meet or exceed your launch objectives and ROI targets? Why or Why not?
  • Has your team introduced existing product(s) into new markets in the past two years? Did you meet or exceed your sales goals?
  • What is your current unused capacity that does not require additional investment?
  • What is your team’s ability to raise funds to support growth?
  • Do you have the access to funds to support your growth?
  • When was the last time you or one of your team’s leaders spent time in the market?

 

For example, I was asking these questions with one of my new clients in the past and their senior team all said the same thing but in different ways; “ we are not good at new…” What was interesting however was that at the recent off site strategic planning meeting it was decided that they would leverage new products to hit next year’s sales objectives. When I interviewed some of their key accounts they too confirmed this teams poor track history in launching new products. One clients said “ they are a great vendor, but they launch new products before they are ready, so we plan to wait six to eight months after their next launch to insure the product has all the bugs worked out before we buy…” Ouch!( their sales plan was not in alignment with clients waiting six months to buy) Again , what was disturbing was the mid level managers and their key accounts all knew a truth that the only people who failed to see were their senior management team. Sometimes senior leaders see issues and put band aides on them hoping they will heal on their own.

As you plan for a profitable future year … Rip Off the Band Aide(s) and Position Your Business For Growth in 2010.

Another new client wanted “more sales” . However, when we reviewed their internal truths the reality was they were currently at 90% of their production capacity and could not service new business. Had we launched a plan to gain new customers we would have frustrated those new clients as well as existing customers ( and their employees) as their service levels would have suffered. As we peeled this onion further we found a large percentage of their current orders were not profitable. So what the owner saw as a need “more sales” was actually a problem with a sales compensation model not in alignment with overall sales profitability.

You must establish internal truths, distinctive competencies, and identify your weaknesses when building your strategic plan. What we are discussing is about  

leveraging what you have. I am not saying as leaders you are not to improve weaknesses and bridge gaps . However what I am saying is you must authentically and openly humble yourself and your team to your internal realities.

Understanding your team’s strengths, as well as weaknesses and limitations insures the strategic plan you write for 2010 growth objectives is obtainable.

Market leading organizations clearly understand market and internal truths.

 

 

 

Market losing organizations can be identified by strategic plans not in alignment with their market or internal capabilities.

 

 

 

 

What kind of organization do you work for?

 

 

Does your 2010 strategic plan rely on effectively launching new products? (even though the last launch was supposed to sell 2,000 and only sold 2?)

 

 

 

Does your senior leadership team have the horsepower to take your business into a market leadership position?

 

 

 

Are you relying on those that got you’re here to get you there in the future? How’s that working for you?

 

 

 

Does your 2010 strategic plan count on you leveraging a capability your team does not have?

 

 

 

Have you reviewed the “why’s” your team failed to meet some of their objectives in 2009? Have you corrected what you found?

 

 

 

If you failed to achieve some of your 2009 strategic plan targets was it a “strategy” or “execution” problem? …you sure?

 

 

Market leaders understand the importance of identifying internal truths when strategic planning.

 

 

 

Market leaders understand the power of leverage. They leverage their distinctive competencies that solve market problems.

Proven Steps to Profitable Growth; Step one, …Establish Market Truth

The first key step in writing a powerful flight plan (roadmap) to grow your organization profitably is; establishing market truth. There are many truths we need to insure the strategies and corresponding tactics and key performance indicators are in alignment with the true market opportunity. Unfortunately a large percentage of business leaders use their gut and intuition and fail to establish current, relevant market truth before they launch market strategies.

The leaves are almost off the trees as I drove South on Route 71 in Ohio last week to work with one of my clients. It’s that time of the year for cold damp rains, grey cloud cover, and this time of year business leaders are sequestered off to key offsite meetings to write their strategic plans for next year. As I discussed in a recent post: October – November…National Strategic Planning Months…When Do you Focus on Strategic Plan Execution? …it never ceases to amaze me that over 70% of sales growth objectives were not achieved in 2009, and yet those same teams will receive sales quota increases in 2010. What are the leaders of these businesses thinking? Is it their assumption that 70% of their sales team is just incompetent, not trying hard enough, or are they just trying to “will” their businesses to succeed? As I discuss in my guest blog post far too often the true issue behind businesses not achieving key performance indicators is more related to your teams ability to execute effective market driven strategies. Since I discuss how to overcome the execution and accountability management challenge in the post I provided a link for above, in this post I plan to discuss one component of truth needed to; build market driven strategies that increase shareholder value.

As I discussed in my post : don’t look now but your lack of market knowledge is showing , far too many leaders are making decisions and writing plans based on dated or worst case incorrect information. How does this occur? The leading cause for Leader Market Disconnection Syndrome ( LMDS) are the Hippo’s in your organization calling audibles without any market data to support their directives. The reality is; thinking is hard work.

 

When you peel the onion and find the true “why’s” behind your team missing its goals you will find it is not for the faint of heart and requires a strong emotional intelligence.

 

The quickest way to build strategies that drive explosive sales and profit growth is to get re-acquainted with your market.

 

Years ago there was a great commercial in which a business owner called a meeting and instead of pontificating about opinions. gut instinct and intuition he distributed airplane tickets to his senior executive team and sent them out,…out into their market to visit belly to belly with those mysterious entities called “customers”.

 

If you want to create a business plan that results in explosive growth in 2010 and beyond get out of your office and dive deep into your market now.

 

What you will find very quickly is the market has changed considerably in the last 15 years from when you carried a sales bag. The market has changed significantly in the last six months! As I discuss in my post: Are you Enabling your Sales Force or Emasculating them? some of those changes include;

  • longer sales cycles
  • more influencers involved in the buying decision
  • greater pressure on terms
  • increased pressure from international suppliers
  • as well as many more…

 

The first step in establishing market truth is to get out in your market and speak with your customers, potential clients, and those potential clients you recently quoted and failed to win.

 

While your sales team will tell you the reason you did not win the contract was price, my personal experience and research has proven time and time again price is not even on the list of reasons why your buyers do not buy. As high as 50% of lost sales are due to the sales process not having the right sales tools to help their buyer buy.

Market leading organizations continually outpace market losers and one of the key reasons why is their clear understanding of their market, its problems, and their changing buying processes and buyer criteria.

Market losers listen to disconnected Hippos and increase their sales objectives although they failed to meet goals last year.

 

 

Do you work for a Market Leader or a Market Loser?

 

When was the last time one of your key leaders met belly to belly with a customer? Potential customer? A customer you bid but failed to win?

 

Is your organization launching strategies that are market driven or Wall Street driven?

 

Are the new goals you are asking your team to achieve built from the market up with real current market data, or are they the result of ROI justification meetings with product mangers who never left the building?

 

Step One, Truth: Establish Market Truth