Why is strategy work so difficult? What is the secret to developing strategy that drives profitable sales growth? Why will 90% of strategic plans fail? There is a high probability as you read this post your sales and marketing team have already decided the strategy your senior leadership team developed is not working and have retreated to the way we have always done things around here. Why? …and more importantly what can we do to create strategies that result in repeatable profitable sales growth? In this post I will share why most strategies are doomed to fail and how to write strategies that result in adding value to your business.
First we need to be grounded in common definitions because there is a lot of confusion when it comes to strategy work.
Strategy is a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time.
The skill of making or carrying out plans to achieve a goal
A marketing strategy is a process or model to allow a company or organization to focus limited resources on the best opportunities to increase sales and thereby achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.
Is often called the roadmap of a product and outlines the end-to-end vision of the product and what the product will become. Companies utilize the product strategy in strategic planning and marketing to identify the direction of the company’s activities.
A sales strategy is a plan by a business or individual on how to go about selling products and services and increasing profits.
Means by which a strategy is carried out; planned and ad hoc activities meant to deal with the demands of the moment, and to move from one milestone to other in pursuit of the overall goal(s).
Now that we have some common understanding with words we hear often throughout the day we need to identify the leading reason why 90% of strategies (like those your team is supposed to be executing now) will fail.
One word: ….Hubris
Unlike the words strategy, marketing strategy and tactics, hubris is not a word often used so here is a good definition:
Hubris is from Greek, where it meant “excessive pride, violating the bounds set for humans” and was always punished by the gods. We no longer have the Greek gods, so in English it just refers to over-the-top self-confidence. If you call yourself the best in something, you better have the goods to back it up, since too much hubris can lead to embarrassment and humiliation. It’s an age-old human failing: pride goeth before the fall.
I have been very fortunate to have great mentors in my life that gave me gifts. One gift I use in strategy work ironically came to me through my Karate instructor Sensei Bill Marcum. I was attending Kent State University and I needed a non business elective so I took Isshin ryu Karate. After a few classes the instructor said she thought I seemed to catch on quick and I might consider joining the Isshin Ryu Karate club on campus go deeper than her class can offer.
I joined the club and the first year or so was just the basics and I grew anxious to learn more combinations of moves I could use in a self defense situation. The time came for me to start Kumite which is free style fighting. I found when I practiced all the new moves I was learning I could repeat them without much correction. When I stepped into the ring I went back to boxing which I learned at an early age. Looking back part of it was hubris….pride, not wanting to loose, not wanting to be embarrassed and the bigger part was what I was learning was new and often strange compared to what I have known for years and that I knew worked. However I was never going to become skilled in the new , better techniques if I did not start doing them.
My instructor pulled me aside one day and read me a story titled; A cup of Tea out of a book: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones and it went something like this..
A Cup of Tea
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
Just like Nan-in, my instructor Sensei Bill could not teach me new techniques that will feel and probably look awkward at first until I un-learn what I have been taught and believe to be true. The same is true when doing strategy work to fix sales problems.
I found a great quote in a book I am currently reading by Greg Bustin about accountability I want to share…
How do you develop a strategy that works and results in profitable sales growth? You need a few heretics on your team to challenge truths and beliefs your strategy is built upon. In Art Kleiner’s book titled: The Age of Heretics , Kleiner‘s definition of a heretic is:
“a visionary who creates change in large-scale companies balancing contrary truths they can’t deny against their loyalty to their organizations.”
He discusses how managers get stuck into a rut and need heretics to point out new points of view to get past the deadlock and move forward. Later he describes some as “rebels unwilling to kowtow to the corporate bureaucracy.”
I also have used this quote by Peter Drucker often to keep me motivated…
“My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”
If your team wants to be one of the 10% of companies that have strategic plans that work…empty your tea cup of how you think the market works, how we do things around here, how things have always been… Fill your cup with current market data gathered from both customers and prospects recently sharing why they buy and do not buy today.
Strategy work is difficult so we should not be surprised so many strategies fail to be executed and fail to deliver on their promises to increase sales and profits. To insure your team does not fall into the trap of assuming why buyers buy and why they don’t you must tune into your market on a frequent basis and adjust.
Does your team have a strategic plan that is driving explosive sales growth this year?
When was the last time you conducted a SWOT analysis?
Do you have a culture where your salespeople are safe to share market truths?
When was the last time you adjusted your value proposition?
Are you a salesperson asked to sell with a value proposition that is no longer true? How’s that working for you?
As the leader of your organization is it time to conduct a value proposition gut check?
If you would value more to read on this topic may I suggest?
If you have other content on the subject of how to create strategies that increase sales please add a link in the comments section.
Pic credits http://www.freshesttea.com/black-tea