What Not to Do. Who Not to Do It With (The Leadership Playbook)

Strategy is about deciding how you intend to compete and win. It’s your plan to create an advantage, and it is how you create focus. As a leader, you are charged with ensuring that your sales strategies and sales tactics are aligned with the company’s overall strategy; they serve as a guide to what you will do.

Strategy is also a guide to what you will not do.

Who You Won’t Serve

Bringing strategy to life means deciding who you will not serve. It dictates who you will not pursue as clients as much as it dictates who you will. It is the underlying foundation for both targeting (the dream clients you will call on) and disqualifying (who you will not call on).

If your company is not the price leader, your strategy will dictate that you forego calling on prospects whose primary deciding factor for choosing a partner is price. A price-driven prospect needs value creation around obtaining a lower price, and your value-creation lies elsewhere. That’s a strategic mismatch.

Some large, well-known companies live their strategy, and it is, in part, why they are so successful. Apple Computers purposely and willingly gives up market share in laptop computers by targeting and selling to a higher price point; they are willing to lose all of the potential laptop buyers whose primary concern is price. The other side is WalMart. They are the low price leader, but if you want a clean, bright store instead of a warehouse for your household shopping, WalMart is willing to forego your business.

This guidance is critical to leading the sales force effectively. When you can tell your sales force who not to call and why, you free up their time and the resources to focus on who you do want them to pursue.

What We Won’t Do

Targeting and qualifying are also more effective when the sales force has been provided concrete guidance as to what you won’t do.

If there are some things that you can’t, won’t, or don’t want to do because your strategy dictates otherwise, then helping the sales force to understand the strategy prevents them from wasting time pursuing the wrong prospects.

If a prospect requires a solution that you cannot provide, if they have very specific needs that you aren’t able to meet, or if they operate in a way that requires something other than what you do, eliminating the time working on these prospects frees up time for better activities.

Because you need to identify and move opportunities through the pipeline from target to close, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to serve everybody. You might believe that maybe you can find a way to make what you do work, or maybe you could change the prospect’s mind about what they need. And sometimes, you may be able to find a way. But the great majority of the time, doing so is a more complicated decision that means making a bad strategic choice.

Your strategy should guide what you do, as well as what you will not do. It should also guide who you target and who you disqualify. These decisions are critical, and you owe the sales force clear guidance.

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