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Strategic Thinking, Getting The Big Picture

by David Brock on August 30th, 2011

I’ve been participating in an interesting conversation at— “What are some non-selling skills that sales reps need to master?”    Leanne Hoagland-Smith made some important observations.  One of those is the importance of Strategic Thinking.

Leanne’s right, but we don’t talk about it very much.  I think there are a couple of aspects to Strategic Thinking, first–how sales professionals manage their opportunities, time, and territories.  Second, how we engage our customers in thinking about their businesses.  Both aspects are critical for high performing sales professionals.

Managing Opportunities, Time, and Territories:

Too often, sales people are interrupt driven or response oriented.  Sales people tend to be transaction oriented, that is–what’s the next email, what’s the next phone call, what’s the next meeting.  We need to respond to something, we need to find out something else, we need to present something.

Days and weeks are consumed in acting and reacting.  We seldom take the time to sit back to think and plan.  We don’t take the time to develop a deal strategy, but look no further than the next step.  We don’t take the time to plan a sales call, choosing instead to shoot from the lip.  We don’t examine our prospecting, choosing instead just to do the same old thing over and over, even though they produce diminishing returns.

The highest performing sales professionals schedule time to plan, strategize, and think.  They look at the long term–are they getting the most out of their territories?  Are they investing their time in areas that produce the greatest return?  Are they being as effective as possible?

They look at each sales opportunity strategically.  They start with the end in mind, developing strategies to get them to the end goal as quickly and effectively as possible.  When surprises happen, rather than reacting, they pause to understand, assess the impact to their strategies, they think several steps ahead, adjusting their strategies where appropriate.

Top sales professional understand the value of planning—planning a sales call, planning a deal strategy, planning how they will maximize the growth in their territory, planning how they will achieve their goals, planning how to most effectively spend their time.  Top sales professionals are also execution oriented–they execute their strategies and plans.  They focus on the efficiency and effectiveness of their execution.

Strategic thinking, understanding the big picture,,  is the way top sales professionals approach every aspect of their job, it’s what separates them people chasing transactions.

Strategic Thinking–For Your Customers:

Top sales people contribute to their customers in a different way as well.  They don’t just compete to solve their customers problems, they look at their customers as if it were their own business.  They aren’t worried about making the sale, getting the deal.  They want to win the customer’s total attention.  They do this by thinking about new ways for their customers to grow their businesses, new ways to do things.  They are not just Problem Solvers, but are Opportunity Solvers.

Because of the way they think and they way they help customers grow their businesses, customers view them differently from normal sales people.  They become trusted advisers, they become critical to the success of the customers.  Customers don’t avoid them, but actively seek them out.  Customers know these top sales people are focused on their success.

Strategic Thinking, the ability to simultaneously look at both the big picture and tactical issues is what separates top  performers from everyone else.


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  1. Terry Higginbotham permalink

    Strategic thinking is very critical to getting the edge. Too many opportunities are missed on a daily basis. “Thinking outside the box” is a valuable tool to strategy brain storming and accomplishment.

    Great article.


  2. David – Thanks for your kind words. May I suggest reading the book “A Seat at the Table” by Marc Miller. This book is all about strategic thinking respective to value identification.

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith
    Author of Be the Red jacket

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