Strategic thinking with most sales leaders seems to be focused on, “How are we going to finish the month?” For front line sales managers it seems to be limited to, “Did you hit your prospecting goals for today, what is your plan to do hit it tomorrow?”
The intensity of focus on what we are doing to achieve our goals today blinds us to the fact that things are changing at a rate we have never experienced. As a result, we spend too much time playing catch up, unprepared to address the challenges and opportunities for the coming 1-3 years.
It’s unreasonable to think of being completely strategic in our focus, paying more attention to how wonderful things might be. But it is equally unreasonable for us to be so intensely tactically focused.
Sellers must create have a “tactegic” focus. While most of their work is on identifying, qualifying, closing current opportunities, they must also be investing time thinking about the future:
- What are the biggest challenges my customers/accounts will be facing in the coming 2-3 years?
- Who should I be talking to about those challenges?
- What are the biggest challenges/opportunities they should be thinking about for the coming 2-3 years?
- How do I incite them to think about these and engage them in changing?
- What are the biggest changes happening in their markets/customers that will impact them in the coming years?
- Who should I be engaging to talk about these things?
It’s these conversations that drive future opportunity for us and our customers. We need to be investing some time in laying the groundwork for creating those opportunities for next year and the following year.
Senior must have a more “stratical” focus. They want to make sure the sellers and front line managers are focusing on this week’s, this month’s, this quarter’s, and this year’s goals are being achieved. But if they have those people doing their jobs, then the senior leaders must be investing much of their time in thinking about “what’s next, where should we be going, what should we be thinking about, what’s changing with our customers, markets, how do we best respond to them?”
Even better, “what opportunities do we have to disrupt our customers/markets, how do we incite them to think differently, what do we do to seize share from our competition?” And then, “what new offerings should we be bringing to our customers, how do we mobilize the organization to develop and bring those offerings to market?” Then always, “what resources do we need to be putting in place to support our growth opportunities, what structures, processes, programs, tools do we need to put in place, what development opportunities do we need to create for our people.”
And finally, “how do we reinforce and build our culture and values, how do we build and reinforce a growth oriented mindset, how do we visibly demonstrate this in our actions every day.”
There’s so much more detail to the tactegic focus of sellers and front line managers, as there is with the stratical focus of senior leaders, but you get the idea, so I’ll stop here.
We must be constantly mindful of the rate of change and disruption that both we and our customers face. If our strategic focus is constantly on “are we achieving this month’s goals,” we will never capture the opportunity we should, we will never create the value our customers need, and we will never disrupt our markets seizing share from our competitors.
Chess is an interesting analogy. The best in the world don’t think just of the next move, but often, 30-40 moves ahead.