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Crash: Misaligned Selling Strategies Can Kill

Morale Low?
Turnover High?
Sales Flat?
All of the above?

Has you notice good people headed for the door?

Most sales organizations that suffer from some of these ailments don't see it coming. It was a HIT and RUN I tell you!

Well, actually, it was a misalignment.

When your car drifts out of alignment, it doesn't just smack into a lampost. Instead, it starts to pull to one side. The tires begin to wear unevenly. More stress causes the shocks, struts and axel to break down. Then one day, your car folds like the Baltimore Orioles in August (sorry, that's a local thing).

Let's bring it back to the sales organization. Let's say you make blogclogs (shoes you wear while blogging - ok, not so humorous). Many firms already have a corporate vision (although we might want to explore how they developed that in a future blog). Many of those same organizations have a selling strategy that incorporates a recruiting and retention plan, compensation, incentives, recognition, benefits, sales training, etc.

So the key isn't whether an organization has a vision and a selling strategy, but rather if they are in alignment?

In our out-of-alignment car, we have lots of blame to go around (except for the car owner, of course). Let's blame the manufacturer, the dealer, the auto mechanic, Goodyear, Jiffylube, US Highway and Roads, and your spouse!

Indeed, now we move directly into our "Whodunnit?" phase, in which all suspects are guilty until proven innocent!


Who made it? (The Factory) Guilty!

Who hired them? (HR) Guilty!

Who trained them? (Outside training companies are easier to blame so let's blame them) Guilty!

Who managed them? (The Sales Manager) Guilty!

Who didn't sell enough? (The Sales Rep) Guilty!

Who didn't help with the sales adminstration fast enough? (Sales Admin.) Guilty!

You get the idea!

A sales organization doesn't crash in one day. Instead it drifts further and further out of alignment until it collapses like the Orioles of late.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins sites his finding in organizations that have gone from good to great (exceeding the performance of the general stock market by a factor of 15 over a 15 year period) by having clearly defined core values and a vision that doesn't shift from year-to-year, but is timeless. Yet, what can and should change are the strategies and operating procedures a firm implements.

In my 25 years in sales and sales management, I've seen organizations in and out of alignment. What's interesting to me, is that senior management often takes the Whodunnit? approach instead of checking to see if they are living their vision.

So before we play the blame game, can we check the maintenance record? - by markslatin
I like your analogy Mark...makes perfect sense. Very attractive/professional website also. And I feel your pain, my Mariners are collapsing out here in Seattle... - by Dougd55

A sales organization doesn't crash in one day. Instead it drifts further and further out of alignment until it collapses like the Orioles of late.

In my 25 years in sales and sales management, I've seen organizations in and out of alignment. What's interesting to me, is that senior management often takes the Whodunnit? approach instead of checking to see if they are living their vision.

So before we play the blame game, can we check the maintenance record?
There's some really thought-provoking stuff in your post. Thanks! - by Skip Anderson
thmbp2; I loved your post, Mark.thmbp2;

Assuming that a company has a good vision and strategy, what measures can senior management use to diagnose how well aligned sales people and front line managers are?

Eric - by Eric Count5
Great question Eric!

Sales strategies should pass the smell test against a firm's core values and vision. For example, if my core values include attracting and retaining the best people, a strategy that involves building a culture in synch with your vision works. Many firms have strategies that don't align or are absent entirely from their strategies.

Now assuming that strategies match up with core values, long-term goals and the core purpose, plans and actions as sub-components, should include timelines and measurements. Developing performance metrics take time but are well worth the effort. Things to measure for a sales organization? How they rate admin. support, technology, compensation vs. competition, compenstation vs. performance, value of the products/services to meet markets needs, sales rep turnover, account turnover, margin improvement, etc.

I recommend creating benchmarks for feedback from employees (in the case of the core value of employee satisfaction) that measure how well the firm is "living" it's vision. 360 degree feedback (John Maxwell) or another survey that asks for input from the sales team is a great source.

Too many firms suffer from the "ivory tower" syndrome and don't take the pulse of sales professionals. It's arrogant and creates mistrust. - by markslatin
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