Try “Strategy, Structure, People” Next Time

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A better approach to correcting your sales problem

Whether you’re a large, medium or small company, there is a consistent mistake made when attempting to identify the source of the business problem – when you fail to achieve as expected. If you haven’t done this before, next time follow the saying, “Strategy, Structure, People.”

Strategy, Structure, People” is a linear statement to guide your approach towards revenue or operations problems, or identifying the best path when implementing a new business plan. It sounds simple, “Strategy, Structure, People,” but what does it mean? Well, the belief is that managers and business owners often approach problems overly focused where they feel the pain, but seldom at the true source of the pain.

Are your sales people really to blame?

When your company fails to achieve its sales goals, the obvious answer is that it must be a “people” problem – you don’t have the right folks on the streets to find and close good profitable deals. But is it always a “people” problem – is that truly the source of your inability to execute your plan and hit your revenue target? People are definitely the easiest place to focus and maybe you have some data supporting the opinion. However, while we always seek to improve the performance of our sales teams, is competency and focus the issue, or is the source of your shortfall maybe upstream?

Before focusing on the quality of your people, move upstream and take a good look at your sales structure, leadership and process. As the business owner, be honest with yourself and evaluate with more data than strictly your revenue or percent of sales plan results. Does your structure match your go-to-market business strategy, and your financial and volume sales goals? Do your company functional heads support your sales team? Does your sales team know and understand their targets and are they effectively incentivized? And most importantly, does capable and experienced leadership manage your sales team? Companies are always less than optimal, but honestly, how less than optimal is yours? And how deeply has this impacted the people performance and your revenue and profit growth? In today’s world we know that our sales teams are expected to climb over big boulders and overcome in a very difficult marketplace, but are those company-imposed boulders just too much?

Finally, evaluating your business strategy and whether there has been sufficient and consistent communication of it throughout your company is often a key question. Strategies, whether good or bad, generally do not succeed or fail based on the idea. Mostly strategies fail because of poor understanding, communication and execution – not the ideas themselves. Without allowing the organization to understand and fully absorb the strategic initiatives, and without the appropriate changes in structure and processes, strategic initiatives will not be achieved – and the disappointing results will be seen in the faces and performance of your people.

Better outcomes can be reached when your analysis and planning is completed in the order of “Strategy, Structure, People.” So next time you identify a significant business problem to be addressed, or you have a great new idea or big customer to implement, use the mantra of “Strategy, Structure, People,” and I am certain you will be much more successful.