There’s been a lot written about sales and marketing collaboration recently, much of which focuses on how both groups can work together to produce better, more effective collateral and tools for the sales organization. All of this is good; however, there’s a fundamental step that needs to take place first: The need for sales leaders, be they executives or frontline sales managers, to sit down with marketing and other relevant groups to review the company’s Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy.
The GTM strategy should be the source from which sales, marketing, and every other organizational function draws its understanding about the following: What’s the value proposition, how are the products/services positioned, and most importantly, who are its target customers and what common characteristics do they share? The sales manager plays a pivotal role because he or she is ultimately the point at which strategy directly intersects with the market.
The effective sales manager uses the GTM strategy as the foundation for deliberate and informed decision making. It forms the basis of his or her sales strategy, including:
- Working with each of his or her sales people to target the right customer profile
- Ensuring that prospecting plans are leveraging the right value proposition, messaging, and positioning
- Properly qualifying opportunities early in the sales cycles to ensure that they meet the right target customer profile
- Collaborating with support and implementation teams to appropriately resource and support the right opportunities
The effective sales manager then continues to use the GTM strategy as an ongoing rubric to assess the health of the pipeline, as well as how effective sales people are at filling it with the right profile of opportunity. It’s through this constant reinforcement that sales people become attuned to the strategy and use it to actively manage their own pipelines and books of business. Once this happens, the organization achieves a level of alignment with its target customers and the market that can have a significant economic impact on the organization in terms of better-aligned customers, higher margins, and more efficient resource management.
A lack of process often results in the sales manager trying to interpret how to best approach the market, which may result in opportunistically targeting a broader range of customers rather than those ideally suited to the company’s offerings. This method can result in a whole host of issues that eat into margins and resources, such as products or services being “adapted” to meet the needs of misaligned customers or custom, one-off products being produced for individual customers that can create an “any business being good business” sales culture.
On the other hand, quota attainment increased 15% in companies where the sales organization was involved in the overall company strategy, according to a study cited by the TAS Group. So the next time you’re tempted to view the sales manager role as being firmly downstream or reactive and you don’t include him or her in the strategy formulation, remember that he or she is the point of direct intersection between that strategy and the market.
John Golden is author of Winning the Battle for Sales and Social Upheaval: How to Win @ Social Selling and founder and CEO of Focused Revenue Results Inc., which helps small, midmarket, and startup companies with strategy, marketing, and sales.