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Posted by Scott Santucci on February 15, 2013
Three years ago, we asked our CEO, George Colony, to interview other CEO’s about their opinions of their sales force. One of those questions he asked was “are you satisfied that your sales force is getting your company to its strategic objectives?”
What do you think the answer was?
Out of 40 CEO’s he interviewed, 39 said “No.”
We spent a lot of time asking our clients – who are Sales and Marketing leaders – what they thought that meant, and the bulk of them believed it was about the sales force not delivering quarterly results.
This highlighted a big gap in perspective.
You see, in many ways what the CEO is selling is different than what the rest of the organization is – he’s selling the stock, which is a reflection of the future, whereas the rest of the organization is focused on selling the various products and services in the company’s portfolio with a quarterly event horizon. Thus, if the people carrying out the strategy are more focused on the here and now and the CEO has a more forward lean in his head – you can see how this can create the recipe for major friction in the execution of the business strategy.
At the beginning 2011 we framed this problem like this: The selling system is not adapting quickly enough to accommodate the changing business strategy.
Throughout 2011 and 2012, we spent a tremendous amount of time investigating what a “selling system” really means and the implications of the rate of adaptation. Here are some highlights:
Given these inputs, it exposes a fairly big problem across the board doesn’t it?
First there isn’t anyone one (or any group) really responsible for the optimizing the selling “system” that CEO’s are increasingly referring to the summation of the various investments they make to drive revenue in their organizations. Secondly, the plumbing of the organization is fundamentally antithetical to a system in the first place. Finally, if CEO’s are not happy that their selling systems are not adapting to their business strategies – we can only conclude few of them actually have visibility into how fragmented their businesses really are.
How real and timely is this problem?
CEO’s in market segments such as: financial services, pharmaceuticals, media, logistics, technology, professional services, etc. are all developing business strategies designed to plot a new direction to cope with the changed economy. Look at this recent quote from Symantec’s CEO talking about a restricting plan in order to implement his new business strategy (which is called Symantec 4.0):
“On our go-to-market strategy what I would say simply, we had talented people everywhere in the world really working hard but that our system doesn't work, or probably better said we don't have a system. Our process, our technology, the tools we have, our knowledge management, our salesforce is not empowered and freed up to sell.”
- Steve Bennett, Symantec President and CEO – January 23, 2013, Q3 Earnings and Strategy Direction Conference Call.
Think about what he’s saying.
Last year, the firm invested $3.2 billion in Selling, General & Administrative (take about 20% from this number to estimate how much was directly invested in sales and marketing) costs and the new CEO is more or less saying he didn’t get a return from that investment.
That’s a big statement.
Are the people at Symantec the problem? Certainly not – the sum of the parts are not adding up to the whole. This isn’t a unique situation and it is forcing sales and marketing executives to rethink how they execute corporate strategy.
So, what’s the answer?
At Forrester – we see two major categories of problems that work against the successful execution of a business strategy.
1) Organizational drag (or the many different unaligned groups and processes generating outputs that are not designed to operate together when they reach customers) and 2) the weight the comfort zones each of the individual people involved in executing the strategy (how, for example sales people move from selling to lower level buyers to executives).
At our upcoming sales enablement forum, our CEO, George Colony, will share his findings from more interviews with other CEO’s so you can hear what is on their minds. I will follow George where I will help crystalize what exactly the problem is – how it impacts you (regardless if you are an executive, a product marketer, a demand generator, a sales trainer, or manager), and how you can leverage some really simple patterns to quickly develop the adaptive selling system your CEO is looking for.
Here are some links to other posts from myself and peers related to the forum.
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