Sales Strategy: 4 Common Pitfalls for Sales Leaders to Avoid

What is a sales strategy?

It’s a long range plan for reaching a goal. But knowing whether you’re moving in the right direction is easier said than done.

Every sales leader understands there are pitfalls to building a sales strategy. Many sales teams engage in activities that are working against them, without even realizing it.

This post walks you through the four pitfalls of sales strategy and provides best practices to avoid them.

Pitfall 1: Not Setting Clear Strategic Priorities
Pitfall 2: Not Measuring Your Progress
Pitfall 3: Not Empowering Sales Managers
Pitfall 4: Not Upskilling Your Team

LEARN MORE: Watch our webinar Building a Successful Sales Strategy for 2024 today.

Pitfall 1: Not Setting Clear Strategic Priorities

The first pitfall of sales strategy is not setting clear priorities. Your company must start with a goal and work backward. Think bigger than just growing revenue. Ask yourself, what is it we endeavor to be? And why do we want to be that?

Revenue targets are a great objective. But there’s something bigger. If you’re starting with a revenue goal, ask yourself why it’s important to you and the company. When you keep the answer top of mind, it helps you gauge your strategy. This will give you a broader perspective.

There are a number of factors to consider when thinking through your objectives. First are external factors such as customer trends, how customers buy, product and service preferences, shrinking budgets. There are also market factors, regulatory issues, and supply chain issues.

In addition, there are internal factors such as company resources, budget allocation, technology needs, sales training needs, and whether you have the personnel to support these needs.

Start with the end in mind and think big. This provides a directional focus to be able to institute strategic priorities.

3 Best Practices for Success

1. Think Differently: When looking at your strategy and your objectives, think about what your team needs to do differently to achieve those objectives. Look at your team and its capabilities and figure out where potential opportunities for development are. Buyers have changed. How we sell has changed. What’s required for success in your industry with your customers and have those changed?

2. Assess Sales Resources: Be aware of your team’s capacity and available resources. This will help determine the right number of strategic priorities. You want to avoid spreading yourself or your team too thin.

3. Adjust As Needed: Markets change and what’s important to your company may change. You want to make sure you’re working directionally towards your strategy and understanding what it is you ultimately want. Strategic priorities are built on educated guesses. Not all things work all the time, and that’s okay. You may miss a goal or get off track. It’s important to continue to adjust and make in-flight adjustments. Don’t become discouraged.

Pitfall 2: Not Measuring Your Progress

The next sales strategy pitfall is not measuring and communicating progress. You want well-defined, actionable objectives. You need clear communication to your team. If you’re a sales leader, everyone needs a common understanding of your strategic priorities.

This means you must set and measure progress toward KPIs and incentives. Make sure that your compensation structure supports your strategy. For example, organizations that shift from account management to a prospecting mindset must validate that incentives are designed to drive new business growth.

3 Best Practices for Success

1. Keep Everyone on the Same Page: Your sales team wants to be successful. This means it’s important for them to know what mission clarity is and what it is they have to do. Gartner research shows employees are 77% more likely to be high performers when their level of understanding of goals and their connection to the work is higher than when their understanding is low. Make sure everybody on the team understands the strategies, knows the direction, and where you’re going.

2. Define Leading and Lagging Indicators: To help people succeed, you need to look forward at leading indicators and backward at lagging indicators. When you look back retrospectively at the last month or quarter, you can track your progress toward goals. But when you look ahead, you can see what activities will impact the future.

3. Measure Milestones: It’s important to measure incremental improvement. Don’t get hung up on huge overarching goals. Set priorities and milestones that you can effectively measure and manage to see if you’re on the right track. Make sure your priorities are working and you can continue to gain momentum. Once you have momentum, you increase the probability of further success.

Pitfall 3: Not Empowering Sales Managers to Manage Change

The next pitfall to avoid when building a successful sales strategy is disempowering sales managers. The key is to involve them in creating the solution and equip them to lead change. If you’re rolling out new strategic priorities, you’ve got to manage this change.

Change is a constant. It’s the sales managers’ role to make sure they can articulate the strategy, involve the team, and give hesitators the doors to walk through. Focus on those who may not be completely certain. Help them see the vision.

You may have the best idea in the world. But if the idea is not adopted by the people in your organization, it will fall flat. It’s not the idea. It’s the adoption of the idea.

3 Best Practices for Success

1. Collaborate on Solutions: Invite your people into the solution phase of your strategy. People are empirically more committed to things that they agree to. Bring your team together. Talk about the gaps and what you have to accomplish and bring them to the solution. How do we do this? What do we need to do? Bringing people to the table to solve problems will definitely increase the likelihood of commitment and, most importantly, your ability to get results.

2. Address Performance Gaps: When you see a gap between goals and achievement, it’s imperative to understand why things are happening—or not happening. Be honest about the conversations. You don’t let it fester, and don’t allow yourself to become aggravated or upset. Make unknowns known. Why is there a gap? What are we doing about it? Be clear about what the standard is and what you’re going to do moving forward.

3. Coach Continually: Even your best performers want to be coached. When asking your team to do something different, you’ve got to support that change.

Pitfall 4: Not Upskilling Your Team with Continuous Learning

The last pitfall is failing to give your team the knowledge and skills they need to achieve the strategy. Look to digital reinforcement, practice, and sales coaching to bolster your big-picture goals, sustain your team’s focus, and make your strategy successful.

If you expect your team to do more, make sure they have the tools and the skills they need. People learn differently. Focus on providing training in a myriad of ways to meet the various learning needs and personality types of each sales professional.

3 Best Practices for Success

1. Invest in Your Sales Team: The most important investment you can make is in your people. Without them you can’t grow revenue, retain customers, or improve margins. The way you develop, train, and execute with your team can provide competitive value down the road. More engaged, stronger, more developed people are a leading indicator of success.

2. Assess Sales Team Capabilities: Get objective data and insights into what your team does well. Assess whether they have the right skill sets, capabilities, and mindset for what you need them to do. Then make a plan for getting them where they need to be.

3. Upskill and Develop: Sales training is a component of sales strategy. Ask if you have the engine to get to where you need to go. It’s not a matter of replacing the entire engine. It’s making more subtle changes such as new oil, better valves—things you can do to increase the efficiency and productivity of that engine. Ask yourself how you can develop your people to achieve your objectives.

Create a Winning Sales Strategy with The Brooks Group

While a lot of factors contribute to sales performance, one of the most important is how your sales training strategy supports your overall business objectives.

The Brooks Group offers high-impact training programs, coaching programs, skills assessments, and workshops that can be customized to meet the needs of your organization and sales team. Not sure where to start? Our expert sales consultants can help you evaluate what you need and where to begin.

Learn More
See how our sales training programs will empower your sales professionals with the selling skills and sales process they need to engage buyers and win more deals.

Written By

Dan Markin

As Vice President of Sales Strategy and Consulting for The Brooks Group, Dan is committed to using innovative and practical motivational techniques and strategies that allow people and organizations to enjoy breakthrough results – often beyond what they ever imagined possible.
Written By

Dan Markin

As Vice President of Sales Strategy and Consulting for The Brooks Group, Dan is committed to using innovative and practical motivational techniques and strategies that allow people and organizations to enjoy breakthrough results – often beyond what they ever imagined possible.

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