How better planning wins the war on mediocrity

Friday, November 4, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 45

It’s a scenario many sales leaders know too well: You hire talented people with stellar track records and are left bewildered when they struggle to make their numbers week after week.

You coach them. You put them on performance improvement plans. You remind your team of minimum targets and echo their bonus incentives at every sales meeting.

Yet your team’s performance continues to decline and, as a result, motivation nosedives.

But why would a team of professionals who should be soaring high fall flat?

Napoleon Bonaparte answered this question when he said: “In the art of war, lesser men are schemers who avoid risk with mediocre results. The great captains of history see many ways of waging war; they seek the path of genius and change the face of the world.”

If you don’t invest time in creating a clear and actionable strategic plan to rally the troops around, your sales force will never fly.

Of course, truly great plans aren’t written in silos. Successful strategic plans are written collaboratively.

If you want your staff to be motivated, empowered and invested in your organization’s strategic vision, they must be involved in developing that vision.

Consider involving your sales team in the strategic planning process by taking them through a SWOT analysis exercise at your next sales meeting or retreat.

This exercise will ensure all important ideas are collected. It will also serve as a professional development opportunity for future leaders on your team.

The purpose of a SWOT analysis is to examine your organization in an effort to uncover opportunities you might not be leveraging. Strengths and weaknesses are internal assessments of your team or organization.

A strength might be an exceptionally powerful customer relationship manager. A complex or unfavorable cost structure is an example of a weakness.

Opportunities and threats are external assessments. A new market is an example of an opportunity, and a superior competitor entering your territory is an example of a threat.

For example, you might uncover that your team’s conversion rates are low because of poor prospect follow-up efforts.

As a result, your team could create a strategy to streamline prospect follow-up tactics for cold, warm and hot prospects.

These tactics might include running a direct mail campaign to generate awareness among cold prospects, targeting warm prospects with weekly emails and creating refined PowerPoint presentations and scheduling face-to-face meetings to crank up the heat on selected hot prospects.

Successful organizations are built by empowered team members who have developed an owner’s mentality about achieving personal and company goals.

Great captains know strategic planning is key in winning the war on mediocrity, and inviting your team to be part of the planning process is critical in driving success.

Jenny Jo Smith, training and development manager at RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy, can be reached at