Strategic Initiatives are a valuable management tool to initiate and reinforce desired behaviors in sales execution. They are initially administratively burdensome and require some time to polish and refine to ensure that they focus on the correct situations and behaviors. The sales organization will undergo some angst and disharmony until they become accustomed to creating and executing against them. Management will need to communicate clearly the intent and the expectations in order for the program to be successful.
Organizations that have invested the time and resources and have stayed the course until they have practiced and improved their competency in using Strategic Initiatives swear by them and have the results to prove their worth.
So.. what are the requirements for the use of Strategic Initiatives?
As highlighted in previous articles on the SRG site, implementation of Strategic Initiatives may not be for all sales organizations, nor will it be easy to accomplish. However, the positive sales and profit benefits that result from their implementation make them a valuable tool to implement. Strategic Initiatives rewards allow the salesperson to do the right things (and be paid for accomplishing them) for the company and the customer, and make future sales more profitable and hopefully more plentiful.
In order to implement Strategic Initiatives effectively and efficiently, there are several elements that must be present and empowered. These are:
Senior Management Commitment
Committed senior management, ready to support the program both through their participation in development and approval and also in their actions and decisions is a requirement for success. If management expects salespeople to take a strategic approach to their selling activities, then they also need to ensure that they maintain a longer-term focus on sales activities. Clear vision and management consensus on the strategic direction are also critical.
Roles and Responsibilities
Any competent sales compensation plan designer will tell you that the core principle in designing a sales compensation plan is ensuring that it is tied to the role and accountabilities of the salesperson. The first mistake in implementing Strategic Initiatives is to address the problem rather than the role of the sales individual in solving the problem. Prior to developing Strategic Initiatives for the organization, make sure that the roles and responsibilities are confirmed, documented and aligned with sales strategy.
Most people work better when operate within a set of boundaries that set expectations and define choices. Sales management is no different. Many sales managers don’t want boundaries, because they say it will stifle their creativity and flexibility in responding to the needs of their salespeople and their markets. On the contrary, working within a framework for Strategic Initiatives allows the sales manager to customize a solution to specific issues in the field, but in a consistent and organized manner. The framework includes the common elements required to efficiently develop and manage the Strategic Initiatives process.
Patience will be necessary to weather the difficulties and controversy that will inevitably occur in the first year or two of the program’s implementation. Strategic Initiatives are not always easy to create and getting consistency in their development across the organization and in evaluation will take some time to resolve. It will be important to focus on the long-term benefits, while the bugs are worked out.
Information Systems Support
Systems support will be required to identify tracking and reporting requirements, document systems, determine network and web requirements, and make changes to accommodate new measures, as well as integration with other legacy systems. It will be essential to make the administration and data collection process as automated as possible, otherwise the manpower required to administer the program will increase the cost and decrease the benefit.
Administrative support during implementation and initial rollout of the program will be necessary to ensure that sales transaction tracking and payment are accurate and well documented. Even after the program has been put in place some administrative support will be necessary to manage the qualitative documentation.
Training of field salespeople and field sales management will be important, so that they understand the rationale and potential benefits behind the use of Strategic Initiatives. As well as the potential benefits from a successful implementation, it will also be a good idea to be honest with them and tell them what to expect and how you will handle the hurdles during and after implementation.