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NCAA-Style Sales Management: Developing a Winning Sales Strategy

Last week, it was all about golf and putting. Now, after indulging in some men's and women's NCAA games all weekend, it's about strategy.

In my view, there are several levels of strategy sales teams should consider. First, putting the right players on the floor to match up against the competition's players is key (and the reason my first book, Hiring High Performance Sales Teams, was written). Without talent, you have no chance of winning. Good basketball teams are deep with talent. They can go large, or they can go small and fast. They can focus on defense as well as offense.

Assessing and developing talent is what coaching is all about. As you watch the Final Four next week, evaluate your team and its ability to win. Are your players weak, or can your team push through the tough stretches and score? To this end, I believe recruiting is the most important job for sales management. Build a continuous hiring program to find top talent.

As for the second level of strategy, game-time execution must be brilliant! From a sales perspective, game-time is when your value proposition must sold, your prospect relationship developed and you must out-maneuver the competition. If the competition comes out with man-to-man or zone defense, can your salespeople adapt? If a full-court press stresses out your team, can they break it with quick passes and move down the court for an easy layup? Are your players trained to react well and not simply lose the sale or give up a turnover?

During this phase, sales managers must coach. This is when your experience and creativity must take over by providing advice, insights and, hopefully, the right tactics to assist your sales team. Acumen's four-page "Sales Strategy Guide" can help you with this; if you'd like a copy, send me an e-mail. We use it with our clients during their pipeline reviews and sales strategy meetings.

The third level of strategy is all about the last two minutes. In the sales process, this critical period could occur during the last week or two, when everything is on the line. The prospect could be confused, undecided or leaning toward your competition. What play would you call? Would you camp out at the prospect's office? Have your president call their president? Drop your price?

The best coaches in the NCAA would call a timeout to make sure the next two plays are drawn out, ensure everyone understands whom to foul, how many timeouts are still available, and who should take the last shot. Those situations are actually rehearsed during normal practice times; nothing is left for chance when the game is on the line. Do you have your sales training plans designed for a rolling 90 days with all aspects of sales strategies built in? The best sales managers do!

No sports analogies next week, I promise. But for now, remember: Teamwork, practice, selection and development will win the 2011 NCAA Final Four...and the sales race.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on April 01, 2011


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