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Structure vs. Creativity and Flexibility

I recently wrote a post titled "The Need for Creativity" that covered why sales managers must develop their levels of creativity to solve the multitude of problems they face and the need to assist their salespeople in developing better sales strategies. In the blog, I also laid out the 10 actions one can take to improve their personal creativity. 

In other posts, I have also discussed the need for a variety of formal, structured systems that are reviewed and executed on a regular cadence -- e.g., account plans, training schedules and salesperson business planning.

The topic of "structure versus creativity/flexibility" hit me over the weekend. I am reading a terrific book called The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. It is about the first month of WWI, a topic I had no real interest in. But the book came highly recommended by a friend and it is a great read! So, what does WWI have in common with sales leadership? 

In the book, Tuchman describes how both the Germans and French began planning for WWI in 1870. Both countries had extensive strategies and tactics planned down to the minutest details, from troop movement, roadmaps, train schedules and specific plans on day-to-day operations. These plans were ready to be executed based upon the right spark. Both countries expected the war to last just a few months and both were led by strong-minded generals who were focused on executing their plans.

The result?  During the first month, everyone was focused on the wrong objectives and not on the right objectives. The war lasted a very long time that was highly costly for every country in Europe and also the United States. Why? In the beginning, the generals stuck to their structured plans instead of using creativity, and did not adapt to changes in tactics by either side.

In the world of sales management, we are tossed challenges on a daily basis and it is easy to be distracted. It is common to lack the time or have difficulty maintaining a focus on achieving the planned activities. As sales managers we must have plans and tools for growing our organizations and achieving our goals, but we must adapt to our changing environments. Sometimes, we lose a salesperson unexpectedly, or a major opportunity starts to slide, or marketing fails to achieve its lead-generation objectives. All of these or other disruptions could cause a sales manager in a fixed mode to lose the battle.

It is critical we remain flexible and creative in our approach. But having a foundation, systems or structure can help leverage the busy life of a sales manager. Don't get locked in and but use the necessary tools to maintain direction and focus.

One of the reasons our Sales Manager Tool Kit is popular is that its 40-plus tools can provide the structure that is needed, but they are in a format where they can be modified or changed by the user to fit their changing environments.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on June 15, 2015 at 4:04 PM


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