2400 years ago (talk about history lessons!), ancient Chinese strategist Sun Zu wrote the book "The Art Of War". In the book, he wrote "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory" and "Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat". We often talk about both strategy and tactics and have always believed there is a link between the two. However, which comes first, and how can we instruct and teach our sales people to connect and leverage both to get the best results we want?
It is not uncommon that we find companies and their sales people engaging in "tactical" (selling skills) sales training without an overall selling strategy (sales process or model) to leverage the skills. An example would be teaching "questioning skills" to uncover customer needs and wants. Good questioning skills is an important selling "tactic" that can uncover valuable information. However, using the information our questions uncover without a good selling "strategy", can be disastrous. We need to include a "strategy" to support the tactics that can help people understand "how and when to use the information once they have it".
Suppose you become a great questioner, your skills uncover information that you believe has high value to your prospect and you build your presentation around the information you have uncovered. Then, you make the presentation, attempt to "close" and discover that your prospect needs to get offers from three other companies before they can make a decision. You've provided them valuable information that they can now use to "compare" offers, or worse, bring the information to your competitors so they can copy or "clone" your ideas! This is one example of how "tactics without strategy" can become the "noise before defeat". You must have an overall "information management strategy" to support your "questioning" tactic to guard against this problem.
If you listen to Sun Zu, you realize that your desire to "sell value and not be the low price provider" is a strategy. However, the "strategy without tactics" (selling techniques to implement the strategy) will enable you to win (sometimes) but by "the slowest route to victory". We meet many companies and sales people that have "strategy", or direction, but have not done a good job of helping their sales teams develop "tactics" to implement the strategy. They may eventually win, but it will take a long time and will require a lot of hit and miss attempts (offers, presentations) that create a low winning percentage and high selling (and emotional) costs. Building, creating and teaching a"value translation" model is the tactical implementation of the strategy and usually the piece that is missing.
Example: If your strategy is to "sell value not low price" then you need to develop tactics that support the strategy. When confronted with the "price question" a tactic to use would be "We're not usually the low price provider, will that be a problem?". If the answer is "no" you may have identified someone who is willing to consider your "strategy". If the answer is "yes, we only buy the low price", you still have options (see post under sales strategy "is it really price?"). You could leave and save time by not doing "missionary work" (best left to the church!) or develop tactics that will make you good at "re-framing" the price question... like "so does that mean that quality is of no value to you?"
Additionally, if your strategy is to "sell value not price" then part of the strategy would be to call on people in the organizations who benefit more from your value, and not just low price. This would entail develoing "tactics" that would help you call over and above the "purchasing department" who is normally focused on buying for low price. You'll need good "messaging" that will get the interest of those people who really benefit from your value, rather than having them "refer" you back to purchasing.
In upcoming posts I'll try to further expose "strategies without tactics" and "tactics without strategies" and help you put these concepts to work for you. You'll also find some examples in previous posts that can be found in the archives of this blog.
Action Step: Identify your "strategy" and make sure you have "tactics to support it. Identify are you guilty of "tactics" without strategy?