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5 Reasons why Sales Strategy Projects fail

Sales Strategy projects are not always successful. Sometimes this is due to circumstances but very often the seed for failure is sowed during the set up and management of these projects.

Here are the 5 most common mistakes you should avoid to prevent this.

1.       Assign Project Leadership to Staff functions

Quite often top managers tend to appoint members of staff functions (e.g. Strategy Development, Sales Administration, Business Development) to project leadership. The reason for this is that those departments tend have more experience in project work and/or that the operative sales management claims not to have enough time to lead such a project.

Nevertheless, the signal to the sales team is fatal: they don’t take the project seriously and assume that their management is not committed to it. At the end of the day there will be no acceptance of the project results and failure is assured before the project even started.

In order to avoid this it is essential that the top (sales) management lead sales strategy projects.

2.       Exclude Critics

When it comes to selecting project team members, managers tend to choose people that are open minded, constructive and committed to the intended project results. Known critics are very often excluded.

This makes the project work much more pleasant and easier. But there is a catch: this kind of project teams tend to neglect counter arguments and to underestimate resistance to implementation. Many projects fail because of this mistake.

In order to avoid this you need to include skeptical opinion leaders and critics into the project team.

3.       Preserve old Paradigms

New strategies are about change. Nevertheless sales managers often want to increase acceptance of the project results in their teams by sticking to old paradigms. Therefore they restrict the scope of the project (e.g. “we never did direct sales and therefore it is not in scope of this strategy” or “we are retailers and no e-tailers, therefore eCommerce is not in scope of the strategy project”).

This will probably increase the acceptance of the “new” strategy but only because it is clear right from the beginning that nothing will change.

A sales strategy project that does not develop new perspectives and where it is not allowed to think beyond existing paradigms will not come up with new solutions. Keep in mind the words of Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

4.       Hope that Project Results implement themselves

Let’s suppose the most positive outcome of a sales strategy project: the sales teams understand and accept the results. They are convinced that the new strategy will be beneficial. Will they immediately change their thinking and the way they work? Definitely not!

Humans tend to resist change. We all know how hard it is to change habits.

Therefore the implementation of Sales Strategy Projects needs to be managed carefully and sustainably by the top management. Otherwise it will fail.

5.       Trust in internal Ability to generate Innovation

Many sales managers trust into their and their teams’ ability to develop innovative strategies. They tend to massively underestimate organizational blindness.

This is especially true if they rise inside the same company or within one industry. Often they do not know what they don’t know. For example: they might not be aware that industries already developed solutions for challenges that are new for others.

This is the reason why it is necessary to look beyond one’s own nose if you want to come up with innovative strategies.

Being member of associations, exchange with companies from other industries or hire management consultants can help massively to avoid this.

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