New Strategic Initiative? Prepare for a Marathon.
By Diana Finley, Co-Founder, Client Journey Leader
Have you ever run a marathon? Even if the answer is no, think about the preparation involved before standing at a starting line with 26.2 miles ahead of you. For most, there is a big shift in day-to-day habits. There is commitment to a training schedule, getting up earlier than normal to fit in long runs, adjustments to diet and so much more. Still, after all that preparation, not many people stand at the starting line on race day and think, “this is going to be easy!”
Now, let’s take the marathon analogy and apply it to the corporate arena. Oftentimes, a new strategic initiative will affect all levels of the company’s communication and positioning. Moreover, it requires big shifts in the routines of individuals throughout the organization. Not many people can decide to run a marathon the morning of the race. Why then, do some many organizations think, “we’re going to tell them about the new direction, they’ll know what to say…it’ll be easy!”
This very situation arose recently with a client, a large Fortune 500 company, preparing a completely new go-to-market strategy. The new strategy changes the way the company is messaging to its end users and everyone in between. The effect on the sales team is significant. Reps will need to look at accounts in a completely new way and be prepared to have drastically different conversations with their customers. To say the success of the new strategy hinges completely on the buy-in and effectiveness of the sales team is not an exaggeration. For this reason, giving them the rundown on the strategy and a list of accounts to talk to was not going to work. That WOULD be easy, though!
We worked with the client to identify all the different customer profiles and how the messaging for the strategy needed to be customized to each profile. We considered the different levels of the sales team that needed to be involved in the conversations. Then, we customized the messaging that each level was responsible for delivering. The process was tedious and required dedicated time to get it all ironed out. In fact, it felt like a marathon! At the end, the sales team had clarity on how to talk to specific customers about the company’s new strategy. Ultimately, it gave them a roadmap to do more of what they are already good at, selling the company’s products.
By slowing down, the support plan can dramatically increase the chances of success. So, why do companies take the quick road when it isn’t likely to work? In most organizations we have worked with, the biggest obstacle is simply admitting that this stuff is hard. Many professionals believe they are supposed to have all the answers and be able to make things happen quickly. Speed trumps effectiveness too frequently. In order to mobilize teams to better support new initiatives, it is important to admit these three things:
A new approach is not a reflection on the competency of your sales team. It is unrealistic to expect a sales team to deal with customers, hit quotas and dive into the intricacies of a new strategy. Since your reps are good at selling, help them realize how the new strategy will help them sell more.
A new approach doesn’t mean your training department is ineffective. Training teams are an integral part of driving change and threading the organizational strategy into practice. Unfortunately, developing product-facing training oftentimes soaks up their bandwidth. The need for that doesn’t stop with a new strategy.
Changing strategic direction is hard, but it doesn’t mean it’s the wrong direction. Change is hard, especially in large organizations. That’s not a new concept. Don’t sell your strategy short or abandon it too soon. Instead, commit to the effort required to get everyone on board and understand their role.
New strategic directions are born from the recognition that achieving new levels of success won’t come by doing things the same old way. The same is true of getting everyone in the organization to understand their impact. Lace up your shoes and remind yourself, it’s not going to be easy and that’s okay. After all, it’s a marathon…not a sprint!