From Strategy to Results: How to Drive Sales Execution Excellence

Written By: Dan Snyder

November 7, 2023 – 5 min read

You’ve likely heard the saying, “Execution eats strategy for breakfast.” It’s a riff on Peter Drucker’s famous words, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Put simply, having a fantastic game plan is fruitless if you aren’t equipped to implement it accurately, especially in the competitive and ever-evolving pharmaceutical landscape.

The Dangers of Not Executing Well on Strategy

I’ve witnessed firsthand the unique challenges sales leaders face in turning strategic plans into tangible results. When revenue targets are missed, tension can rise between marketing and sales teams. Each side may start pointing fingers at the other, blaming the other for the lack of success. This can lead to a breakdown in communication, a loss of trust, wasted resources, pressure from senior leadership, and worse.

Only 8% of leaders are good at both strategy & execution.

Harvard Business Review

Where Do the Execution Wheels Fall Off?

Studies show that 90% of organizations fail to execute their strategies. Have you thought about the cost poor execution is costing your company? As sales leaders, you must hold yourself and your teams accountable for executing to strategy.

Here are just a few reasons why most strategies fail:

  1. Executing a plan is a much more challenging job than devising one… by far
  2. Despite its complexities, managers tend to allocate less resources, time, and effort to the execution phase
  3. Strategy adherence gets lost in the day-to-day management of the business
  4. Lack of accountability
  5. Lack of employee communication and awareness
  6. Poor performance management (not tracking KPIs or tracking the wrong KPIs)
  7. Disconnect between strategic ideas and functional objectives
  8. Lack of clear priorities
  9. Ambiguous responsibilities
  10. Inability to cascade goals to teams and individuals

67% of employees do not understand their role in new growth initiatives.


Prioritize Execution

Imagine you’re planning a cross-country road trip. You’ve meticulously charted out the route, selected the best places to visit, and packed all the essentials. But without actually getting behind the wheel and driving, your plan remains nothing more than a dream.

You can have the most brilliant strategy in place, but unless your sales team executes it effectively, your strategy is just a collection of ideas. Execution excellence is the bridge that turns strategy into tangible results.

7% of successful companies have an established mechanism to translate their strategy into operational terms and evaluate it on a day-to-day basis.

Tactics for Effective Strategy Execution

To transform strategy into real results, it is imperative to shift the focus from planning to a relentless commitment to tactical implementation. This strategic execution hinges on a proactive approach that encompasses a series of pivotal steps:

Clear Communication, Objectives, and Alignment

  • Ensure sales leadership and the field team fully understand the strategic objectives and how their roles contribute to the overall strategy.
  • Create alignment by regularly communicating the strategic goals, reinforcing their importance, and linking them to daily tasks and activities.

Identifying Knowledge Gaps

  • Work with your team to identify any knowing/doing gaps hindering execution in the upcoming year.
  • These gaps might relate to product knowledge, market trends, elevating HCP engagement, optimizing omnichannel, or improving sales techniques.

Ongoing Development

Reinforce Skills, Knowledge, and Behavior

  • Building skills is about providing learning opportunities and resources to enhance your sales reps’ capabilities.
  • Changing behaviors involves more than just acquiring new skills; it’s about embracing a new mindset and consistently applying those skills in practice.
  • Reinforcement is your key to ensuring that the skills, knowledge, and behavior acquired align with your strategy. To reinforce behaviors, provide regular positive feedback and recognition when team members demonstrate the desired behaviors in alignment with the strategy.

Establish Performance Metrics and KPIs

  • Establish clear and measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) aligned with the strategy. These should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
  • Continuously track and report progress against these metrics to keep the team focused and accountable.

Create a Feedback and Coaching Culture

  • Encourage your sales team to provide input on areas where they feel less confident or encounter challenges in customer interactions.
  • Implement a feedback-rich culture where sales leaders provide regular, constructive feedback to their team members.
  • Offer coaching and mentoring to help sales professionals improve their performance and align with the strategy.

Provide Technology and Tools

  • Provide sales teams with the necessary tools and technology to streamline workflows and make execution more efficient.
  • Leverage Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, analytics tools, and sales enablement platforms to support strategy execution.

Create an Execution Roadmap

  • Create a detailed execution roadmap that outlines the steps, milestones, and responsibilities of each team member.
  • Clearly define how the strategy will be translated into actionable tasks.

Monitor and Adapt

  • Establish a system for monitoring progress throughout the fiscal year.
  • Be prepared to adapt your plan if circumstances change or if specific strategies prove ineffective.

Set Clear Expectations and Culture of Accountability

  • Set clear expectations of what “great” is or looks like and never accept less than that. Doing so lowers the bar of effectiveness.
  • Understand that everyone has a role in holding the entire team accountable for the desired behaviors and results.

By implementing these key tactics, sales leaders can significantly enhance their team’s ability to execute against strategic objectives and drive organizational success.

In Conclusion

While a well-crafted sales strategy is paramount, execution is the driving force behind turning strategies into results. Effective execution requires more than just building skills; it involves clear communication, changing behaviors, reinforcing knowledge, measurement, and enabling continuous improvement. As you prepare to implement your strategy for fiscal year 2024, remember to identify and address knowledge gaps within your team to ensure it is executed successfully and delivers your intended business results.

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