And therein lies the rub: Getting it right.
The great divide
There is a classic “head and hands” disconnect in many large organisations: Strategy is designed in the “Ivory Tower” and then the foot soldiers are expected to implement it. The strategy is based on thorough analysis and a good measure of “big data” thrown in for good measure, so it’s evidence based and will meet with little resistance as it sails through senior management approval processes.
Often the strategy finds itself ready for launch at a cycle meeting, along with bells and whistles to support its adoption. A lot of cash has often been committed at this stage in terms of physical materials and marketing support. Senior managers take a deep breath, hoping for enthusiastic adoption by the sales-force.
Enlightened organisations will even go further, measuring knowledge / retention of the new strategy through quizzes, on-line learning, producing yet more data to show progress.
Strategy as a conversation
We have found it very helpful to think of strategies as conversations. In other words, what exactly will this strategy look like in terms of a conversation with a healthcare professional?
How will the sales person open a meeting to signal something has changed?
What would be the call objective anyhow?
What does it actually sound like when the words in the PPT are translated into the rough and ready co-created conversation that is a customer interaction?
Fast prototyping of ideas
With this in mind, we advocate running “pressure cooker sessions” with several marketing strategists and sales people working together over a whole day to actually practice this conversation with key stakeholders.
We ask the strategy originator to show how to lead the conversation. NOT describe it in a Powerpoint, but actually demonstrate it in a practise sales call.
This brutally simple technique has the following benefits:
In addition, we have found that sales-forces are excellent at accelerating the success of launches at cycle meetings by:
Reducing the sales learning curve
Even with the best foresight and prototyping in the world, sales is an emergent phenomenon: It’s only when products / approaches are actually launched that we learn the best way to sell them. Objections emerge, supply issues can crop up and a few early adopting sales people find novel and effective ways to sell.
Because of this, it is vital to set up a very regular knowledge exchange platform to:
There are many ways to do this: At a sales meeting, conference call, web meeting, CRM or on-line forum.
It’s the regularity that counts.
Using the “conversations” theme is a good way to diffuse knowledge. Either by preparing very short transcripts that reflect real conversations with customers, or by making short videos of emerging best practice to show others how to live the new strategy is a very good way.
Closing the knowing doing gap
It’s remarkably easy as a strategist to suggest what others in the organization should do: By being involved in actually doing it, strategists gain a degree of realism that is invaluable in terms of strategy quality and speed of implementation.