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Thinking Strategically

Required reading for sales managers.During a discussion with a CEO client Wednesday about his VP of sales, the subject of strategic thinking came up.  Here are some thoughts on that subject and a recommendation.

One of the many capabilities required for success in complex selling and most sales management positions is the ability to think and act strategically.  Too many people in sales and sales management are tactical—responding and reacting, rather than having a vision of a final outcome and a plan to get there. 

I’ve seen many salespeople and their managers learn to see things strategically. Certainly some DNA is involved. But exposure to different sales approaches, books, coaches, consultants and case studies can all help.   Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, for example, is certainly a must-have on the bookshelf of anyone serious about a career in selling.  

Much of what I learned early in my career about sales strategy came from guys like Jim Holden, Rick Page and Bob Miller and Stephen Heiman’s book Strategic Selling.   Actually, those resources got me pretty far, initially.  I could out-plan and out-strategize the competition.  So could the salesreps that worked for me.  That competitive edge served to motivate me to learn more about advanced selling strategies. 

Later on, when I was a full-time competitive sales strategist, I bought the book Thinking Strategically.  Although the applications of strategy discussed were broad in scope, the book powered me to a new level.  In fact, I still reread certain sections of the book every year or so.  That’s how valuable it is to me.  But be advised: It’s not easy reading.  There is considerable mental work involved.  If The Art of War is elementary school, Thinking Strategically is graduate school.

The book was originally published in 1991.  It hasn’t lost its potency.

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2 Responses

  1. Took me a while to get this from the library — I guess it’s still popular and I can see why. The ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ alone is worth the price of admission. My brother used to read books on game theory when we were kids and it took all the romance out of strategy games for me since I really wanted the bold, risky strategy to win, and it never does if your opponent has any strategic sense.

    But when you are in a competitive situation, it’s good to know which type of game you are in, what strategy your opponent is likely to employ, and what strategy guarantees you the best chance of success no matter what your opponent does. The key take-away for me is that when employing a strategy, keep in mind that you have competitors who are also employing a strategy and counter-strategies. It’s obvious in a game or contest, but I think too often in sales, strategies are employed with no thought that competitors will take note and employ a counter strategy.

    This is a book I’ll definitely add to my bookshelf — there’s way too much to read and digest in the three weeks the library gives you, and this is a book that rewards multiple readings. Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. Yes, I read the book too and it was pretty good even though not easy sometimes, which is good, it means it goes beyond simple facts.

    Here is a summary for dummies like me: http://bruchansky.wordpress.com/2008/12/07/introduction-to-game-theory/

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