The Sales Jigsaw Puzzle


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Every once in a while, I like to do a jigsaw puzzle.  It’s nice to do in the evening, no distraction from devices, there’s the great tactile feeling as I pick up a new piece, trying to figure out where it fits.  Then there’s the great reward at the end, once all the pieces are in place, you finally see the whole picture and it makes sense.

Sometimes, I think selling, and all the things sales people must do to be successful, is something like a jigsaw puzzle.  It’s often confusing and difficult to understand each of the pieces/parts until you have put the entire puzzle together and can see the whole picture.  And the reality is, often, there are a lot of pieces missing.

Too often, we inundate our people with all sorts of things they must do to achieve their goals.  Ongoing prospecting, finding/qualifying deals, moving them through the buying/selling process, building healthy funnels/pipelines, forecasting, account/territory planning, call planning, creating value for our customers, developing competitive strategies, and on and on.

Overlaid on this is the endless administrivia, CRM updates, dealing with all the latest sales enablement or marketing programs that are supposed to be helpful.

And then there are the latest new initiatives, programs du jour, new product announcements, and on and on and on……..

With all this going on, it’s no wonder sales people get confused!  They don’t know what they should be doing, when, where their focus should be–other than the continued quest to make the numbers.

Yet we keep demanding they do these things, but they don’t know why we are asking them to do these things, and how the pieces/parts fit together.  Too many sales people I speak with tend to view all of these as disjointed, vaguely related activities—“My manager is the one obsessed with the pipeline, I focus on deals….”  or “The only reason I do account plans is because I have to do one….”

But all these activities are closely related, and balancing our activities across each is critical to achieving our numbers and sustaining performance.  Failing to do all of them impacts our ability to perform.

How do we put the pieces of the puzzle together, what’s the complete picture look like?

A framework or picture helps understand the relationship of the /pieces parts.

Referencing the image at the bottom of the post, at a high-level, starting from the left:

  1.  Account plans and territory plans are, at the simplest level, structured prospecting plans.  It is in our targeted accounts or our territory (however that might be found), we find and qualify the opportunities we want to chase.  To find new deals, we have to be prospecting and the account/territory plan focuses on the most productive areas in which to prospect.  Without them, we would struggle to find the right deals to pursue and to fill our pipelines.
  2. The sales/buying process and the related opportunity/deal plans are all about the deal.  These are qualified opportunities, in our sweet spot, with customers that have a high sense of urgency to change.  Successfully executing our deal strategy enables us to win orders and business.  The sales/buying process provides us the most effective way to maximize our win rate, compress the buying  cycle, and maximize our ability to create value with the customer.  The deal plan is the tool we use to execute the process with a specific customer, helping us identify the specific problems/opportunities, the buyers involved in the process and how we help the customer navigate their buying process.
  3. Meetings/calls are how we execute our account, territory, and opportunity plans.  We engage with customers in meetings/calls.  The meetings we have in the account/territory plans are prospecting, qualifying, nurturing meetings.   The meetings we have executing the selling process/deal strategies are focused on helping the customer move through the process.  We want to maximize the impact of each type of meeting, leveraging design thinking in planning these is very powerful (but that’s a different post).
  4. The pipeline/funnel is the tool we use to track all of these things.  Fundamentally, it focuses on the question, “Are we doing enough of the right things to achieve our goals?”  The pipeline doesn’t solve our problems in achieving our goals, but it helps identify where the problems are–causing us to focus on improving our ability to better execute our account/territory, sales process/deal strategy, call plans.  Pipelines, too lean, focus us on prospecting–executing our account/territory plans.  Win rates too low, deals stalling, our pipeline points us to improving our execution on our deal strategies.  In each of these we want to plan meetings to maximize the impact of each.

I’ve only developed this at a high level, but you get the idea.  Helping our people understand how each piece of the puzzle fits with the others, creating a complete picture about how we most effectively achieve our goals is important.  Understanding the total picture and how the components inter-relate is critical in maximizing performance and helping our people perform at the highest levels possible.

How are you helping your people understand the pieces of the puzzle and how they fit together.

Afterword:  My thanks to my friend, Rene Voorhorst, for helping clarify my thinking about the framework!

Afterword 2:  For a full page PDF of the Sales Execution Framework, email me at [email protected].

Afterword 3:  There is a larger framework of the Sales Organizational/EXCELLENCE Ecosystem that is core to the upcoming Sales Executive Survival Guide, stay tuned.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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