Striking the Balance: Short-term Execution vs. Long-term Investment

Sales leaders need to strike a balance between executing on the current quarter’s forecast and investing in the programs and activities that will drive long-term success. It is easy to understand why this balance is often difficult to maintain. Current quarter activities are almost always all encompassing. Every ounce of the sales organization’s energy is committed to making plan. The current quarter results have the most immediate visibility to the CxO suite. A sales leader who misses a quarter will be on the witness stand testifying why.
 
It is simply easier to postpone investment in longer-term programs and activities that drive pipeline growth. After all, tomorrow is tomorrow and long-term activities are less visible. With this near-sighted perspective, the sales leader exchanges sustained success for short-term gain. Eventually the lack of long-term investment and planning catches up with the sales organization in the form of a weak funnel.
 
A way to strike a balance between short-term execution and long-term investment is to create a management cadence where early in every quarter, long-term planning and execution review sessions are held with the sales team.
 
The golden rule in this long-term planning sessions is: no opportunities in the current quarter are to be discussed by the sales professional or sales management during these meetings. This rule forces the focus to the long term.
 
The sales professional presents to the frontline sales manager their plans for developing their accounts and/or territory. The plan includes specifics on the demand generation activities that will take place in the current quarter or subsequent quarters that will drive increased wallet share at current accounts and increasing market share in their territory. The FSM plays a critical role in these plan reviews, acting as mentor, coach, strategist, and guide to the sales professional. It is during these long-term planning sessions that the FSM can have the greatest strategic impact to the success of their sales team by helping the sales professionals to develop well-formed and realistic plans to execute.
 
The FSM then synthesizes the plans of his or her team and presents their overall plan to their immediate management. And so on and so on until the most senior sales manager presents their long-term plan to the sales leader.
 

Creating a rhythm of business where long-term planning is an essential beat of the management cadence helps to assure a better balance between short-term execution and longer-term investment. This is an iterative process and most organizations will not do it perfectly the first time, but by consistent execution of this process, sales leaders can be assured of better balance between short-term execution and sustained success.




Tom Chamberlain, Research Director, MHI Research Institute, April 2015