Sales Strategy vs. Sales Tactics

So what’s the difference?

For our purposes, ‘strategy’ means that there’s a plan. ‘Tactics’ means that you’re thinking on your feet.

A sales cycle that includes both is much more likely to succeed than a cycle that relies on only one of them.

Tactics make sales fun. Strategy makes sales more predictable.

Here’s the executive summary – do both; and do them both in every sales cycle. Trust me on this; the sales cycle where you (or your rep) believe that the deal is a ‘slam dunk’ and you don’t need to plan it out…you know the one….at some point you’ll all be “standing around the fax” (or the phone, or your computer….or the mail box) waiting to get the good word, but it doesn’t come and you’ll be wondering, ‘what the heck went wrong?’ If you have a plan / strategy, chances are better that you won’t have to answer that question.

Tactics (especially when not accompanied by sound strategy) can get risky.

So the rest of this blog is dedicated to a true and pretty funny story involving sales tactics.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of working at a software company that had the best sales force I’ve ever seen. One of the very best in that group was a guy named Clark. For years a major Eastern-based utility company refused to do business with our company.  The VP of IT hated our company. No matter what anybody tried, nobody could get a meeting with that VP.

That is, until Clark got involved.

Thinking about this still makes me laugh.

Clark took an ace of hearts – from a regular deck of playing cards – and mailed it to the guy in a plain white envelope; no letter, no nothing. A week later he sent the ace of diamonds.  A week after that the ace of clubs. On the 4th week he showed up at the guy’s door step and asked to see him. The gate keeper asked if he had an appointment. Clark said “No ma’am,” So she asked, “Whom may I say is calling”. Clark said “Tell him it’s the Ace of Spades”.

The guy came out just because he HAD TO see who this guy was. Within a quarter, Clark closed a significant deal with that company.

This is true.

There is a pretty funny epilogue to this story.

A few years later we had hired a new, young sales rep. I can’t remember her name. She was nice and she tried hard. She had heard of Clark’s story so she decided to try it herself on a particularly tough account. She did the exact same things Clark did. But, when she showed up at the Prospect’s office the guy panicked and called security! They escorted her out of the building. The Prospect had become so freaked out about the mysterious cards, he thought that somebody was out to get him!

This really is a true story.

So, tactics can be fun, but don’t rely entirely on them. Happy selling!

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