Proposals that are not tied to strategic initiatives will likely not get prioritized, especially in the eyes of frugal executives and financial decision makers. These decision-makers are looking for proposals that align with and can help them achieve their big organizational goals, not just projects that deliver a great return on investment (ROI).
By aligning proposals with strategic initiatives, sellers can demonstrate that their solution is not only valuable but also essential for the buyer’s success. Fail to align with strategic initiatives and your proposal, even if it is solving an important pain for your buyer, is financially justified and low risk, could get deprioritized and stalled.
What are strategic initiatives? According to the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), “Strategic initiatives are the means through which an organization translates its goals and visions into practice. To stay ahead of the competition, companies need to systematically build a portfolio of strategic initiatives. Such initiatives are typically aligned with a company’s top strategic priorities, and so the pressure to execute them well is often very high.”
Strategic initiatives are established by the executives and the board to accomplish big goals. Some of the initiatives are “defensive” – to stave off a competitor or defend market share or position. Others are “offensive”, proactively innovating to capture a new market, category, efficiency or opportunity.
Some initiatives are “editing”, initiatives to optimize supply chains and operations, prune offerings, cut costs, reduce headcount, or exit underperforming markets. Other initiatives are “expensive”, helping to expand capacity, introduce new solutions, launch into new markets and services, and increase geographical reach.
Some strategic initiatives include:
- Reducing supply chain risks and addressing supply chain constraints
- Improving product margins
- Lower the cost of production
- Overcome skilled staff shortages and challenges
- Improving environmental sustainability
- Increase brand awareness and position
- Reduce the need for outsourcing
- Develop and launch next gen product sets
- Increase retail outlets
- Boost on-line revenues
- Improve influencer marketing and partner ecosystem relationships
- Boosting customer experiences.
Aligning with Strategic Initiatives
So how do you best align with strategic initiatives?
We recommend three methods to be used in concert:
Before your sellers ever visit with prospects, your sales and marketing teams should research, brainstorm and align your solutions to which strategic initiatives they best address. The prescriptive strategic initiatives should be well documented to your sellers so they know ahead of time what to look for and how the solutions best address each.
Typically, each industry is facing key market challenges and trends, and there should be some big strategic initiatives that organizations in this industry should be addressing to meet the challenges and get ahead of the trends.
You can train your sellers to understand by industry which strategic initiatives are typical, and exactly how and why your solutions align to each. This will enable situational awareness, so they recognize the initiatives, and be able to explain and highlight how each solution aligns and addresses.
Before meeting with the prospect, sellers should seek out the latest industry profiles, annual and 10k financial reports and news on the prospect’s organization.
Within these reports, the key strategic initiatives are typically documented, and specific initiatives important to C-level executives and board are often highlighted.
A list of these initiatives can be documented so the seller knows ahead of time what is important to the C-level executives and board, and can even help guide the buying team towards which initiatives the effort may align (as often the buyers are tactical and may not know). The seller, armed with the researched initiatives can use the prescriptive list to understand which initiatives are in-scope and which solutions best address and align to each researched initiative.
Armed with the Prescriptive list and Research, when sellers meet with prospects they can perform smart discovery of the strategic initiatives that the buyer seeks to address.
Some buyers will have one or more specific strategic initiatives that they know their purchase efforts are aligned to, while others may not have the alignment in hand, or understand the importance of having the alignment to get the purchase approved and project implemented.
Sellers can be trained to ask some simple discovery questions, to uncover the strategic initiatives, if they are known. For example:
- For this project, is there a corporate strategic initiative that you are aligned to and wanting to help solve?
- How big a priority is this strategic initiative with your execs and the board?
- Who “owns” the initiative and will they be involved in reviewing the proposal and approving?
Often, when the strategic initiative is unknown, the discovery is more of a prompting. This is where the Prescriptive list and the Research come to play. The seller can use both to help guide the buyer, to understand which initiatives are important to the organization and to which the proposed solutions align.
Any good and effective storytelling, engagement, business case and proposal needs to align to your prospect and customer’s strategic initiatives in order to be prioritized properly and approved. Fail to align and your proposal will likely get stalled, or the initiative out-right canceled. Aligning with the key strategic initiatives of your buyers is essential for getting “Do Nothing” to “Yes”..
Doing this properly and systematically requires a little bit of preparation, training and enablement, creating Prescriptive alignment lists, teaching sellers how to do Research, and educating sellers on how to do Discovery.
Sellers who can effectively align their proposals with strategic initiatives are more likely to drive competitive advantages, accelerate decisions and win more.