Guest opinion: What are your blind spots?

Dan Mack

Most organizations have blind spots hindering their growth and their alignment with their top retail partners. So what is the root of this reoccurring leadership trap? In many cases, executives are fearful of true self assessment uncovering cracks in their own armor, while others just don’t place a high enough value on strategic reflection and a thoughtful design of an integrated national sales strategy. How often do most organizations honestly look into the mirror while practicing personal reflection? Since research shows that only 29% of the work force actually is engaged in the workplace, according to Gallop, it’s probably not often enough.

Years ago, I worked with an executive who administered a feed-backing process with members of his team—but would not subject himself to the same level of discipline. The story is, at one point he made himself vulnerable to critique, didn’t like the outcome and never asked for it again. He was not strong enough to deal with the truth. How about you?

As we advise management teams on business strategy, we have seen the impact of reflecting on the following four strategic sales and marketing questions. Addressing these questions on a quarterly basis is a strategic discipline that will unleash new value, strengthen competitive insulation and improve customer alignment. How are you doing?

Do your top assets align with your retailer’s strategic boardroom priorities? Manufacturers that struggle to create meaningful value with retailers most of the time do not bring unique or relevant assets to their engagements. Company assets—both tangible and intangible—are only of value when they align with the retailer’s boardroom priorities. Our suggestion is to dig deep into your corporate cupboard to ensure you pull out the right asset—one that differentiates your company and your offerings. If your assets are not of value to your retail partners, then you are not of value.

Have you designed a differentiated umbrella sales or go-to-market position? The more clarity an organization brings to its retailer engagements, the higher the probability of winning. Winning organizations do not show up in front of their customers with multiple divergent strategies. They present a clear corporate brand image and focused strategy while moving to a place on the competitive map that they own. Your goal is to move to a position where you are the only one who does what you do; creating a corporate culture that develops the skills of listening in-between the lines and always looking for new revenue streams and stronger alignment.

Are you utilizing an enterprise sales model with your strategic retailers? Your largest, most visible retailer partners deserve a significant share of mind, and the ideas of multiple layers of your organization. How have you chosen your strategic retailers, and are they resourced appropriately to achieve your business plan? If your company’s brain trust is not involved with the customer planning of your top retailers, you are not as aligned as you could be. Your most visible retail partners need the insights of all company departments. The one caveat is that senior executives or ownership must have the insight and courage to know when to get out of the way.

Have you earned the right to co-create with your top retail partners? The top marketers in our industry don’t make a move unless they are aligned with their top retailers. Their sales and marketing teams are hardwired and deeply aligned with the retailer’s corporate agenda, and they are astute at co-creating new innovations that fill unmet consumer needs. This generation of winners has learned to embrace this best practice—understanding that alignment and co-creation is the key to profitable growth.

Creating a disciplined sales strategy supported by the rhythm of periodic reflection points is vital to team health, focus and results. So why do many fight it? It takes guts to truthfully look in the mirror or to ask others for a reality check addressing the cracks in the operation. Whether you look in the mirror or not, the cracks remain. Be brave enough to address them. It will make a difference.

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