TALKING SALES 118: “Sales mistake #1 – Lack of strategy”

Strategy - creating war strategy“Sales basics: Write down your goal, plan your strategy and then execute” – Interview by John Smibert



According to Dylis Guyan there a re three classic sales mistakes that less successful salespeople make. We have discussed mistake 3 “Giving up too early” and mistake 2 “It’s all about me” in our previous two discussions.

DylisIn this discussion Dylis tells us that mistake 1 is “Poor Sales Strategy”. She explains how the less than successful salespeople generally don’t have clear and committed goals and have no clarity is their sales plan. That’s why they fail.

“The problem is”, she said “that people are engaged in tactics, just random tactics. They send out random emails or make random phone calls. They’ll hear that blogging is the thing to do so they do some random blogging”, or jump on social media or a forum. But there’s nothing strategic about any of it and they wonder why they fail.

To me this is like saying “I need to something to eat” and then going into the forest with a shotgun and shooting randomly hoping to kill something edible.

Successful salespeople have clear goals – and a well thought through strategy – that they write down and to which they commit their mind. Then they ‘execute, execute, execute’ – learning, adapting and updating their plan as they go.

See her full interview below to understand this issue better and learn what you need to do to put together your strategy for success.     In our next discussion with Dylis we will discuss how to develop and execute a specific strategy for converting a sale.


Dylis Guyan is based in Oxford, England and is an international sales and marketing expert, trainer, coach and speaker. She is also founder of the B2B Sales Academy.


John: Hello, I’m with Dylis Guyan again – welcome back, Dylis!

Dylis: Hi, John!

John: Hey Dylis, in the last three discussions we’ve had some great exchanges about sales, particularly prospecting, and you talked about the three selling mistakes. We’ve covered two of those so far, which is “giving up too early”, and “talking about me”. Let’s talk about the number 1 – “It’s all about getting a strategy right, and not about tactics”.

Dylis: Exactly right, John. And the problem is, I see this all of the time that people are engaged in tactics, just random tactics. They send out random emails or make a random phone call, they’ll hear that blogging is the thing to do so they do some random blogging, but there’s nothing strategic about any of it.Strategy - Fail

John: I understand this, because in the world of social selling – which I’ve got fairly heavily involved with – people give it a go and say it failed, and you’d say, “Okay, what was your strategy? – Well, I did exactly what you just said! I threw stuff out there to try and see if it’ll stick!” – no strategy.

Dylis: Exactly, yes. So, the message is that you need to be very clear and have a written plan with your goals, so know what it is you want to achieve and have a plan that sits behind that.

John: I like the fact that you mentioned goals; goals right up front.

Dylis: Yes.

John: Ensure that we drive our activity to where we need to go, and too often they say, “We just need to make some sales, so let’s chuck stuff out there.”

Dylis: Yes.

John: Goal first, and then the strategy.

basics-of-goal-settingDylis: And then the strategy, and written down; it’s no good having it just in your head. Harvard Business School did some research that showed that only 3% of people had their goals and plans written down, but they made more than the other 97% collectively.

John: These are graduates when they graduated, right?

Dylis: Yes, exactly.

John: I saw that study – it’s fascinating.

Dylis: Yes. So, that alone has got to be worth writing down your goals and your strategy, your plan that sits behind it, and it gives you such great clarity. When you take that time to sit and write it down rather than thinking about it… It just opens up a clear vision of where you want to be and the steps you need to take to get there.

John: Okay. So, let’s really get to the guts of this, getting a strategy in place. Tell me what you mean by that? What is a strategy?

Dylis: Right, okay. And maybe I can best do this by giving you an example of one of my clients.

John: Okay, that’d be great.

Dylis: He was a solicitor, he dealt in consumer credit, really good, clever boy, his clients were financial services and financial institutions. He came to me and he said, “Look, can you help me? Because my bosses have said if I can bring in more clients, I’ll get a bonus. But I don’t know where to start.” So, I said, “Right, let’s sit down and write your goals and let’s write a plan,” and within that plan the first step was to say, “Right. Who are your ideal clients? Who do you want to work with? What do you know about them? Let’s look at how you’re going to research them and be very clear about that, and then once you’ve got that clarity and understanding of your client and the world in which they operate, where do you find them?”

John: Okay.

Dylis: And some of them, their marketing activities didn’t resonate with him, he didn’t like the idea, so what he did, in his strategy, was to go and find business associations where his ideal clients were members. He wrote articles in magazines that he knew his ideal client was going to read, he was active on social media, and he was very active in the forums of his ideal client.

John: It sounds like a very good personal branding strategy that he built.

Dylis: It was, because what happened was he exposed himself, metaphorically speaking, and he positioned himself as the expert, and the outcome of this was, to cut a long story short, he didn’t just get a bonus, they offered him an equity partnership in the firm.

Business men closing deal with a handshake

John: There you go.

Dylis: And whenever I meet him, we still meet, he says, “Dylis, I can’t believe that I’ve achieved what I’ve achieved!”

John: And that all came down to setting a very clear goal, getting commitment to that goal, and then building a plan or a strategy to achieve the goal, writing it all down and driving it forward.

Dylis: Yes. And one other thing was that when he was out there speaking, in his articles and so on, it was all relevant to what he knew the problems were of his ideal prospective client.

John: And consistent across all those channels.

Dylis: Absolutely, yes.

John: Okay. That’s a great story. I’ve seen a lot of people that I’ve worked with do similar things, and instead of achieving their goal that they set there, they ended up achieving something amazingly more.

Dylis: Yes, yes.

Strategy1John: And it really is all about getting a commitment to a goal and then putting a plan in place. I love it when a plan comes together, but it’s not going to come together unless there’s a plan in the first place.

Dylis: That’s right. And the key is implement. Because you can have the best plan in the world… You have to implement, implement, implement and learn as you go along, and get better and better.

John: And then adapt your strategy as you learn.

Dylis: Completely.

John: I totally agree. A lot of people say, “Hey, don’t muck around with a strategy too long, get out there,” and I tend to agree with that, but don’t lose your strategy as you do it.

Dylis: Exactly, yes. And so that’s the first part of your strategy, and that’s getting people saying, “Hey, that’s me. I really need to talk to you.”

John: This is really good stuff, and I’d like to talk more about strategy and some of the case studies you’ve got. Would you like to come back and have more discussions, Dylis?

Dylis: Well, is the sky blue, John? Of course! [laughter] Thank you!

John: Terrific. So, let’s do that.

Dylis: Perfect.

John: The bottom line from this one is make sure you’ve got clear goals and you’ve got a plan in place when you go to market.

Dylis: Completely.

John: Thanks, Dylis!

Dylis: Thank you!


More discussions with Dylis:


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John leads three related organisations, Custell, Strategic Selling Group and Sales Masterminds APAC. These help B2B selling organisations, who recognise the need to transform their sales capability, to respond to the tsunami of change that is starting to wash over us all. He works with people who recognise that to survive they must more strategically support their customer in their buying journey - and understand that they must become specialists in the customer's domain in order to be of value to them. He also helps sales teams build differentiated personal brands and leverage the digital and social worlds to engage to create trust and value.

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