In recent blogs on sales enablement, I talked about sales and marketing planting One Flag together and speaking to the market with One Voice. One Flag stresses strong alignment and shared objectives, while One Voice means delivering consistent, compelling, and timely messages and content across multiple channels and phases of the sales cycle.
The third principle of sales enablement deals with prioritization and having the discipline to stay committed to your priorities. I call this “One Focus,” and my thinking in this area owes a large debt of gratitude to Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei and her exploration of how to achieve service excellence. She has done groundbreaking and at times controversial work around a concept she calls “Dare to be Bad.” At its core is the idea that if you try to be equally excellent at every area of service delivery, you’ll most likely be mediocre at most if not all of them. In her words:
Your capital and energy are limited resources, so to afford to excel at the things that matter most, you have to under-invest somewhere else. Our advice is simply to underperform rationally, in the areas your customers value least.
In other words, choose where to be “bad” and stick to it. Think about how some leading brands tenaciously employ this concept. When you shop at a big-box retailer, you better be ready to wait in a long checkout line and pack your own groceries, a tradeoff you happily make because of the low prices you pay for those items. Stop into Nordstrom and you’ll be treated like a member of the royal family and gladly pay a premium for high levels of service and product quality. And we are all familiar with how Southwest has differentiated itself as the bare bones but friendly carrier in a highly competitive travel market.
My point in citing these examples is that in this era of shrinking budgets, tighter headcount, and shorter timeframes we are forced to do more with less—not necessarily a new concept. But daring to be bad is actually a strategic and intentional decision, in which we must have the courage to prioritize and the discipline to not try to do everything.
No marketing organization will ever have enough people or money to do everything as well as they would like. That said, we all need to get smarter and more productive by focusing on the vital few, not the futile many. So, strategically we need to decide where marketing can deliver the greatest value to the business—whether awareness and consideration, demand generation, adoption marketing, account-based marketing, sales enablement, event marketing, industry, line of business and so on.
By focusing and empowering your teams to “excel at the things that matter most,” while being willing to de-focus in other, less-critical areas, you heighten your ability to give your customers what they value most. And if your teams are already rallying around the principles of One Flag and One Voice, the impact of One Focus will be that much more powerful—for you and your customers.
At SAP we are embodying One Flag, One Voice, One Focus through an organizing principle called “Run Simple.” Under this banner, we are removing layers of complexity from both internal processes and customer interactions, putting more resources into priority areas and shutting down underperforming initiatives, and working to deliver one common customer experience across all channels of interaction. Because in today’s complex world, Simple wins.