Sales objectives vs strategy vs tactics: The differences matter

What is your sales team’s objective? Strategy? Tactics?

Do you know the difference between the three and does it matter?

Yes, because without clear objectives and the right strategy, sales leaders focus on tactics.

When that happens, you lose focus.
You do not get the results or the accounts that should have been yours.
Opportunities slip right through your fingers.

Table of Contents

What are sales objectives?

Your sales team should have objectives. Objectives are very clear business goals. Objectives tend to be changed or refined every 12 – 24 months.

Your objectives will be a combination of:

  • specific sales volumes
  • margin generated
  • number of new accounts
  • number of new accounts in a targeted vertical
  • percent of sales generated from repeat buyers or referrals
  • reducing client churn by a specific percentage

What is sales strategy

Your strategy is the choice you make as to a focused approach to reach your objectives. Think of it as your best bet. Think in terms of probabilities.

You would typically have three to five different strategies to choose from that you think could reach your objectives. Think of the strategy you select as your best chance. Your choice among all reasonable options that you feel is most probable to reach your objectives.

Strategy is about probabilities. Think of it as the “how” of reaching your objectives.

If you were at war and fighting a battle, to win, you would need to pick a strategy. Frontal assault? Guerrilla attacks? Snipers? Should you outflank them? You select the right strategy or mix multiple options, deciding how to allocate time and resources to each. That becomes your bet. Your choice among multiple plans that you feel provides the highest probability of attaining your objectives.

Can you imagine what would happen if an intentional approach as to “how” the battle would be won was not chosen? Maybe start with a frontal approach but halfway in you think “Hey, guerrilla warfare might work, lets stop the frontal approach and use guerrilla warfare.” So, you stop the frontal attack and before you can start a guerrilla war you think, “Ah, you know what. I think snipers is a good approach. Ya, snipers.”

What do you think the odds are of winning that battle?

Nil. Defeat is certain. Because there is no intentional well-thought out intentionally chosen strategy.

You must pick a strategy, your “how,” your best bet, of achieving what you wish, because every sales team has limited resources. We have a limited amount of time available, so let’s make the most of it and focus on the best bet. Competitors will move up if you falter or fail.

If your strategy is weak or you have no strategy, you will fall further behind.

Think of strategy as the high-level choices you make to succeed.

You must think out your strategy well and ensure it represents your best bet for success. Your strategy is not guaranteed to work without fail.

But you must choose, make your best bet, based upon solid facts, research, and serious evaluation of all your options. You may have to make changes or tweak your strategy, but you should not be constantly flipping coins or revising strategy on whims.

What are sales tactics?

Tactics are the specific actions you take to implement your chosen strategy to achieve your objectives. Tactics are the never-ending list of things you could do that might increase your sales.

Tactics would be things like:

  • Blogging
  • Cold calling
  • Direct mail
  • Social media
  • Pay per click
  • advertising
  • SEO
  • Webinars
  • Dancing hotdogs
  • Seminars/events
  • Your story
  • Writing a book
  • Setting appointments
  • Content marketing
  • Newsletters
  • Yada yada yada

Think of tactics as the lower-level choices you make to succeed.

Without a best bet strategy, a lot of tactics seem reasonable.

When you are working with a well-thought-out strategy, you make better choices about which tactics to use. You have a much better sense of which are more likely to work, and which will be failures. Anecdotes of success will not sway you. Every story of something that “worked” will not tempt you. You will make better tactical choices and stick with them.

Would you run a road race with a blindfold on? Not recommended.

But that is what you are doing when you are not deciding with a solid sales strategy. You may run hard and work up a sweat, but the odds of you getting where you want to go, never mind winning, are low.

Relationship between sales objectives, strategies and tactics summary

  • Your sales objectives should be a clear and concise.
  • You must think strategy-first to have the best chance of reaching your objectives. What is your best bet overall high-level plan that provides you the greatest probability of reaching your objectives?
  • You will choose better tactics to reach your objective, when you are working with a well thought out strategy.