Aligning Strategy and Sales
As the global economy picks up steam, companies able to optimize their sales channels will sprint past the competition. The key to meeting sales potential: eliminating the gulf between big-picture business strategy and the day-to-day of field implementation. This Harvard Business School (HBS) Executive Education program prepares business unit leaders, sales executives, and their colleagues to link go-to-market initiatives with strategic priorities and enable the organization to contribute effectively to profitable growth.
Addressing the needs of executives in midsize companies or business units, this program examines the critical relationship between business strategy and sales activities. You will discover how to establish and communicate sales initiatives that support corporate objectives; build and nurture the right sales channels; develop companywide alignment; and implement the operational infrastructure, processes, and cultural values critical to long-term revenue growth.
World-renowned HBS faculty will lead you through a combination of classroom presentations, small-group work, case study discussions, and action-planning workshops. You will explore how successful companies maximize the return on their investment in sales—and the implications for your firm.
This program is appropriate for executives who define and communicate strategic direction, manage sales and distribution, recruit and develop sales talent, provide pre- or post-sale service, and budget for these activities. While individuals are welcome, teams are encouraged to attend.
What You Can Expect
Enhancing Your Company's Performance
Recognizing sales execution as a strategic asset, this HBS Executive Education program will help you drive more profitable growth by establishing and maintaining alignment among strategic priorities, go-to-market initiatives, and supporting activities throughout the organization.
Providing relevant lessons in the classroom that help your salespeople and other key groups in your firm meet their numbers, this program equips you to improve your company's return on investment in business development activities and establish a sustainable foundation for long-term market success.
Taking Your Skills to the Next Level
Joining an accomplished group of peers from around the world, you will explore the ways successful companies synchronize strategies and field sales activities. Specifically, you will improve your ability to:
- Define your target customers and the best methods for selling successfully to those customers
- Translate your corporate strategy into sales strategies, tasks, and processes easily understood by the sales teams and the rest of the organization
- Develop account management and segment management strategies based on customer profitability
- Create an environment that facilitates sales success
- Ensure that specific sales recruitment, development, compensation, and performance management efforts and systems support company strategy
- Leverage resources throughout the company to meet sales objectives
- Coordinate sales activities across different sales groups and throughout the enterprise
- Establish a flexible approach that enables you to readjust strategies to drive growth in a changing marketplace
Your Course of Study
In this program, you will examine the essential connections among business strategy, sales channels, sales processes, and the rest of the organization. Learning how to identify obstacles to growth, articulate strategies in the context of sales, and coordinate across your organization, you will discover new ways to increase revenue and, in turn, boost enterprise value.
World-renowned HBS faculty will lead you through a combination of classroom presentations, small-group work, case study discussions, and action-planning workshops in which you will explore the diverse ways leading companies empower and enhance their sales organizations. Curriculum topics include:
Moving from a Strategic Vision to an Integrated Selling Plan
- Setting a strategic foundation for sales success
- Defining how your products and services deliver value to customers
- Identifying customers presenting the most opportunity and the most risk, and how this impacts programs, people, incentives, and behaviors
- Differentiating your offerings from competitors and substitutes
- Developing and enforcing rational companywide pricing and discount policies
- Determining the revenue mix and allocating resources appropriately
- Identifying the desired customer, along with goals for acquisition, retention, and up-selling
- Establishing the right mix of sales channels, from direct sales teams to resellers to e-commerce and beyond
- Articulating, communicating, and refining the strategic vision and selling plan
Building Your Sales Organization to Match Your Strategy
- Defining sales tasks and optimal selling behavior
- Establishing the right recruitment criteria and adjusting hiring practices to meet sales requirements
- Driving desired performance through training, compensation, measurement, and evaluation
- Empowering and leveraging talented sales managers
- Building the competency of your sales team on an ongoing basis
- Mobilizing functional areas to work together smoothly to optimize sales performance
- Understanding how your company culture helps or hinders selling
Creating the Optimal Infrastructure and Processes
- Transforming corporate strategies into effective account management
- Minimizing channel conflict as your offerings and the market evolve
- Setting realistic goals and forecasting effectively
- Maximizing the value of sales information systems for account management and compensation
- Using feedback from customers and sales representatives to adjust processes
"I loved case study learning. We were forced to make a decision and defend our arguments in our group and then in the classroom. The professors were amazing—highly skilled at leading intense, productive discussions that challenged us, drew on the experience of everyone in the room, and generated new insights. Rather than offering one simple approach or model, they helped us examine a situation from many angles and grapple with the real complexity of doing business."
Michael Höglund [Vice President, Marketing & Sales] Saab Group, North America, Inc., U.S.
Who Is Right for the Program
Aligning Strategy and Sales is designed primarily for executives in business-to-business companies—or business units of large enterprises—that depend on a direct sales force for all or part of their product or services revenue. The program is appropriate for decision makers who are responsible for defining, managing, and measuring a company's go-to-market strategy and sales efforts.
While sales executives assume primary responsibility for a company's selling practices, the process of mapping sales efforts to strategy also requires cooperation among executives from a range of functions. For this reason, the program is appropriate for individual sales executives and for teams that include executives responsible for general management, product- or service-line management, finance, marketing, customer service (pre- or post-sale), or human resources. When several executives from one company attend, they can address company challenges as a team. Leveraging a shared understanding enables them to put the program's methods to work immediately upon their return. Titles of participants include, but are not limited to:
- Chief executive officer
- Chief financial officer
- Chief operating officer
- Vice president, sales
- Vice president, business development
- Vice president, channels/distribution
- Vice president, operations
- Vice president, marketing
- Vice president, human resources
- Vice president, customer service
- Country manager
Because the program is focused on a key driver of cash and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) in most firms, it is also relevant for venture capital or private equity firms that assist portfolio companies with their go-to-market and business development efforts, as well as for the leaders of those portfolio companies.
Past Participants Represented:
|12%||High Technology||5%||Middle East|
Meet the Program Faculty
Like all Harvard Business School Executive Education programs, Aligning Strategy and Sales is developed and taught by a core faculty of HBS professors. Our faculty members are widely recognized as skilled educators, groundbreaking researchers, and award-winning authors.
Through publishing, consulting, and teaching, they leverage their business expertise and field-based research to create new knowledge and enduring concepts that shape the practice of management. The result is a teaching team that exposes participants to multiple perspectives, challenging their thinking and encouraging new practices that result in superior business leadership. For more detailed biographies, click on each faculty name.
Frank V. Cespedes, MBA Class of 1973 Senior Lecturer of Business Administration. Member of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit; and faculty chair of "Aligning Strategy and Sales."
John T. Gourville, Albert J. Weatherhead, Jr. Professor of Business Administration. Member of the Marketing Unit; and faculty chair of "Strategic Marketing Management."
Linda A. Hill, Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration. Faculty cochair of the HBS Leadership Initiative; member of the Organizational Behavior Unit; and faculty chair of the "High Potentials Leadership Program," "Leading with Impact: Staying on the Fast Track," and "Maximizing Your Leadership Potential—India."
Robert Simons, Charles M. Williams Professor of Business Administration. Member of the Accounting and Management Unit; and faculty cochair of "Driving Corporate Performance: Aligning Scorecards, Systems, and Strategy."
John R. Wells, Professor of Management Practice. Member of the Strategy Unit; and faculty chair of "Strategic IQ: Creating Smarter Corporations."
Because a diverse participant mix is an important part of every HBS Executive Education program, we look for candidates who reflect a broad range of industries, functions, countries, and backgrounds to enrich the learning experience.
Fees, Payments, and Cancellations
The program fee covers tuition, books, case materials, accommodations, and most meals.
No payment is necessary until you have been accepted into an HBS Executive Education program. After admission notification, we will send you an invoice via email; payment is due within 30 days of the invoice date. If admission is within 30 days prior to the start of the program, payment is due upon receipt of the invoice. Payment is required prior to the program start date. We accept payment by company check, bank wire transfer, or credit card (American Express, MasterCard, Visa). Details are included on the program invoice.
If you need to cancel or defer participation, you must submit your request in writing more than 30 days before the start of the program to receive a full refund. Due to program demand and the volume of preprogram preparation, cancellations or deferrals received 14 to 30 days prior to the start of the program are subject to a fee of one-half of the program fee. Requests received within 14 days are subject to full payment.
Although there are no formal educational requirements, admission is a selective process based on professional achievement and organizational responsibility. We look for professionals who have demonstrated business talent and leadership potential.
HBS Executive Education programs enrich both participants and their sponsoring organizations, and require full commitment from each party. While participants devote time and intellect to the learning experience, sponsoring organizations agree to relieve individuals of their work responsibilities during the program.
We deliberately design our programs to encourage individual growth and to foster productive interaction among participants. For that reason, proficiency in written and spoken English is essential. If English is your second language, or if you have less than one year's experience working in an English-speaking environment, HBS requires a brief statement documenting proficiency in English-language skills, both conversational and written. This may include a list of the English-language certification programs that you have completed; the degrees you have earned at English-speaking colleges and universities; or the results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam. The Admissions Committee also may request a telephone interview.
This program is appropriate for individuals as well as teams of executives from the same organization. When colleagues attend a program together, the organization benefits from their shared knowledge and common vision. This, in turn, enables participants to enhance their ability to pursue business goals as a team, effect critical transformations, and transfer knowledge. HBS client service specialists are available to advise on optimal team composition. The application for each team member must be received before the team's materials are reviewed by the Admissions Committee.
If you submit your application online, we will promptly acknowledge receipt of your submission via email. In the unlikely event that an email acknowledgment is not received, please contact the Admissions Committee by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: +1-617-495-6226, or fax: +1-617-496-1731.
If you choose to submit a printed application, be sure to type or print legibly and sign your application. Send the application to the address or fax number listed on the form. Mailed or faxed applications are processed and acknowledged promptly upon receipt via email.
Complete Your Application
Please answer all questions thoroughly—the Admissions Committee will consider only completed applications. After reviewing your application and making the necessary edits or corrections, print or copy the application for your records.
The application for each team member must be received before the team's materials are reviewed by the Admissions Committee.
Meet the Deadlines
We request applications at least four weeks in advance of the program start date. Early application does not guarantee admission. Programs often fill to capacity, so early application is recommended.
Notification of Acceptance
We acknowledge receipt of all applications and maintain all application information in strict confidentiality.
To optimize the learning experience and maximize the exchange of ideas, the Admissions Committee selects a class that balances each participant's experience, the scope of his or her current responsibilities, and the type of organization.
The Admissions Committee begins reviewing applications four months before the start date, and qualified candidates are admitted on a rolling, space-available basis. Once the review process has begun, applicants are notified within three weeks via email regarding Admissions Committee decisions. If your application is received within three weeks of the program's start date, the Admissions Committee will notify you of their decision as soon as possible.
For further assistance, contact our client service specialists at: 1-800-427-5577 (outside the U.S., dial +1-617-495-6555).