Sales Success: Strategies vs. Tactics

What’s more important, strategies or tactics?

Ok, that’s an unfair question.  Both are equally important.  You can’t succeed without both, but in my experience business owners and salespeople are too focused on tactics and lack a strong strategy. Why?  That’s a GREAT question.  I will answer it at the end of this post.

In the meantime, let’s unpack all of that…

First, some definitions:


a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.
“time to develop a coherent economic strategy”
synonyms:master plan, grand design, game plan, plan (of action), action plan, policy,program;


plural noun: tactics
an action or strategy carefully planned to achieve a specific end.
synonyms:strategy, scheme, stratagem, plan, maneuver;

“a tax-saving tactic”


Ok.  Maybe that wasn’t as helpful as it could have been.  Maybe the dictionary isn’t going to clear things up for us.  Those are, admittedly, very similar definitions.  Similar, but not the same.Chess

You see, though similar, strategy and tactics are two different things.  Strategy is the over-arching plan that encompasses your vision.  Tactics are how you achieve that vision.  So,
when you formulate a strategy you select tactics that will help you to achieve that strategy.  That plan.  Make sense?

It still sounds about as clear as mud to me so let me say it this way; Tactics are the actions you take to support and further your strategy.

In other words, when I say that businesses are too focused on tactics and not focused enough on strategy I mean that they are looking for the little “tips and tricks,” they are looking for the HOW when they should FIRST have a plan (a strategy) that tells them how those “tips and tricks” help them achieve a goal, or the WHY.

Is that clearer?

Some examples of strategy:

  1. Why you position your product/service/message with your audience the way you do
  2. Why you approach your market in the manner you chose
  3. Why you price your product/service in the manner you select
  4. Why you position your company in media the way that you do
  5. Why you defined the characteristics of an ideal customer in the way you did

Some examples of tactics:

  1. The technique you use for handling customer objections
  2. The way you word your customer service emails (to de-escalate customers)
  3. The way you structure your compensation plans to drive desired behaviors in your staff
  4. How you plan for prospect meetings
  5. The packaging you select for your product (to maximize its appeal to your desired market)

Do you see how these tactics “fit inside” of the strategies?  The strategies all represent the “Why” of your business.  The tactics all represent the “How.”

“Those who know how work for those who know why”

*I have NO idea who said that quote, but it’s a favorite (and I’d be eternally grateful if you could let me know who said it in the comments below!)

Don’t misread this post as a denigration of tactics.  They are critical to your success.  How you do things is important, but not MORE important than WHY they are being done.  This is the same as getting in a car and racing off as fast as you can to a place you haven’t selected yet.  Yes, you’ll go fast, but you won’t get anywhere.

So, why do so few organizations get their strategies in place?  In my experience it is because they haven’t taken the time to truly connect with their market.  With their customer.

Can YOU answer these questions?

  • Who is my ideal customer? (What are their characteristics)
  • What do they need? (What is their PAIN)
  • How can I service them? (How does my product/service solve their problem/remove their pain)
  • How do they talk about their problem? (Not how would YOU talk about their problem.  How do THEY talk about their problem: What words do they use? How do they describe it?  What happens to them if the problem isn’t resolved?)

Those questions represent the beginning of understanding your customer.  They are the basis of creating a customer persona that you can use to help you design your strategies (and hone your tactics!).

But, if you can’t answer those questions then you can’t identify your customer.  If you can’t identify your customer, then you can’t create strategies that will grow your business.  If you can’t create strategies what do you do?  You focus on tactics…


I hope you enjoyed this post.  It is an example of how the audience section of your business impacts the business as a whole.

For more information on the 3 components of a successful business check out this post:  3 Components of a Successful Business

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