Why do so many company mission statements suck?
Take this one, for example: “To be a company that inspires and fulfills your curiosity.”
That’s a real-life mission statement for a huge, well-known, global company. They probably paid someone a pile of money to create it.
So, is your curiosity inspired? Is it fulfilled? Is it even possible to be both at the same time?
Curious about which company this is?
I’ll tell you anyway. That’s Sony’s corporate mission statement.
There are so many vague, vapid, and average-at-best mission statements out there, so I’m singling out and picking on poor Sony a bit here.
(And, to be fair, I found Sony’s mission statement identified online as an example of a terrible mission statement AND included on a best-of list. So keep in mind that, like a lot of writing, what’s considered a good or bad mission statement can be quite subjective.)
In any case, a mediocre-at-best corporate mission statement isn’t going to help you write one that works well for your sales operations. So I propose we look at a different industry, one I used to work in, that’s full of great examples and handy tips for writing sales mission statements that are actually useful.
But first, let’s look at what a sales mission statement does and why you should have one.
Why you need a sales mission statement
With underwhelming mission statements more the rule than the exception, it’s no wonder they get a bad rap.
So what is a mission statement? A mission statement is a short statement explaining why an organization exists, the product or service it provides, the primary customers or market and how the company serves them.
Mission statements sometimes get confused with their flower-child cousin, vision statements. A vision statement sets out the ultimate goal. It’s the big impact your team or company wants to make on the world and it’s meant to be inspirational. The mission statement is how you’re going to get there, the action that follows the why. That’s why sales mission statements are so important for both companies and sales operations teams.
Even if your company has an overall mission statement, you still need one specifically for sales ops. Since you’ll be collaborating with other departments and positions, including sales enablement, marketing, and sales, you’ll need to set goals and boundaries.
Your sales mission statement helps to ensure you’re doing the right work, saying yes to the right opportunities, and rejecting anything that’s a bad fit for your strategy.
A good sales mission statement strengthens alignments within your sales operations team and with the entire sales department. It becomes your objective ‘north star’ that you can use to make decisions about hiring, collaboration, and support.
If your sales mission statement is too vague and fluffy, it can’t serve as that guiding light for your team.
And what's at the other end of that light? More sales revenue. Research shows that when sales ops teams are guided by their own specific formal charter or mission, their sales teams' quota attainment rate is more than 15 percent higher than those where sales ops priorities are set by non-sales operations leaders.
As shown above, there are a lot of bad mission statements out there, weakly leading companies astray.
However, there is one sector out there that tends to kick butt at crafting insightful and actionable mission statements. And I’m going to let you in on their secrets to success.
The mission statement masters
Before Proposify, I worked for a couple of not-for-profit trade associations. And, let me tell you, non-profit organizations like these are masters of the mission statement.
Why? They have to be.
At many (most?) non-profits, resources are limited. Like, extremely limited. There’s just not enough organizational bandwidth to do everything or be everything to everyone. A strong mission statement gives the non-profit the ability to quickly ascertain where best to direct their finite resources.
On the surface, sales and non-profits might seem like polar opposites. But non-profit organizations still need to have money coming in, whether it’s through fundraising or donations, and they have to be deliberate in how they use that funding.
Because of this approach, sales operations mission statements have more in common with these non-profit mission statements. Good non-profit mission statements are very focused, very niche and all about how the organization helps specific people or groups of people.
Sounds sorta like sales ops, right?
Now, let’s dive into how non-profits create their mission statements and some examples of organizations that are getting it right to inspire your own.
How to write a sales mission statement, according to the pros
These five writing tips from the non-profit sector will help you create your sales operations mission statement. Plus, I’ve included some real-life examples to inspire you.
- Speak to your core purpose
- Use plain language
- Talk about your unique strengths
- Forget about revenue
- Stay actionable and agile
1. Speak to your core purpose
A lot of corporate mission statements are grandiose. And why not? These are huge, global companies. They need lofty, sometimes idealistic, goals to point to so they don’t get complacent and get beaten by their competition.
Even though you may be ‘just doing it’, your sales team isn’t Nike. Your sales mission statement needs to be more focused. The mission statement should answer the question, “What is your main purpose?”
Habitat for Humanity’s mission statement is a great example of keeping a narrow focus: “Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.”
Even though the organization does serve other functions around the theme of shelter, like advocating for affordable housing and sustainable development, it’s not all shoved into the mission statement. It stays specifically on the organization’s core purpose.
As you write your sales mission statement, watch out for mission creep, an insidious widening of focus similar to scope creep. To help avoid this, it should be concise; no more than a couple of sentences at most. Add more and you’ll lose that important zoomed-in aspect.
2. Use plain language
Many terrible mission statements are vague and full of corporate doublespeak and business jargon.
Let’s take a look at an example of an organization that revamped their mission statement for clarity.
Here’s how The Women’s Center’s mission statement read a few years ago:
“The mission of The Women’s Center is to improve significantly the psychological, career, financial and legal well being of women, men, couples and families, regardless of their ability to pay.”
And here’s how it reads today:
“The mission of The Women’s Center is to significantly improve the mental health and well-being of all members of the community through counseling, education, support and advocacy.”
This is a great example of simplifying your message. The second version streamlines the original’s clunky phrasing to get the point across more clearly.
But the main takeaway here is how the newer statement includes a better how. Instead of talking about costs, it details the exact programs and services the center uses to achieve its mission. Under the original mission statement, it would be fair to say that any initiative that could be offered at little or no cost to participants would have to be considered.
Now, the focus has narrowed considerably. For instance, if someone volunteered to teach Latin at the Center, though it might be interesting to some, learning a ‘dead’ language wouldn’t fall under any of the categories mentioned in the mission and it would be easy for the organization’s leadership team to pass on this opportunity.
3. Talk about your unique strengths
Your sales mission statement should speak to what you do that no one else at your organization does.
Take a look at the mission statement of Feeding America:
“Our mission is to feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger.”
Consider how different it would be without the phrase “through a nationwide network of member food banks”. It shows how the organization draws upon its unique strength—its network—to enact its mission.
And notice that it doesn’t talk about why they feed America’s hungry. That’s pretty straightforward since food is a basic human need.
However, many corporate and sales mission statements can get caught up in values and vision over mission and motivations.
Values tend to be pretty generic. Diversity, leadership, collaboration, excellence—these are all great things for organizations to aspire to. But we’re trying to create laser-focused sales mission statements here, not vision statements or shared values.
And anyway, your company likely already has something around this anyway. For example, Proposify’s values are positivity, integrity, empathy, and drive. So there’s no need to repeat it and take up valuable real estate in your own mission statement.
4. Forget about revenue
For a minute, not forever! I know we’re still talking about sales here, not just not-for-profits.
When it comes to your sales mission statement, it’s not about shareholders, it’s about stakeholders. Specifically, your sales team.
A sales operations mission isn’t “close the sale”. It’s about supporting your team to make that sale not just possible but probable.
Let’s look at the mission statement for National Public Radio (NPR):
“The mission of NPR is to work in partnership with Member Stations to create a more informed public — one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures.”
Radio revenue is built on advertising, licensing, and, in the case of a not-for-profit network like NPR, membership dues. The NPR mission statement could talk about their income sources and how they plan to increase them.
But that’s not very inspiring.
Instead, they talk about what they do, and with and for whom. The implication is that if they get these things right, the revenue will follow. That’s how your sales mission statement should be, too.
5. Stay actionable and agile
A mission statement should naturally trend towards the future. Don’t tie it too much to your current situation. Instead, think ahead so you don’t have to continually update it.
A mission statement is meant to be evergreen, or at least easily tweaked as circumstances change, not rigidly of a specific place and time. As you create your sales mission statement, anticipate how your sales team and its need might change.
A good non-profit example is H.O.P.E. Inc. Its mission statement reads, in part: “Empower, encourage, and equip low-income single parents to obtain a college degree, develop essential life skills, and ultimately become self-sufficient.”
They could have stopped at “obtain a college degree” and it would have still been a fine mission statement. But the forward-looking additions of “develop essential life skills, and ultimately become self-sufficient” show how the organization is looking toward a future for participants where they don’t need the organization’s support anymore.
In sales ops, your mission statement could include how you’re helping to close deals today, but also how you set sales reps up with the tools and processes they need to close more deals in the future.
Your sales operations team deserves a strategy-inspiring, team-aligning, jobs-to-be-done-defining sales mission statement. Borrow the knowledge of the non-profit world to create one that inspires your team AND drives revenue.