As part of researching effective sales transformations, Michael Perla and I have had the privilege of speaking with more than 30 sales leaders in the past 6 months to learn about their experiences leading change within their organizations. One of the interesting threads that we’ve consistently heard is the importance of leading change and how to communicate and lead an organization and functional area that can be highly resistant to change: sales.This led Michael to summarize the change leadership effort as, “treat your sales transformation like an internal sales campaign.” Key elements of this approach include:
- Drivers – the TAS® methodology popularized the term “compelling event” defined as (compliments of our friend and former colleague, Tim Sullivan) a time-bound occurrence, beyond which if you don’t make a decision to change, bad things will happen. Why change? Is it a truly compelling reason? Many organizations that we work with do not need to truly transform, rather they need incremental tweaks. Establishing the foundational reason(s) serve as the foundation for change.
- Vision - If you do not have commitment and sustainable leadership from the top, don’t bother with a sales transformation. As Mike Conway told us, “You have to provide a vision of what the transformed organization would look like and how it would operate so that you can create the demand in the organization to want to transform. They have to see that the pain of transforming is worth it for the rewards that will await them at the other end, that there is a better way, and that they can get there. You need to connect with people emotionally so that they want to be associated with the transformation and the resulting organization.” Simply changing a sales compensation plan, setting new targets, or making a presentation at a sales conference may be necessary components, but they do not by themselves constitute a sustained vision for change.
- Strategy – Just like a sales pursuit, sales transformation requires leaders to map out key influencers both within and outside of the sales team, define the value proposition for multiple stakeholders (including customers and partners), and craft a communication plan and strategy. As Jill Cady told us, “It’s more successful when we are more transparent with the sales team about what we need to do. Put it in business terms: we are getting less resources, we are going to do it this way. They see what's driving things. The more transparent we've been with what's happening and what's driving that, we found the understanding was much greater.”
- Roadmap – Based on the vision and strategy, how will you get there? As Steve Young told us, sales transformation is about “being more scientific and less intuitive.” Our research indicated that while 24% achieved meaningful results within 4-6 months, 59% of organizations took 6+ months to get there. Defining a plan with milestones and metrics (similar to tracking an opportunity for a complex B2B sale) is an essential element of success.
We’re working on a book that will summarize our learnings and findings from these interviews in addition to our own experience. Stay tuned for more posts and a book to launch this fall. We’d welcome your comments and stories of sales transformations – both successes and failures.