Many, if not most, of you will read the title of this blog and think to yourself, “No way! My team is in survival mode. I do not have the time or energy to dedicate to a restructuring right now.”
True, we are living in unprecedented times, and yes, the current environment has left many businesses struggling to make ends meet while their customers’ buying behaviors have drastically changed, slowed to a crawl, and in many cases, stopped altogether. So, how can this possibly be a good time, let alone the right time, to restructure your sales team?
I would argue that it’s likely the perfect time.
Let me explain.
Consider this scenario: In early 2020, your company was on track for a banner year. Your sales were up, your costs were down, and your pipeline was stronger than it’s ever been. Bam! Covid-19 strikes, and it seems that all of your hard work – and all of your business – evaporated overnight.
As the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, you’ve struggled to adjust to the new way of doing business. What customers are actually buying? How are they buying? Do your products/services still align with their needs? Are the top tier “A” customers becoming “B” customers, and who will take their place? Do you have the right people in place to sell to the right customers now that the world has turned upside down? Should your hunters become farmers or vice versa, and is your current sales team equipped – or even capable – of making this shift? Are your salespeople creating value anymore or even communicating the right messages that will resonate in today’s environment?
So many questions are swirling, but all you know for sure is that you aren’t seeing the results you expected, and you are under pressure to rectify the situation before you lose more market share. Your organization went from growth mode to survival mode, and in a matter of days, your perfectly aligned sales organization poised for success became a chaotic mess struggling to keep their heads above water.
Status quo is not a viable option (unless, of course, you enjoy drowning in chaos).
At the very least, your sales organization requires a solid evaluation, and if you are lucky, you can get away with a few minor shifts and some extra sales training. But for many of you, a minor shift won’t get the job done, and given that it will likely be quite some time before the world is ever back to “normal,” restructuring should probably be in your future.
Where To Start?
Sales and business leaders want to ensure they are making decisions that will maximize impact and not merely “rearrange the deck chairs,” so to speak. Whether you are merging disparate sales teams into one, or restructuring your team to compete more effectively in the new environment, a reorg can be quite daunting, especially with everything else to manage during a crisis.
There are many “balls” to juggle when restructuring, but if you stay focused on the three essential considerations of alignment, size, and enablement, you’ll end-up with a sales organization poised for success, even during a pandemic and its aftermath.
In Symmetrics Group’s Sales Resource Optimization Guide, we define Sales Resource Optimization (SRO) as the process by which companies align, size, and enable their sales organizations to maximize the impact on top and bottom lines. SRO is – and has been – a hot topic for B2B sales organizations, regardless of industry. It’s all about having the right number and type of sales resources on the right customers, with the right skills and capabilities to win. And in today’s off-kilter selling environment, this is even more mission-critical than ever.
Step 1: Get Alignment
Before you start moving boxes around on the org chart, you first need to ensure that you have alignment, both with and across the organization, as well as with the marketplace.
Alignment With the Organization: Does your reorg goal align with/support the strategic goals of the broader organization? For instance, if a Company goal is to reduce costs, perhaps your reorg goal could be to find efficiencies through the elimination of duplicative positions. Or if a Company goal is to increase gross revenue – or even just maintain it during the crisis – a supportive reorg goal would be to drive top-line revenue by implementing a new coverage model. Whatever goal(s) you decide upon, it should work in conjunction with the overarching strategic goals of the Company.
Alignment Across the Organization: Sales won’t be the only department impacted by changes made to achieve the reorg goal, so don’t forget to include the affected department decision makers in the conversation and ensure that everyone buys-into the final approach. This cross-functional alignment is particularly important (and often lacking!) between Product, Marketing, and Sales for the development and delivery of the right value proposition. For more information on the importance of cross-functional support to an organization, see Step 4 of our book 7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation, where the authors, Warren Shiver and Michael Perla, review why it’s vital to involve multiple functions in a change effort.
Alignment with the Marketplace: Once the decision-makers from all affected areas of the organization agree on the reorg goal, the next step is to evaluate whether the Company is aligned to sell to the markets and customers with the highest potential for success (see page 7 of the SRO Guide). What market segments are best for your products/services? Has there been a shift since Covid-19? Are you competing where you can win in this new environment? Are you setting-up your sales reps to lose, because you are competing against larger companies with more resources? Within the right market segments, what customers fit within the target market? Are you focused too heavily on low-return clients that eat-up your resources and can’t help you reach your revenue goals? Does your sales org structure properly address major shifts in the market or competition? It is critical to get the right customer segmentation model in place before you can determine how many reps you need, where you need them focused, and if you have the right resources onboard.
Step 2: Size-Up Your Coverage and Capacity Needs
Now that you have alignment with your Company and the marketplace, you can start to focus on the people component of this process.
Coverage: The coverage model determines the type of resources necessary to service, or “cover,” your various, identified customer segments across the customer lifecycle. How do you “cover” these prioritized markets and accounts in the most optimal way? If your sales are transactional, can you push customers through your online channels? If your sales are more complex in nature, would field sales reps provide what you need to achieve your goals, and until it’s safe to get in front of customers face-to-face, are the right mechanisms in place for virtual selling? Does your need for global reach and cost of sales necessitate leveraging channel partners in some areas/regions? Is there a combined coverage approach that might be better suited for your Company’s needs? (see pages 9-10 of the SRO Guide)
Capacity: The capacity model determines how many resources you need within each role to achieve your revenue goals, as well as the span of control for sales managers. Do you have enough salespeople in the right roles today to address your needs? Do you have too many people covering specific roles? If so, can you use the overflow in a different capacity? Does your capacity fall short anywhere? (see pages 11-12 of the SRO Guide)
Step 3: Enable Your Salespeople and Teams
Once the coverage and capacity models have been defined, it’s a good idea to perform a capabilities analysis of the current sales force (we do this via a Way of Sales Assessment) to determine who has the abilities and tenacity to be successful and then fill in the gaps with new-hires (when the time is right) or with sales training to improve their skills, such as a Virtual Selling class or even a session on running effective virtual meetings.
Successfully putting your plans into action requires having the right tactics in place – and in use. Often companies have multiple sales processes and tools, all of which may not effectively align with the selling needs of the new organization. This is a great time to assess what’s working, what’s not working, as well as evaluate the support, tools, and resources the sales team requires to be successful in the new selling environment. (pages 14-15 of the SRO Guide)
Beyond the sales organization, it is critical to have clear roles and responsibilities outlined across every affected team. Sales, Marketing, Finance, Customer Service, etc. should all understand what roles they play in the sales process and who is accountable for each outcome along the way.
Impact of Effective Sales Restructuring
At Symmetrics Group, we’ve written on this topic and addressed go-to-market strategy numerous times, because it is critical that companies regularly evaluate their structure to appropriately align with changes in the marketplace. It’s not a “one-and-done” exercise but rather one that requires consistent tweaking to stay ahead of the curve.
You might argue that it’s not worth the effort for your company – that optimizing your sales team will require more time and resources than you can dedicate for the return you’ll recognize, especially right now. If you are unsure whether it’s time to optimize your sales resources, check out the qualifying questions in this blog to assess your readiness.
If done right, however, the benefits far exceed merely reducing costs. Page 6 of the Sales Resource Optimization Guide highlights the benefits of thoughtfully executing an SRO:
- Sales Productivity: Improved win rates and cross-sell; reductions to sales cycle time
- Employee Engagement: Improved sales rep satisfaction and lower attrition rates
- Profitability: Improved average deal size and customer retention rates
With these benefits, how can you afford not to optimize your sales organization? It might be just what the doctor ordered to remedy the chaos inflicted by 2020.