The Growth Engine
In most companies, everyone expects growth—investors, executives, leaders, customers, and employees. The growth ‘engine’ of any business is its sales organization. Therefore, the upside of a successful sales force transformation can be significant, including:
- increased revenue
- reduced cost of sales
- increased lead conversion rates
- improved sales and share of wallet with existing high-potential customers
But the downside can be daunting. According to a McKinsey study, 75 percent of companies that attempted to transform to a solutions selling approach failed to produce a return. While the potential rewards are significant, the road to success is paved with failures.
Welcome to the transformation dilemma.
What is a Sales Transformation?
In our recent book, 7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation, we define a sales force transformation as one that fundamentally changes the way a sales force sells. Typically, these sales transformations take longer than a year and must involve other functional areas – sales cannot succeed as an ‘island’ in the organization. Transforming a sales organization requires new value propositions; new case studies and collateral from marketing; new competencies; skill development; new recruiting profiles from HR; and alignment with operations to refine products and services. A sales transformation is not merely a tweak, such as changing your sales training curriculum or implementing a new proposal generation application, it’s more like a “re-wiring” of the company “house”.
What are the Key Steps?
From our research and experience we’ve outlined seven key steps in sales force transformation. The steps build on each other and the majority of them focus on building the foundation and support to enable the best chance of success. They are:
- Drivers: Determine the forces, events, and circumstances that can compel the need for a sales transformation.
- Vision: Define a picture of the desired future tailored to the unique needs and specific goals of the organization.
- Case: Build a case for change, which can also be called “treating your sales transformation like an internal sale.”
- Support: Enlist support from other functional areas within the organization, such as marketing, HR, finance, and operations, as well as external support from partners and customers
- Roadmap: Design an approach that includes sales strategy and structure, sales processes and tools, enablement and people, and metrics and management—all keys to a successful sales transformation initiative.
- Implement: Launch your initiative, whether as a comprehensive program or as a pilot, depending on factors such as budget, time, the size of your organization, and the degree of executive buy-in.
- Sustain: Make the change “stick” through leadership, sales team training, communications, management tools, hiring, new hire onboarding, and beyond. After all, you can’t expect the results to sustain themselves.
What are the Key ‘Transformational’ Levers to Pull?
So, what does it take to implement these seven steps successfully? In other words, what levers can you pull to boost your chances of achieving sales force transformation?
We’ve identified six levers that not only help to amplify and sustain change within a sales organization but that can be applied to almost any organizational change. In every successful transformation we know of, the leaders pulled most (if not all) of these key levers:
- Perspective: understand why change is happening and gain perspective from both inside the company and from the “voice of the customer”. Diagnose what’s working and not working directly from the sources “on the ground”.
- Alignment: as stated above, sales can’t be an “island” and successfully transform. There should be both vertical and horizontal alignment across the business – from executives on down and across functions.
- Leadership: a successful transformation needs sustained, committed and authentic leadership – from the Chief Sales Officer to the first-line sales manager
- Sequence: in getting ready for a transformation, you need to first determine “the what” (strategy), then “the how” (execution), and then “the who” (talent). In order to recruit, select, and hire the right talent, you first need to know what the overall strategy is and what they will be doing – what knowledge, skills and abilities will be needed to support the go-to-market strategy and/or buyer-aligned sales process
- Measurement: in our survey of over one hundred sales leaders, the best predictor of a successful transformation was whether or not the company measured progress. Both process and result metrics are essential for communicating progress and helping to build momentum for the effort.
- Communication: the key is “early and often” when it comes to communications. The messages should also be authentic and transparent and be communicated in such a way that they incorporate the different learning and thinking styles of the targets (e.g., data driven, story oriented, emotionally focused, etc.).
What Do I Do Monday Morning?
First, look at the transformational levers and gauge your readiness for a sales transformation. Review the steps and begin to articulate the potential drivers and vision. Lastly, determine if you just need a tweak or if you really need to transform.
By tweak, we mean an incremental change, which could be a sales training course or a new software application. Ask yourself, what’s the gap between where you are today and your desired state? If the gap is large, you usually need more of a fundamental shift in how you sell. Although transformation is often an over-used word, it does indicate the type, scope and scale of the dramatic change that is necessary to really impact the organization, as opposed to a more run-of-the-mill change.
For additional detail, you can download our Sales Transformation Roadmap here.