The Sales Leader & CEO's Guide to Sales Transformation
In my blog post, A Primer on Sales Transformation for IT Staffing CEO’s & Sales Leaders I explained what sales transformation is and I highlighted some of the common business drivers that compel staffing CEO’s and sales leaders to launch a sales transformation initiative. I also pointed out that transformation means change. Leading an organizational transformation effort is all about operationalizing change into your day to day operations so that those changes become ingrained in your culture and how you do things. The challenge with all of this lies within the leadership team's ability to effectively lead change. Below is the sales leader and CEO's guide to sales transformation.Let’s assume for a moment that as owners of High Tech Staffing we have decided we need to STOP servicing MSP and VMS accounts. Our new strategy is to focus exclusively on middle-market accounts where our sales team has direct access to hiring managers and we can generate 30%+ gross profit margins. To accomplish this we have decided that a sales transformation effort is in order. This requires us to to after a new market with a new sales strategy and a new sales process. How do we operationalize the strategy and drive execution throughout the organization?
When it comes to launching a sales transformation initiative, the first question that has to be understood and agreed upon by the executive leadership team is:
What is the degree of change that will be required by the organization for the strategy to be implemented and sustained to achieve our stated goals?
The second question that must be asked is:
How much sales support is required to properly equip the sales team to reach our goals?
By "sales support" I am referring to how much (sales) tools and technology, content such as sales playbooks, sales training and sales coaching and reinforcement from leaders will be required to equip the sales team to successfully reach our stated sales goals.
In most cases companies invest heavily in sales support but underestimate the amount of change management. What happens is they roll out the sales enablement tools but fall short because they underestimated the change management required to sustain change. Their change management plan falls short.
The other but less common scenario we see is just the opposite. The company makes a big investment in change management and user adoption but they fail to properly equip their sales team with enough content and the right tools, training and reinforcement coaching. Again, they fall short of their goals.
What every IT staffing sales leader and CEO is looking for here is time to market. In other words they want to accelerate their sales transformation initiative including the amount of time it takes to properly enable sales reps with little to no drop in productivity. Accomplishing this requires a transformational plan to effectively lead and sustain change including the senior leadership team being in alignment on the following questions:
- Is there a clear and unambiguous vision for the future (and do all leaders agree on this vision)?
- Is there a clear expectation of what change looks like?
- Is there recognition of who needs to change in the organization, how and why?
- Is there recognition and agreement of what changes need to be made regarding the sales process? Messaging? Value proposition? Intelligent positioning?
Going back to my example of leaving the VMS and MSP market and targeting the middle-market, leaders need to consider what the sales process will be for selling into this new market and how does it differs from the current sales process. The point is leaders need to identify the degree in which they are asking their people to change their daily work routines and activities. Without identifying this degree of change, leaders can't possibly assemble a plan to support the change effort.
At this point in our sales transformation effort we have:
- Identified the degree of change being asked of the organization
- Identified the level of support required from senior leadership to support the team in adopting and operationalizing the change
- Defined a clear and unambiguous vision for what successful change looks like
- Defined expectations for successful change
- Identified who and what needs to change
- Identified what needs to change regarding our sales process and methodology including messaging, value proposition and intelligent positioning
Next, CEO's and staffing leaders have to consider how their front line managers will reinforce and coach their people to the new process, value proposition, and messaging, etc. Senior leadership must plan out what coaching activities, team meetings and other tasks they and their front line managers will need to lead and facilitate including the frequency of each in order to reinforce and operationalize the change.
Finally, senior leadership has to ask themselves, "how will we track and measure adoption?"
Having been involved in hundreds of transformation efforts I've learned that the single most important success factor in sales transformation is ensuring front line managers are enrolled and actively engaged and operating as "ambassadors of change." Front line managers serve as the key lever that sits between your sales strategy and adoption and execution of that strategy. Gaining their buy-in is absolutely critical.
Have you noticed a trend? Successful transformation is more about how the leadership team leads and manages the change than it is about the change itself. What challenges are your experiencing with your sales transformation effort and leading change? Let's start a conversation in the comments section below.