The Key for Sales Ops in Driving Change


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We’ve all heard the expression that “the only thing that remains constant is change”. As a Sales Operations leader, your success depends on getting change initiatives to stick. Today, this is more relevant than ever.

Spending budget on initiatives that don’t gain traction is a nightmare. Programs that don’t get adopted lead to lost budget and executive trust. Lose your executives’ trust and nothing good results.

Dr. John Kotter is a best-selling author and recognized expert on Change Management. His research estimates that 70% of all corporate change initiatives fail.

The early steps you take to support healthy change and adoption will set the tone. Get it wrong and chances for recovery drop like a rock. Get it right early on and you’ve got a good shot.

If you identify changes needed for future success you’re a visionary. Get changes adopted and you’re a successful visionary. So, what’s one of the keys to getting change adopted early on?

Register for SBI’s 7th Annual Research Study “How to Make Your Number in 2014” and find out. The “Expert Panel Change Management Guide” will be available to all registrants. Our research shows you the essential changes needed to make the number in 2014.

A graphic representation of Kotter’s view of change adoption is below:

John Kotter Change Management

Expert Panels directly support multiple steps in leading change adoption. Let’s first take a look at what an Expert Panel is.

Who Should Be On Your Expert Panel?

Within sales, an Expert Panel (EP) is comprised of your best front-line performers. This group shouldn’t include managers or supervisors. Having management represented will limit honest feedback. An EP that’s between 8-12 members is optimal. This keeps the group small enough to manage but large enough to allow for diversity.

There are other key attributes to look for in panel members. Keep in mind is the EP will be highly visible in the company. Here are the most important traits for your EP and why:

  • Top Performer – If someone is to be seen as an “expert” in sales, they have to perform. As a change agent, others in the company need a reason to emulate them. For inclusion of your EP, consistently killing your number is essential.
  • Innovator – Most of your very best revenue generators are also early adopters. Some are not. Look for performers that are also innovators
  • Challenger – Challengers to the status quo are great change agents. Be cautious – there’s a fine line between a constructive challenger and a malcontent.
  • Respected – Top performers are typically respected by their peers. However, there are the “lone wolves” out there. You know the type – they won’t help a co-worker in any circumstance. They make President’s Club but other reps won’t be likely follow their lead. Don’t assign them to an EP if their peers don’t respect them.
  • Nominated – Best practice is for EP members to be nominated by their managers and/or senior leaders. This increases the EP’s ability to get the full support of their efforts from above.

How Will Your EP Support Positive Change?

Change initiatives in Sales Operations take many forms. Virtually every program or project you undertake will benefit from involving an EP. Some examples include:

  • Ideal Customer Profiling
  • New Product / Service Roll-out
  • Designing a new compensation plan
  • Revising dashboards / scorecards
  • Rolling out a new Sales Process or CRM tool.
  • Designing a new sales role
  • Territory redesign

Once you’ve identified your EP members, how do you put them into action? Let’s return to Kotter’s view on change adoption. In the early stages of change adoption, the objective is to create the right climate.

Assume your next big initiative is supporting a new product introduction. Pull the EP team together. For an EP kick-off, consider meeting in person. Get leadership involved – CEO, Sales, Marketing – the higher up, the better. This will set the tone of the initiative’s importance. Deliver evidence for why change is needed. What’s changed about our customers that you must respond to? How will this help you catch up to or surpass our competition? If you don’t make a change, what will happen? This creates the urgency Kotter refers to.

By putting together your EP you’ve already begun to build a coalition. Having management and leadership on board during the selection process expands the coalition.

The EP can also help you develop a vision or strategy. Share the vision and strategy of the change with the EP. Let them challenge it. Enable them to make adjustments based on their real-world experiences. It’s key to get the EP involved at the right time for change initiatives. For an additional resources on Expert Panels, see a prior blog here

Each of the 8 steps of Kotter’s Change Management Process can be supported by your EP. Register for SBI’s 7th Annual Research Study “How to Make Your Number in 2014”. Get the “Expert Panel Change Management Guide”. Change must be led both top-down and bottom-up. Initiatives stick when your best performers lead the charge.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patrick Seidell
Patrick Seidell serves as a Senior Consultant at Sales Benchmark Index (SBI). Pat brings 27 years of experience in sales management, sales operations leadership, consulting and market research to SBI with nationally and globally recognized organizations such as DHL, The Gallup Organization, Tribune Company and The NPD Group.


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