What is the Secret to Successful Sales Effectiveness Initiatives?


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“The culture of our organization is what will hold us back. We know what changes we need to make and the right solutions for our problems. That’s the easy part. Getting the organization to adopt them is far more difficult.”

This statement was made by the president of a large capital goods manufacturing firm. He was warning his Sales and Marketing leaders of the dangers of implementing change. The leaders were prioritizing ideas to improve the effectiveness of their operations. They were eager to see the results of new structure and processes.

The president offered sage advice to the leadership team. There’s a risk of becoming enchanted by the brilliance of new solutions. There’s a tendency to forget that solving any business problem has two dimensions. The first and most obvious one is the solution. The less apparent one is people who must adopt it. This is where Human Resources can help ensure that change initiatives are successful.

This post is for Sales and Marketing leaders and their HR business partners who are implementing change. Who isn’t? It’s nearly impossible to achieve aggressive targets by doing things the same way.

This post answers the question, “What change management measures do we need to implement to ensure adoption of new solutions?” It includes a downloadable tool to assess your readiness for successful implementation.

Making the Number Means Making Change

Sales leaders regularly face the daunting task of delivering revenue and margin growth. They recognize that they can’t just squeeze more productivity from the same processes and people. They know that to Make the Number, they must make some major changes.

Here are 3 examples that we frequently see sales and marketing leaders implementing to make a quantum leap forward:

  1. Inside Sales: Create a new Inside Sales function to serve an ever-increasing segment of customers who prefer to purchase on-line.

  2. Forecast: Develop a sophisticated forecast model that leverages predictive analytics. The CRM dashboards automatically display a weighted revenue value for each Opportunity.

  3. Social Selling: Leverage the power of social media to reach new logo customers. Implement a structured approach to reach and connect with potential buyers.

These are all powerful ways to drive more business. But they all share the common challenge of change management. The mechanics of designing and launching any one of these programs is difficult. But what’s more difficult is ensuring adoption. Here’s what could happen:

  1. Inside Sales: Field sales reps continue to serve customers who could purchase on-line. Repeated battles over commission payments for disputed orders. Customers are confused and frustrated.

  2. Forecast: The data in the CRM system is not kept up to date. Sale reps receive little value for the effort required to update values and dates that are constantly in flux. Data quality plummets; forecasting by spreadsheet thrives.

  3. Social Selling: Initial enthusiasm for the social referral program is high, but quickly wanes. Reps take advantage of the network of existing contacts in LinkedIn. But few new contacts are added. Expectations are not monitored. Without a steady stream of fresh contacts, the program dies.

If these scenarios sound familiar, you too have experienced a failure in change management. The solutions were well designed. Input from stakeholders created airtight requirements. The virtual training received high marks. What went wrong?

What Could Go Wrong Went Wrong

John Kotter, the acknowledged thought leader in Change Management identifies 8 characteristics required for success:

  1. Sense of urgency
  2. Guiding leadership coalition
  3. Vision
  4. Communication of the Vision
  5. Empowering others to act on the Vision
  6. Short-term wins
  7. Consolidate improvements and produce more change
  8. Institutionalize new approaches

If these building blocks are missing, the chances of success are slim.

As you can see, these are all independent of the change that is being implemented. In that regard, change management is actually separate from the improvement initiative. It is also the reason that it is often forgotten. This is especially true when the solution is well engineered and attractive.

Human beings are naturally resistant to change. HR plays a significant role in sales and marketing effectiveness initiatives. By leading a structured approach to change management, the probability of success rises dramatically. The downloadable assessment is the place to start. It puts Kotter’s 8 steps in Sales & Marketing terms.

Next Steps

If you are embarking on a new initiative, include change management at the start.

  1. Download the Change Management Readiness checklist
  2. Assess each of the 8 areas to see if you have a gap
  3. Assign actions to the project team to fill the gaps
  4. Include regular Change Management checklist reviews as part of the project plan

Your chance of success is directly proportional to adoption of the solution. Learn from experts in change management. Build a solid foundation with a structured change management plan. Well-designed solutions powered by effective change management will enable you to Make the Number.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

John Kenney
John Kenney serves as Senior Consultant at Sales Benchmark Index (SBI). John brings more than 20 years of direct sales and sales management experience to his consulting role. His recent client list includes: Hewlett Packard, Phillips 66, Motorola Solutions, and Sanofi BioSurgery.


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