There’s typically no shortage of ideas and opinions within a group of people, from a company’s managers and leaders down to the sales reps on the front line. But once a strategy has been agreed upon and the steps to execute that strategy are outlined, everyone needs to follow that plan and give it a chance to succeed. If only some follow the plan, then you’ll likely have confusion, frustration, and failure.
It’s important to rein in loose cannons and get your sales reps to sell the way you’ve prescribed for them as best suits your strategy. How can you get your sales reps selling your way? Here are four steps that can help you to weed out rogue sales reps and help them get with the program and stop being a distraction.
1. Define a clear sales strategy and stay the course.
While there may be good ideas, there is often a lack of understanding about executing strategy. People tend to do too much without really understanding what’s required to execute or the impact on various interdependencies within the organization.
There’s also a tendency to try the flavor of the month — I call it “managing by magazine” or now “managing by blog post.” (You can probably tell when your boss has been reading too many in-flight magazines.) People and organizations can only handle so much change before burning out and tuning out.
Developing a clear sales strategy requires the sales leader to identify and prioritize the initiatives that will give them the most “bang for their buck.” It starts with understanding your buyers — what’s changing in their world that drives a need for what you sell? How do they buy? How well equipped are you to compete for their business?
Finally, consider what the future looks like once you’ve achieved your target. What’s your plan to achieve your number, and what needs to change in order for you to get there?
2. Engage managers and sales reps in your strategy.
It’s not uncommon for sales reps to move from company to company, bringing along old habits with them. So many different styles and tactics can prevent you from executing your strategy and achieving the goals you’ve set for your sales organization.
Your sales reps and managers are on the front lines with customers and can be an incredible source of intelligence. You should have a process in place to motivate them to contribute their insights. Knowing your customers better through your managers’ and reps’ observations gives you more data to help you prioritize and create the right strategic initiatives. When you communicate your strategy, let your people know that you heard them and that they’ve helped shape the vision — it will help you build buy-in and acceptance.
3. Step up as a visible and vocal change leader.
Ultimately, you need to identify what you need to get the front line managers and sales reps to do differently to execute your strategy, and what your leaders need to do to support the change. Be able to answer the all-important, “What’s in it for me?”
It takes commitment and conviction from leadership. Leaders at all levels need to know what the change means to them as well as the people in their organization. How will their daily jobs change? What will they need to do differently? What will the benefits (and risks) of the change be, and how soon might they be realized?
Never forget that “message sent does not equal message received.” And if it is received, it might not be remembered completely or accurately nor fully accepted. Getting your sales reps aligned with your strategy takes effective communication and some repetition.
This change in strategy is important to your organization. Don’t expect to send an e-mail or host a town hall meeting or webinar to do the job for you. You need a tactical communications plan to span the transition period to announce, explain, and keep the momentum going throughout. If the communication comes from HR or Training, it probably won’t be taken seriously. HR and Training might have a role in the implementation, but organizational leaders need to own and drive the change themselves — it cannot be delegated.
4. Accept that change is a process and not an event.
As was said above, it starts with leadership talking the talk and walking the walk. They must set the right examples within the organization for everyone to see so that the change is taken seriously.
To help get your sales reps moving toward the change, we recommend that you follow the *ADKAR® model:
- Awareness of the need to change. Develop a communications plan to drive the change and articulate what it means to each person. What will change? What will stay the same? How will sales reps be impacted? What are the new expectations?
- Desire to support and participate in the change. Be able to answer WIIFM. Make the connection between your strategic initiative and the benefits to your managers and sales reps (e.g., how will it make them more successful, save time, and alleviate stress). Have and communicate a compelling vision.
- Knowledge of how to change and what change looks like. If you want to change behavior, you need to measure what’s important to the strategy’s success. Nothing sends the message to the sales rep better than establishing new metrics and goals! But don’t forget to train your managers to manage to the new numbers. Also consider what skills sales reps might need in order to drive the change.
- Ability to implement the change on a day-to-day basis. Your sales reps need to be trained. Many companies waste money on tactical sales training that is disconnected from a strategic initiative. However, training is a critical aspect of executing change. Sales reps and managers need to know what to do and what to say in the context of the new strategy, and they need an opportunity to practice and learn. Likewise, don’t assume that your managers don’t need help adapting to their new roles. Managers need to know how to coach the sales reps and help them be successful.
- Reinforcement to keep the change in place. Again, it starts with leadership and is followed by coaching and metrics. Everyone needs to hold each other accountable. Some excellent new technologies have emerged (e.g., mobile solutions with social and gaming components) to help reinforce learning continuously over time, drive accountability, and track whether or not the learning is taking hold. Find a tool that works for you.
Don’t forget that managing this change is hard work. Remember to communicate successes and reward exemplary behavior. The change is meant to help the organization and the individual managers and sales reps be more successful, and it is important to not lose sight of these benefits. Measure, monitor, and reward the right behaviors and you’ll be on your way to changing your organization and living your new strategy!
*ADKAR® and ADKAR® terms are registered trademarks of Prosci. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
Richardson: Sales Training and Strategy Execution – helping leaders prepare their organization to execute sales strategies and achieve business objectives.