Plan, Process, and Players: How to Get All of Your Ducks in a Row for a Successful Sales Transformation Initiative
We work with many clients on both incremental and long-term, large-scale sales transformation initiatives. Here is an example of how we helped one client to align sales training, change management, and project management disciplines to transform their entire sales function.
Our client, a global technology solutions company, faced unprecedented change in its business. The technology landscape was changing, competitors were changing, buyer behavior was changing, the market was changing, you name it and it was in a state of flux. They brought in a very savvy leadership team that recognized, among other things, they had to fundamentally change the way that they sell. While the previous regime had created a sales academy, which was well received, the new leadership knew this was not enough. From an operations perspective they still had many issues. Sales, marketing, and product engineers would have to work much more closely together to bring their best ideas to customers. After conducting an in-depth analysis, they determined they needed to wipe the slate clean and transform their business.
Their overall sales enablement strategy involved integrating all functional areas including lead generation, sales effectiveness, sales automation, sales support, and sales learning. These efforts needed to drive a few strategic priorities, such as improving first-year sales productivity, increasing year-over-year growth targets in their key accounts, and increasing sales out of service offerings to both existing clients and prospects.
Not only did the new management recognize the need to improve their sales reps’ skills, they also realized the need to include the tools and processes to support them. They knew that training was a piece of the puzzle, but they also recognized that training alone wouldn’t be sufficient.
When we started working with the client, they shared with us their vision, an overview of their supporting initiatives, and their timeline. They told us generally what they were looking for but were also eager for us to share our ideas based on our experience. The training content was important, but so was incorporating their tools, preparing the organization for the training, and defining the post-training activity that would sustain the impact.
We designed and created a fully integrated sales and sales leadership solution, which included process, training, and tools. The primary campaign phases were to:
- get them ready before the training
- launch the training at their national sales meeting
- build capabilities during the training
- support sustained change post-training
Working with the client’s vision and concepts, we created an executable plan — by stage, tool, training, process work, and talent. We helped them clarify their needs and actually put it into a solution in a manner that could be executed. We helped them distill their vision and intent into a solution that, based on our experience, we knew would work.
Project plan. Once we had all of the pieces, we helped them create a project plan by month so that the transformation started to actually have teeth. They could now see what the development and deployment stages were, which helped to shift them into action. This then led to creating a “statement of work” and allowed them to project costs by month.
Integration of tools. Another important step was to help our client integrate their many tools, including CRM, content management, and sales intelligence. They modified their CRM stages to match the new sales process.
When making changes to your sales process, you cannot overlook updating your tools to support the change — and the timing for doing that. To help the change resonate and take hold, you must adapt your supporting tools in lock step with behavior changes so that sales reps will start to “live” according to your new plan. If you announce the change and expect them to sell in new ways but reinforce old habits through tools that have not yet been updated, your change initiative could lose steam and fizzle. This takes more planning, but it will certainly pay off once the change is underway.
Awareness and sustainment. We helped them reinforce the use of their tools in training. For example, when exploring the topic of sales reps looking for insights, we reminded them to use sales intelligence tools at their disposal. To achieve the greatest impact during training, we actually showed the sales reps where to go and how the integrated tools that aid in the sales process as well as their employee development.
By incorporating the tools into the training, we were helping them to build awareness and begin to sustain the change. Use of the tools must be fully integrated into their work and work flow. As a result, when a sales rep is at this stage in the process and needs to find insights, not only do they now have the skills but they know where to find it and appreciate the benefits.
Too often, great tools or other resources are launched in an e-mail and taught in a recorded presentation (that many sales reps won’t bother to watch). In these situations, the process, importance, and benefits of the tools may not be obvious to the sales reps and are therefore unused or underleveraged. But when they are presented during training in the context of the greater change initiative, they have a much greater chance of being accepted, which ultimately drives the desired behavior change among your sales force.